Sketch – The leaders



The first televised leaders’ debate took place last week to a blaze of apathy. Judging from the number of people claiming to have watched the broadcast it is not going to be threatening Eastenders for viewing figures – in fact it wouldn’t have threatened Eldorado in that respect. Nevertheless it was a fascinating first opportunity to see the four main protagonists away from Holyrood in some verbal jousting.

And what did it tell us? Nothing particularly new or surprising is the somewhat disappointing answer. As we know Iain Gray has been developing a tough new image in recent weeks and his hard man act was to the fore early on here. Constantly interrupting and hectoring Alex Salmond may have seemed like a good idea but not only does it make Gray appear rude and childish it has very little chance of putting as accomplished a media performer as Slick Eck off his stride.

As for Slick Eck himself he gave a typically forceful performance. He seemed under pressure only occasionally, noticeably over the release of al-Megrahi when the majority of the audience and the rest of the panel appeared at odds with him.  However, he was helped by being given a relatively easy ride from his adversaries. As mentioned Gray started aggressively but floundered throughout and often found himself under attack from the others. Many of his arguments appeared unconvincing and moments that stick in the memory include his claim that the Labour party didn’t vote for the Scottish budget and it’s 25,000 apprenticeships because “it was not enough” which seemed weak. Annabel Goldie was the second best performer on the night. Sure she occasionally overdid the scolding school mistress act but she used the freedom of not being a serious contender for First Minister to put across her arguments. Tavish Scott was also there. His main achievement on the night was to make Gray, who must have welcomed Scott’s presence, seem a little less innocuous. As with Gray his choice of arguments against the SNP seemed flawed. While inward business investment is desirable and vital most would see his attack on the government backing Amazon and their 900 new jobs in Fife as a little odd.

So at the end of part one Salmond and Goldie put in solid performances while Gray and Scott must do better. In particular the opposition parties must pick their fight more wisely in future. There are areas where the SNP can be got at such as class sizes and al-Megrahi – the others must formulate a plan to best utilise these matters. So all aboard for round two of Slick Eck, Headmistress Goldie and the two invisible men.

Sketch – The re-awakening of Baron Forsyth


Scottish Conservative leader, Annabel Goldie, has the appearance of a primary school headteacher. Capable of striking fear into any wayward pupil she still manages to appear somewhat benevolent underneath. She certainly trades on an image of being a tough old mare and a tough old mare who knows what is best for you. At last week’s conference in Perth she highlighted this in her speech saying: “There is an old nag in the field who’s been round the course and who’s got form when it comes to taking on the boys.

“Someone who decides what they can and cannot do, somebody who holds the balance of power in this parliament and who will act without fear or favour.

“That old nag is me.”

So there you have it, anyone steps out of line and it will be six of the best from Ms Goldie. However, if Goldie does have some benevolence about her then another Tory making his presence felt last week certainly does not. Somewhere in darkest Stirlingshire a creaking coffin door was heard to open as the prince of darkness Baron Forsyth of Drumlean rose. Of course in his previous life he was Thatcher’s tartan bogeyman Michael Forsyth and he was back on form in Perth.

Speaking at a fringe meeting he attacked the party for backing the Scotland Bill and its increased fiscal powers for Holyrood. As a mortified Murdo Fraser looked on the feared Baron broke rank from party policy and launched a staunch defence of the union. A parliamentary candidate from another party opined, in private, recently that party’s don’t like having debates on controversial subjects as part of the main conference due to them being reported on as ‘splits’. At Perth you could see the reason why, Fraser and his cohorts are doing their best to detoxify the Tory brand in Scotland. It will certainly not be helped by the spectre of 1980’s Thatcherism, unionism and being told what is best for you. Goldie may get away with a bit of lecturing but Forsyth almost certainly will not.