Friday, 3 October 2014

Really Johann?

Yesterday was First Minister's Questions, in which the leaders of Scotland's other political parties that are represented in Holyrood take part in a formal debate, where they are allowed to put questions to the First Minister and he is obliged to answer them.  It's a formulaic affair, where each person asks a set question (eg 'What engagements does the First Minister have planned for the rest of the day?'), followed by a question on any subject.

Johann Lamont is notoriously bad at this and yesterday was up to her usual standards.  She simply cannot hide her loathing of Alex Salmond, with the result that she couldn't resist a couple of snide remarks in the course of her question of cancer waiting times in Scotland.

The reference to 'his failed referendum' was superficially correct.  From the SNP's point of view, the referendum did not deliver a Yes vote and is therefore, in the strict sense, a failure.  However, the fact that both the SNP and the Scottish Greens have tripled their membership, and that the Scottish Socialist Party has also seen a healthy increase would suggest that on many levels the referendum was not a failure, and that the result has been a more politically engaged electorate.  We also have Common Weal looking to set up both online and offline spaces for people to meet and discuss their particular brand of politics and actions.  My own view is that this really doesn't mean that the referendum was a failure.  Indeed, Ms Lamont would do well to look to her own party's future in Scotland, since the polls are currently showing there may be something of a rout for them in the General Election in May.

As for asking how Alex Salmond's golf handicap was coming along, cheap shot, Ms Lamont, cheap shot indeed.  I assume from this remark that Mr Salmond may be taking more of a back seat in the running of the country.  To me this makes sense, as he is stepping down in November, handing over to Nicola Sturgeon (unless anyone else decides to stand against her, which looks unlikely).  In most jobs, when the boss decides to leave, it's normal for the person succeeding him to start taking up the reins before he does so, to make the handover gradual.  Certainly it would appear that Ms Sturgeon is doing just that, with her request to the UK government to delay implementation of Universal Credit pending the discussion on new powers for the Scottish Parliament.

Meantime, given the rumours that Ms Lamont is not happy leading Labour in Scotland and that Jim Murphy may be interested in the job, who knows?  We may see a similar handover for Labour coming to a Parliament near us soon.

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