Craig Paton Does FMQs: Indy vs Brexit; Kez talks education; Patrick Harvie is fracked off


Columnist Craig Paton offers his weekly sketch of First Minister’s Questions

WHAT a boring week we’ve had. What have you done? Not much? Same here. 

Although, I do keep having this recurring dream that wakes me up in a cold sweat. Basically, there’s this fair maiden, who was the ruler of all the land, but nobody voted for her, but she wanted to be the rightful ruler of the Kingdom. 

So she challenged all of the champions of the land: the aged but wise knight, the meek man of faith, the guardian of the forest and the savage from the north, hell bent on breaking up the land. 

A colossal battle ensued, but in the end, only the wise old knight and the fair maiden remained, with the knight having closed the gap that his predecessor had suffered at the hands of the fair maiden’s. 

With the maiden in jeopardy, she pulled out her trump card. A great dragon from the island to the west attempted to slaughter the wise knight and partner itself with the maiden and her court. The dream of the dragon was to return the people of the land to a time before time, where the marches were orange and the marriage was hetro. 

The attacks on the knight and his ilk only strengthened the love that the people had for him, but alas, the fair maiden resumed power, and attempted to restore order to the land.
Weird, eh?
Ah well, now onto FMQs and, I’m sure, only a small amount of political point scoring. 
But first, drinking game rules: drink everything around you for a non-SNP mention of independence, drink the contents of Scotland for a mention of “the day job”, drink the contents of Earth for an SNP mention of “we won the election” and then take a few sleeping pills if you get through it all, and thank me in the morning.

Indy vs Brexit

In a rather stark change of pace from what was to follow in the rest of the session, both Ruth Davidson and the first minister started their remarks by paying tribute to those who had lost their lives in the Grenfell Tower fire in London, as well as showing their gratitude to the emergency services who attended the scene.
Davidson then moved on, asking the first Minister if she regretted putting independence at the heart of her campaign, which she didn’t really, but nevertheless.
Sturgeon stood, saying in the best Donald Trump impression she’s ever done sober: “The SNP won the election in Scotland. We won more seats than all the other parties in this chamber put together,” to a rapturous response from her benches of applause and shouts of “GET IT UP YE” from John Swinney, whose unhinged behaviour is worrying me more and more with each passing week.
The rest of this exchange which, I kid you not, lasted 12 whole minutes, was farcical, with a series of backhanded jibes about Brexit and independence flying back and forth with no coherence or sense being made. I’ve boiled it down for you:
Sturgeon: Yes, but not until after the Brexit negoti-
Sturgeon: Oh Aye?! Well you want Brexit.
Davidson: Well the UK did vote fo-
And so on, and so forth. Sturgeon did call the Tories a “shower of charlatans”, which was pretty funny, but the rest of it just served to demoralise me, as two grown women, purporting to be political leaders, measured their mandates on live TV and seemed to relish every second of it.
Moving on.

Kez talks education

Next up was Kezia Dugdale, who after the closing of the gap that Labour did all across the UK last week, was decidedly less smug than I thought she would be.

After expressing the condolences of her party to those affected by the Grenfell fire, Dugdale then went on to education, asking the first minister why it’s always someone else’s fault, and never her’s.
According to the first minister, that was “nonsense” from Dugdale. She went on to say that her deputy, John Swinney, who would hopefully have gathered himself by then, would outline the next phase of the education reforms that afternoon in the chamber. 
Sturgeon also used this as a good point to talk about the recent college lecturers strike, which was suspended after an agreement was made on 19 May. She admitted that she hoped the further agreement, which is still ongoing on some further issues, would be ratified on Monday of next week to avoid any strike action.

I imagine after that answer, Sturgeon sat back in her chair and thought “well that’ll be that then”. It wasn’t. Kez wasn’t satisfied yet.

