One of the joys of a sabbatical is getting to ignore all the stuff on the to do list. Today I learned a valuable lesson. Cleaning the fridge is in fact preferable to FMQs.
It was so bad it was almost good. Except it wasn’t. It was woeful. It was a fatuous, miserable quagmire (see what I did there?)
Today’s theme was wee. We are too wee as a nation but never too wee for the wee-est issues of the day to pre-occupy our weeny political brains. Parochialism rules this Parly’s waves.
Iain Gray used his opportunity to paint Scotland in Labour’s trademark “we’re too wee, we’re too stupid, we’re too timrous” colours. His opening was funny actually, but then it all went off piste. Big mistake tackling Eck on economics and independence. Hasn’t he learned yet, to never go on a topic your opposite number knows something about? And never, ever mention Norway. Or the oil fund.
The central point – that if Scotland had been independent we’d currently be like Ireland, heading for economic oblivion due to bailing out failed banks and huge cuts in public services – only served to remind us all that this is exactly what is happening in the UK. The final riposte, that Salmond’s personal obsession with independence is “daft, deluded, deranged and downright dangerous”, was great alliteration but vacuous and insulting. He’ll no doubt repeat it to the Taisoeach I’m sure, if he ever gets the chance to be Scotland’s FM.
Annabel, well, let’s see. Her question was about Stracathro hospital. And how its experiment with independent health providers had failed. Annabel smelled conspiracy. Was this Scottish Government banning private health companies from providing services in the NHS? I don’t know why the FM didn’t just say yes, because no one in Scotland wants them, and next week, dear lady, please ask a sensible question.
The Lib Dems took parochialism to new lows. Asking about the Gathering, and the fate of all those wee businesses still waiting for their money was fair enough but not at FMQs. Does Tavish Scott not realise that he is leader of his party and as leader it is his duty to ask leader-like questions on the big issues of the day? Obviously not. That would require thinking big.
So thank goodness for the wee-est party with the wee-est leader who asked the biggest question of the day. On a proper, big issue. Step forward one Patrick Harvie who wanted to know if the FM would push for an EU moratorium on deep sea oil drilling. He was rewarded, not with the answer he wanted, but a considered, measured response all the same. Grown up politics, ye cannae beat it.
From the sublime to the ridiculous. And a mini debate on obesity. The First Minister was pleased the message was getting through. Not in the Parly it’s not – has anyone thought of setting up a fat clinic at Holyrood? So they could lead by example, for once? Helen Eadie’s intervention on the money being wasted on bariatric beds – an astonishing £175k no less – brought us right back to wee. Here’s a hint: there’s way more waste than that in the NHS budget of billions if you care to look. Still on health issues, at last a topical question. Jackie Baillie queried the recent report on cleanliness in hospitals. But Eck was well briefed and could bat off the charges with big baffling numbers.
The final question of the day might well have been topical but oh Bailie Bill Aitken, couldn’t you have lifted thine eyes? I feel for the Jaconellis I do but to attack the Glasgow Commonwealth Games on the basis that the cooncil have only offered this family £30k for a house valued at £35k? Well, words fail me actually.
And that was that. As one Twitter wag put it, “parochial to the point of insanity. Made Stoneybridge town council look like the fecking UN”. Which is why, of course, I’ll manage to find something else to avoid on the to-do list in order to tune in next week.