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Controlling the game

Brian Taylor | 15:31 UK time, Thursday, 7 June 2007

How could he do it? How could he? Such shameful neglect. Wilful, almost. Believe it or not, Alex Salmond opened First Minister’s Questions without a word of praise for Scotland’s magnificent triumph at football. I mean, I know this is new politics. But does he have to show such utter disrespect for long established tradition?

Let me remind the first minister. If Scotland win - at anything - it is customary to refer to said triumph at FMQs. This produces a satisfactory harrumph of agreement from the chamber. Honour is served. Past FMs have contrived to sound proud, for example, at young Tracy grabbing the Egg and Spoon trophy at the Ecclefechan games. (Well done, Trace, your country is counting on you for the finals.)

Alex Salmond claims to be a football fan. (He supports Hearts: there’s a difference.) Could he not have squeezed out a word or two about Scotland’s 2-0 annihilation of the might that is the Faroes? We manage to beat loadsa big guys, all called Johannsen. And does the FM give it a mention? He does not.

Mind you, he skipped over a few other matters too. Mr Salmond was evasive. Brilliantly, wittily evasive. But evasive. Faced with tough ones, he frequently resorted to ad hominem drollery - or appeals for support from the toughs in the cheap seats. (Actually, they aren’t all that tough - and no seats are cheap at Holyrood. But you get the image.)

The only one who got anything like a straight answer today was Jack McConnell - and it was the last thing he wanted. JMcC laid what he thought was a well-sprung trap designed to place the FM on the side of evil-doers. He wanted the executive to agree, as in England, to keep the DNA of non-convicted people who had been interviewed by the police.

Alex Salmond’s answer? Pausing only to query why this hadn’t been done by the previous executive (Prop: J. McC), Mr Salmond said, personally, he could see merit in the notion - and would work with Mr McConnell, now that he was freed from those pesky Liberals. Jack could be seen muttering “thank you”. Or maybe it was “blast you”.

But others? Ross Finnie was neatly lampooned when he tried to ask about executive spending. Andy Kerr asked about health policy – and was told that his visage had improved since the “greetin’ face” he had displayed to the world yesterday.

And Nicol Stephen? He tried, gamely, to pin down whether the exec would ignore parliament over Edinburgh trams and the airport rail link. The answer, of course, is yes: if it comes to it. But Mr Salmond was too smart to give that answer.

Instead, he tied Mr Stephen up in knots trading quotations from an earlier, comparable controversy. Again, it was brilliant. It was well worked. It was witty. But it was evasive. And he still hasn’t mentioned the Faroes score.


"JMcC laid what he thought was a well-sprung trap designed to place the FM on the side of evil-doers. He wanted the executive to agree, as in England, to keep the DNA of non-convicted people who had been interviewed by the police."

Brian, I thought that was already the case?

  • 2.
  • At 07:11 PM on 07 Jun 2007,
  • Peter, Fife wrote:

I've heard and read many accusations levelled at referees, but to chalk off twenty goals is clearly favouritism; no wonder the FM chose not to draw attention to such goings on.

  • 3.
  • At 09:28 PM on 07 Jun 2007,
  • Cat wrote:

Could I suggest a new thread? The Scottish-Six?

  • 4.
  • At 09:56 AM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • BobC wrote:

Am enjoying the blog on all the threads. Yes they can be amusing but mainly they contain background information that adds to the news broadscasts.

  • 5.
  • At 10:23 AM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Dorothy Rothschild wrote:

Dear Mr Taylor: thank you for making Scottish politics both amusing and understandable. (I am told it is generally neither.) I'm a Yank who's been here five years and intends to stay, assuming Mr. Brown doesn't screw around with my visa category *touches wood*, and it's nice to be able to have a grasp of what's going on, and maybe a few jokes to pass off as my own. (Kidding!) However, in spite of my father-in-law being a diehard Rangers supporter, I draw the line at caring about Scottish football.

  • 6.
  • At 01:15 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Scott wrote:


After all the drama in yesterdays emergency statement on Libya and the performance of the Justice Secretary on last nights Newsnight Scotland what have the Scottish people let themselves in for? The division between Holyrood and Westminster is only going to get worse and surely it will come to a dramatic head before we go to polls again in 2011.

