Thursday, September 09, 2010

Who were these strange actors at FMQs today?

Noon today saw the inital First Minister's Questions of the 2010-11 Holyrood session.  And it was really, really weird.

For the first while it looked as if Alex Salmond and Iain Gray had been kidnapped and replaced by actors - or robots, in fact. Actually actors is better, because robots would have done a better job. It's not so much that the tone was remarkably civilised for FMQs, but that it looked more as if they'd rehearsed it to death beforehand. There was no enthusiasm for what they were saying. It all seemed so contrived.

Iain Gray's topic was the aircraft carriers. There's a certain irony that it was the Labour Government who dithered and delayed on these ships, vital to both Govan and Rosyth, and it was Willie Rennie as MP who was continually on their case chivvying them along. And, this was the same Labour Government which considered turning the Fife port into a dump for nuclear submarines. Anyway, here was Iain, asking Alex, who has no responsibility for these ships, a series of long, rambling questions with which Alex could only agree, giving his affirmation in equally long, rambling answers. Weird. I think I preferred it when they were at each other's throats.

The clearly fake consensus between the two of them was not replicated by their MSPs. There was a moment when Christine Grahame was seen on camera giving dirty looks and gesticulating at a Labour MSP.

There then followed a bit of a weird exchange between Annabel Goldie and Alex Salmond in which she slagged him off for the cost of his National Monologue and he slagged her off for the cost of the AV referendum which he said nobody wanted. Much like the independence referendum he wants to inflict on us that most of us aren't bothered about.

Then came Tavish. I have one major criticism. That suit! Pin striped double breasted - it looked way way too sharp. It needs to be consigned to the back of the wardrobe now. His question, of course, was much better. He raised the issue of the 4 year wind technician course at Carnegie College in Dunfermline. It's been saved this year by Fife Council, but its long term future is mired in red tape between various quangos. If we want Scotland to be the renewables powerhouse of Europe, then we need to ensure there are enough skilled workers to do the job.  Salmond needs to up his game a bit more than just to slag the Westminster Government for the spending cuts. He needs to look at the future for the Scottish economy and ensure that these courses are funded.

We then had a couple of obviously planted questions from SNP MSPs, firstly about UK Border Agency cuts at the ports in the south west of Scotland, and on minimum alcohol pricing. I hate planted questions with a vengeance and it added to the Stepford qualities of today.

And after Richard Simpson asked more about the alcohol pricing plans, the BBC coverage cut off. Must watch on the web in the future.

It was a very strange FMQs, and not the pugnacious affair I expected. I wonder if the rest of the session, in the build up to the election, will be similarly phoney and weird.

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