How to watch First Minister’s Questions (if you must)

The best way to follow First Minister’s Questions, if you really must, is the Marra method. Simply tune out the dull maundering from the frontbenches and those behind until all you can hear is Jenny Marra. The Labour MSP provides a rollicking running commentary to every excuse, fabulism and self-justification. The BBC should offer it [...]

More smoke and mirrors than a Bonnie Tyler video

It was when she tried to dragoon Abraham Lincoln into an argument for secession that Nicola Sturgeon lost the room. 'With public sentiment nothing can fail,' she quoted. 'Without it, nothing can succeed.' The cackling that greeted her audacious attempt to appropriate history's most famous unionist summed up the reaction to her ministerial statement. If [...]

I’ll grieve for my friend Lyra… and the stories she’ll never get to tell

Lyra McKee was five feet in height but no one ever managed to measure her courage. The 29-year-old grew up a Catholic in North Belfast, fought for LGBT rights in a deeply traditional country, and used her journalistic talent to pursue the powerful and bring their misdeeds to light. She had the mettle of men [...]

SNP still isn’t talking to fearties and Braveheart backsliders

Nicola Sturgeon will set out her thinking on independence after Easter. It is probably too much to hope that she’s changed her mind. The SNP leader does this every few months. Separatists get restless, she promises liberation just around the corner; but when they get there ‘the fog of Brexit’ still hasn’t lifted. This is [...]

How the devocrats seized Scotland

Devolution was a plodding term for an exhilarating idea: 300 years since the Scots Parliament closed its doors, Scotland would again have its own legislature — without having to leave the Union that had brought it prosperity and security. Powers over health, education, justice and finance would be transferred from Westminster to Holyrood and, advocates [...]

Outcomes must matter most if NHS ailments are to be remedied

We will try to get through this week’s column without mentioning the B-word. Not because our relations with Europe aren’t important but because other things are important, too. Politicians, journalists and party activists may be glued to Sky News and Twitter for the latest chat on meaningful votes and Malthouse compromises but many voters have [...]

The melancholy eyes and drooping jowls of a Basset hound

An unseasonally sunny day at Holyrood found MSPs in a breezy, end-of-term mood. Parliament goes into recess next week, or rather Brexcess, for the Presiding Officer has warned he’ll recall members in the unlikely event things don’t go to plan at Westminster and we find ourselves on the brink of no-deal Brexit. In which case, [...]

No April Fools — imagine Corbyn and Sturgeon running Britain

I don’t know about you but I’ve about had my fill of politics. I write about this horrific racket for a living but even I have been worn down by the tedium, the inertia, the grandstanding, the sanctimony and the self-serving careerism on display at Westminster. Last Friday was supposed to be Brexit’s big opening [...]

The next Prime Minister will have to fight for the Union

Cyclone Brexit continues its destructive path through British politics. Wrecking careers and upturning certainties, it sends most of us fleeing for shelter every time the evening news comes on. This week, the tempest claimed the political life of Theresa May, who vowed to stand down if MPs backed her in the third meaningful vote on [...]

Flag-waving oddballs. Flag-waving oddballs, everywhere

Eight seconds in, the Presiding Officer called a halt to First Minister’s Questions. What sweet mercy was this? Up in the public gallery, a delegation of student environmentalists had unfurled green flags to protest climate change. A terribly polite young woman tried to ask Nicola Sturgeon for action on emissions but was cut off by [...]