If I were a newly trained teacher struggling to find work, or I was looking for a new job after being made redundant (as opposed to not looking for a new job after being made redundant), I wouldn't have thought that either Alex Salmond or Iain Gray had the slightest interest in helping me after their display at First Minister's Questions. Gray seemed more bothered about slagging off Salmond, at one point comparing St Andrew's House under his control to North Korea, and Salmond was more bothered about whinging about powers he doesn't have rather than trying to make the best of those he can.
When we have unemployment increasing by more than 10% and an economy that's heavily dependent on the public sector, we need to have a more detailed, informed debate on how best to improve the situation. There's no point in anyone pretending that there aren't going to be compulsory redundancies in public services - we need to have an honest debate about where these cuts are going to be made, what we can do without, and how we can help those who lose their jobs. That serves them better than macho, sterile mudslinging the likes of which we saw today between Gray and Salmond and at virtually every FMQ in the last 3 years.
Annabel Goldie asked about future university funding in light of the Principal of Glasgow University's comments that he'll run out of cash by 2013 and shouldn't there be some graduate contribution. There is, thankfully, no appetite for upfront tuition fees in Scotland, even from the Tories. Salmond stated that the SNP would produce a Green Paper but tuition fees would not be part of their solution but didn't give any other specifics, instead going on a bizarre rant slagging off the English system of University funding.
Tavish Scott raised the issue of the Commonwealth Games, stating that he felt it was important, given the Glasgow Games in 2014, that the Scottish team went. Salmond said that he was having close discussions with the Scottish people on the ground and that they would be more in a position to make a decision after an inspection tomorrow. Tavish then pointed out a number of other key sporting events which meant that several athletes like Andy Murray and Chris Hoy couldn't go to Delhi and suggested that the Scottish Government should be working with international sporting organisations to avoid clashes for the Glasgow Games in 2014. I think that was a sensible question and a very wise suggestion for forward planning. However, I would also have liked to see either one of them raise the issue of child labour which I blogged about earlier today. I think the Scottish Government should at the very least tell the Commonwealth Games organisers that it's disgusted that child labour is being used on the Games sites.
For a short while after that, you could have been forgiven for thinking that the Holyrood chamber had turned into the editorial office of the Daily Mail. Stewart Maxwell asked the First Minister, using some highly emotive language about prisoners getting the vote, and how disgusted he was that rapists and murderers could get the vote when they should basically be locked up and have the key thrown away. Well, he didn't say that, but it's what he meant. The First Minister agreed and added that he was none too keen on the idea of paying compensation and went from there into a rant about Holyrood not having the power to run its own elections.
Thankfully Liberal Democrat Glasgow MSP - in fact probably my favourite MSP of the current bunch, Robert Brown - was there to point out that there were some serious legal obligations to consider, not least the European Court of Human Rights judgement and asked Salmond in a very straightforward way if he would ignore such a judgement in an independent Scotland.
Another Liberal Democrat, Jeremy Purvis, asked the FM to clarify how many public sector workers in Scotland were paid more than him (Salmond). He went on to say that there were 936 and asked for Salmond's help in making that situation more transparent in both publication and approval for such enormous salaries and bonuses. I want to hear this back again to be sure, but I'm sure Salmond in his reply referred to Jeremy as Jeremy Purv! I almost choked on my tea!
I suppose I should be proud that any sense to be found in today's FMQs was contributed largely by Liberal Democrats (and, to be honest, Annabel) but it was a pretty poor show. I wonder if it's because I've quickly become accustomed to a much more open and listening style of Government at Westminster.