A rather angry Kez pushed the first minister, saying that a recent study showed that fewer than half of them would recommend teaching as a career as well as saying that if teachers’ wages had increased in line with inflation, they would be earning £6,000 more than they are now. She asked the FM what she has to say to the teachers of Scotland, suggesting that “sorry might be a good place to start”.
Sturgeon then dropped a list of things that are being done, or will be done, to help the education situation – which is actually the name of John Swinney’s new rap group. Here they are:
– Investing in local authorities to maintain teacher numbers;
– Working with the SQA and Education Scotland to clarify and reduce the amount of guidance giving to teachers;
– Education Scotland has published advice of what teachers should and should not do in the classroom – which seems fairly self explanatory, really. I imagine
it’s just a post-it note that says: “In class – teach, out of class – don’t teach”;
– Published benchmark guidance for all curriculum areas.
I imagine after that answer, Sturgeon sat back in her chair and thought “well that’ll be that then”. It wasn’t. Kez wasn’t satisfied yet.
She accused the FM of being “out of touch”, saying that she “has taken teachers for granted for years and that teachers are having to threaten strike action just to get John Swinney to pay attention, because he’s currently in training for the Mr Universe competition, and that mahogany coloured fake tan doesn’t apply itself.”

Kenneth “the parliament comedian” Gibson even yelled out “geez peace” to the Labour leader, which only intensified the laughter, because apparently he’s utterly hilarious. 

Dugdale then went on to accuse the first minister of wanting to put untrained teachers in classrooms, to implement league tables and “high stakes” testing in primary schools and “flirting” with the idea of opt-out schools. All of which, she said, were failed Tory policies. She then asked the first minister if that proves “that if you vote SNP, you get Tory”.
The reaction in the chamber was nuclear. Not in the angry sense, but with the howls of laughter that crossed party lines. Kenneth “the parliament comedian” Gibson even yelled out “geez peace” to the Labour leader, which only intensified the laughter, because apparently he’s utterly hilarious. 
“From the leader, who actually advised some people in Scotland to vote Tory,” the first minister rebuffed, which she didn’t. Not even a little bit.
She then went back to saying that Swinney will outline the reforms later in the day, and that they will continue to get on with the reforms that need done. She then bemoaned the lack of constructive criticism from the Labour party, saying that all it does is oppose, without offering solutions, equating that to why it came third in Scotland in the General Election.

Patrick Harvie is fracked off

The Scottish Greens leader then rose to offer his concern for those affected at Grenfell, before moving on to the situation surrounding fracking. Following the end of the public consultation into the government’s final decision, Harvie pointed to 150 studies that showed the health risks of the practice, including permanent lung damage and cancer, as well as the wider health risks.
The government gave a commitment of a decision that will be made by the end of the year, and Harvie wondered if the FM would commit to that timetable.
“That is the timetable to which we continue to work, and I restate my commitment to bringing a vote to parliament,” said Sturgeon, which would have been great if she ended it there, but she continued, saying that there were around 60,000 responses from the public to the consultations, and a “considerable number” were through postcard or petition campaigns.
She also urged caution, saying that the consultation had to be very carefully analysed, so the outcome can be used as a factor in the final decision. She then described the approach as a “cautious and precautionary” one, due to the wealth of different issues that have been raised by the public, from health and environment to transport.

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She then restated that there is no fracking currently allowed in Scotland, pending the final decision.
Harvie welcomed the vast number of responses, as well as the fact that the amount of engagement would not affect the timetable of the government’s decision. 
He then asked for a guarantee from the FM that environmental regulations would not be lowered after the Brexit process.
Sturgeon said that even the harshest critic of her government would not accuse them of watering down environmental regulation, but admitted that the UK Government may do it. 
She then said that it is “vital” that this process is carried out “with all due process and in good faith”, and said that they will come to a decision within the timescale.
That concludes this edition of FMQs. Give the video a watch – there are some good questions, like James Dornan asking about LGBT rights, Graeme Dey asking about Carers’ Week and Lewis Macdonald being a little ragamuffin about independence. 
Oh, and if you want to see two grown women arguing, you could watch the Sturgeon/Davidson interaction, or you could just go to your local Aldi on Saturday morning and watch Jan and Maureen scream at each other over the last pack of tattie scones.

Pictures courtesy of the Scottish Parliament

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