The antidote to support for independence is five minutes spent watching the proceedings of the Scottish parliament. Holyrood was summoned back from its holidays yesterday so the First Minister could harrumph about the Brexit deal.
Most folk would prefer to be in their jammies nursing half-empty tins of Quality Street while flicking through 300 channels and finding Home Alone on each one.
But our MSPs had gone without their soapbox for a week and were glad of the excuse to climb back on it. Some even seemed eager, like greenybopper Ross Greer, although he was Zoomed in from his room, either because of travel restrictions or because he’s been grounded.
The proceedings were pure theatre, since the Prime Minister had the votes at Westminster to approve the deal. Indeed, MPs gave it the green light before MSPs had even finished debating it. It’s a sad business when a glorified talking shop can’t even get the talking part right.
That wasn’t a problem for Nicola Sturgeon, who combined the rhetoric of Nigel Farage with the tonal pitch of Foghorn Leghorn. You know when the First Minister’s anger is confected because she confuses volume with sincerity. She accused the Tories of ‘desperate, diversionary nonsense’ and inveighed against ‘the UK Government’s utter contempt for Scotland and her people’.
Nicola Farage declared that the deal would pass no matter what ‘because that is what the Westminster establishment has decided’, before turning on Jackson Carlaw – who had uttered not a word – and spitting: ‘I can only assume that his ermine cloak is in the post.’
As if Jackson Carlaw has ever worn anything that came out of a Royal Mail parcel. When his elevation comes, he’ll expect Jermyn Street to be air-lifted to the grounds of Whitecraigs Golf Club.
Besides, while I’m all for peerage-bashing, the woman who inherited the SNP crown from her predecessor without a single vote being cast by party members might not be the best person to deliver lectures on patronage and unearned privilege.
Ruth Davidson, whose heart isn’t in anything to do with Brexit, nonetheless managed a spirited counter-offensive. She began by declaring that the vote was ‘not about EU membership’ since the UK had ‘already left and there’s no going back’. The ‘only options on the table’ were deal or no deal, and ‘if you vote against the first one, you’re inescapably voting for the second one’.
‘All but the very dimmest, blindest SNP loyalists can see that,’ Davidson said.
Except, she didn’t say it. She was relaying the remarks of nationalist blogger Wings over Scotland. ‘I am not sure which of us will be more surprised,’ she quipped. It was just as jarring to watch, even for the season of peace and good will. Every time Ruth quotes Wings, an angel pours himself a stiff drink.
Davidson then ran through a highlights reel of Sturgeon’s flip-flops on no-deal Brexit. When the First Minister tried to intervene, the Tory brusquely waved her away. ‘I will wait until I have finished reading out quotations from this Nicola Sturgeon before I hear from that Nicola Sturgeon.’
She was having a rare old time, even pausing out of the blue to lay into Scottish Labour (a ‘feckless and useless SNP tribute act’). Defending the Brexit deal’s impact on fisheries, she demanded of Sturgeon: ‘Why do you hate Arbroath smokies?’
£414 million it cost to build this place. Speaking of which, the voting system was hit by boo-boos again, failing to register the votes of Fiona Hyslop, Aileen Campbell and Jenny Marra.
That was followed by another Covid-19 statement, with the First Minister threatening ‘even tighter’ restrictions. Any tighter and they’ll be locking us in the lobby press with a bottle of Dettol. Sturgeon added: ‘We must mark this New Year responsibly and in line with the restrictions in place.’
That’s definitely how a normal person talks about cancelling Hogmanay. Nothing weirdly robotic and unfeeling about it whatsoever.
The First Minister drove home the message, warning us: ‘No gatherings, no parties, no first footing.’ I doubt she was in danger of being invited to many in the first place.
Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Letters: firstname.lastname@example.org.