If you missed First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon still isn’t taking any lectures from anyone, SNP MSPs retain an impressive capacity for toadying and everything’s much worse in Wales.
Specifically, she would not be taking a lecture from Jackson Carlaw on police funding. The interim Tory leader said police stations had ‘water pouring in through ceilings and windows, mushrooms growing in the carpets and rats scurrying about the mouldy floors’. No wonder all those coppers on Line of Duty go bent.
The boys in blue have been tweeting pictures of their work environments in varying states of disrepair. When justice minister Humza Yousaf was warned police stations were ‘falling apart’, he called the suggestion ‘hyperbole’. Hours later, with the help of cruel fate, a ceiling collapsed at his local cop shop.
Carlaw had ‘a nerve to raise issues such as policing’, Sturgeon tutted, pointing to Westminster cuts to Holyrood’s budget, adding: ‘We will take no lectures from the Conservatives on matters of public services’.
‘The cliché meter was ringing loud there, was it not?’ came the Tory’s rejoinder, prompting Sturgeon to boast of an extra £42.3 million going to the thin blue line. If you missed that goal, here it is again in slow-motion: the police didn’t have enough money, and that was the fault of the Tories, except now they had more money, and that was thanks to the SNP.
Richard Leonard asked why student debt had doubled. The SNP promised to abolish it but, like once-in-a-generation referendums and smaller class sizes, that was all so long ago. In response, Sturgeon read out the (higher) debt levels in England and Wales. They could save money and get her to cover Welsh FMQs too.
‘How many in the SNP support the IRA?’ came a voice suddenly.
Up in the public gallery, two gentlemen of the Rule Britannia persuasion perched amid the bemused tourists who occasionally wander into Holyrood under the impression that it’s one of Edinburgh’s 87 Harry Potter museums.
‘What about John Mason?’ grunted one of the interjectors as he was escorted out by a constable. ‘Calls them freedom fighters,’ he added, before mumbling off into an awkward silence. No prepared statement. Amateurs.
Alison Johnstone — you remember her; she’s the Scottish Green MSP who takes an interest in the environment — championed the 2,000 objectors to plans for a £120 million flyover at Sheriffhall.
‘In the face of the climate emergency,’ she pleaded, ‘does the First Minister agree that it is time to ditch that dated and dirty project—‘
Christine Grahame birled round and gave her the Evil Eye. Quite literally, for there on her lapel twinkled a sparkly fashion brooch in the shape of an eye.
Although commenting on a female politician’s appearance carries the death penalty these days, Grahame’s impeccable taste in accoutrements is a rare highlight of FMQs. Her clasps are a damn sight brighter than many of the questions.
‘No!’ she scolded Johnstone, who persevered all the same.
‘—dated and dirty project from a bygone era and instead to invest—‘
‘No!’ This one came with a withering shake of the head.
‘Does she agree that we should invest in the solutions and not in the problem?’
‘No!’ Grahame peered at Johnstone with the frustrated glare of the schoolmistress she once was. Was lunchtime detention still an option?
Sturgeon stepped in to say the Scottish Government was taking ‘balanced action’ to reduce emissions. It’s a testament to the First Minister’s Mandelson-esque mastery of spin that she was the first to declare a climate emergency and the first to triangulate on it.
Everyone’s an environmentalist till they have to wait 20 minutes in rush-hour traffic.
Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Letters: firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact Stephen at email@example.com. Feature image © Scottish Government by Creative Commons 2.0.