The Hungry Hungry Hippos approach to government

We should consider doing away with podiums. Every time Nicola Sturgeon gets behind one, we lose another freedom. The First Minister pounced from her Holyrood perch again yesterday, gobbling up what remains of our liberties like Hungry Hungry Hippos with statutory powers.

Before First Minister’s Questions kicked off, she previewed a ‘further tightening of the lockdown restrictions’.

What’s the damage? Well, now we can only use ‘click and collect’ supermarket services for ‘essential’ items. (Any of you who have been getting your jet skis and Marc Jacobs slingbacks delivered to Asda should feel thoroughly ashamed.) We can no longer go inside takeaways to collect food or drinks, but restaurants can use a hatch if they have one. Either that, or leave the front door open and lob customers their rogan joshes and count it as your daily exercise.

Worst of all, drinking alcohol in public has been banned, which we in Lanarkshire can only interpret as a direct attack on our culture. Mind you, anyone who can down a can of McEwan’s Export without taking their mask off deserves some kind of award.

In a development to file under ‘makes you proud to be British’, the First Minister announced a redrafting of the Covid legislation because some ingenious Scots had discovered a loophole.

She explained: ‘Right now, the law states that people can leave home only for an essential purpose. However, having left home for an essential purpose, someone could then stay out of their home to do something that is not essential without breaching the law as it stands.’

Heroes walk among us and we don’t even know it.

Like someone who has read the Book of Job back to front, the First Minister taketh away but never cometh round to giving. The opposition leaders lined up to berate her for the sluggish pace at which money promised to businesses and others was making its way out of the Scottish government’s coffers.

Ruth Davidson recounted: ‘The new funding that was announced this week is welcome. New funding was also welcome way back on December 9, when the government announced an extra £185 million in support for business and £55 million for sports clubs.

‘It was welcome in November, when the government announced the strategic framework business fund. It was welcome in late October, when the government announced a £30 million discretionary fund. Of all those funds, we have seen evidence of only £6 million reaching businesses.’

‘We will publish figures as the information comes through,’ Sturgeon replied. Or as Father Ted put it more imaginatively: ‘That money was just resting in my account.’

Davidson griped that ‘only seven of 30 business funds have launched’, but ministers are just really serious about social distancing. They’re keeping cash more than two metres away from anyone who needs it.

Richard Leonard took his turn to have a go, noting that ‘fewer than a third’ of applicants for the self-isolation support grant had been awarded the £500 payment. The First Minister’s response was one of those blandishments that sails over your head at first then causes a neck fracture when your head jerks back round to check if you heard her right.

‘Spending on the support grant is approaching the levels that we predicted,’ she assured Leonard, ‘which suggests that it is reaching the numbers of people that we thought it would.’

That’s not just marking your own sums. That’s writing 2 + 2 = £500 and giving yourself a gold star.

Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Letters:

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