  • 7.
  • At 02:10 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Sheena wrote:

The whole Libya thing just shows what a clever poltician Alex Salmond thinks he is - manufacture a row to distract attention from trams - but I think he has overplayed his hand quite drastically this time.

What he said the agreement with Libya was at 5.00pm yesterday, and what the papers reported it as, are not quite the same thing as it actually transpired it was when Whitehall finally published it. Merely the starting point, subject to agreement with the Scottish Executive and (presumably) other devolved bodies.

As Kirsty Wark's incisive interview showed last night, Alex Salmond's games are easily exposed - and somebody who supposedly derides spin is actually at it in every bit as bad a way as the New Labour machine used to

  • 8.
  • At 02:12 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Jim wrote:

The performance of the Justice Secretary was understandable, what I objected to strongly was the performance of Kirsty Wark last night, shameful, ill mannered and losing it at the end. Time for a BBC re-shuffle me thinks.

  • 9.
  • At 03:39 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Stewart wrote:


Is that a bad thing

Conflict every so often can only be a good thing but its about time Weestminster relized that it does not have a yes man in Scotland any more and might have to do its constiutional duty and inform Scotland without expecting a yes instantly

  • 10.
  • At 03:45 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Joan Bygrave wrote:

Brian, I totally agree with the poster on item 4. What indeed have we all let ourselves in for. To date the SNP leader has shown less ministerial grandeur than musical hall farce and his bully boys not much better. I say give them enough rope and they will hang themselves those cockey SNPs with nothing on their minds but separatism and no heed for the consequences for the poor scots folk, higher taxes, no jobs and those of any intelligence fleeing south of the border for better jobs, better salaries, lower taxes and of course the proverbial better weather! We are still waiting to her how the first minister is going to fill in the huge hole in his manifesto. Will we ever? he is too busy picking fights with Westminster and storing up no end of trouble for Scotland in doing so. Roll on the next election I know who I am voting for and it won't be SNP, or anyone else who sides with them.

  • 11.
  • At 04:27 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Åge Kruger wrote:

Joan Bygrave:
Are you living in the same Scotland I'm living in? In my Scotland, the SNP have only been in power for a little more than a month.
In my Scotland, no jobs and poor salaries are the fault of the previous executive.
In my Scotland, the FM doesn't get the chance to pick fights with Westminster since in my Scotland Westminster has spoken to the FM only once.
In my Scotland taxes haven't risen.

I can tell you more about what has been happening in my Scotland.
In my Scotland, the government wants to make sure projects come in on budget and don't spiral out of control.
In my Scotland, the tolls on the Forth and Tay bridges have been lifted.
In my Scotland, local hospitals are kept open.
In my Scotland, the government wants to create jobs in carbon capture and other renewable sources, not nasty nuclear.
And in my Scotland, the nation and it's interests are put first and not brushed aside like a second class issue.

One day, I'd like you to join me in my Scotland.

Åge Kruger (11),

Aye to all that! And Aye to Stewart(9), and Welcome compatriot to Dorothy from a long-term exile (35 years)

Roll on the New Politics and Brian's blog. It just gets better and better!


  • 13.
  • At 05:15 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Cat wrote:

It was interesting watching Mr Salmond on his second FMQ's yesterday. I must admit that I was surprised at the flippant and cavalier manner of his replies to the questions within the Chamber. I get the feeling that he has not quite grasped the fact that Holyrood (note I said HOLYrood not Hollyrood) FMQ's are about giving replies to questions put by Members who represent the people of Scotland as opposed to the set piece sparring of PMQ's in London. We don't have the braying public schoolboys who fill the benches at Westminster, thankfully. Nor would we want them. Mr Salmond let his humble mask slip yesterday and the result wasn't encouraging to see. More content and less 'wit' required please.

  • 14.
  • At 05:22 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • wrh wrote:

Good Afternoon,

I saw Kirsty Wark's interview with Alex Salmond last night. Was it just me, or did she manage to rattle a tired looking First Minister? Perhaps goverment is more difficult than opposition after all.


  • 15.
  • At 11:37 PM on 08 Jun 2007,
  • Neil wrote:

I agree with #8 - Given Kirsty Wark's cosy relationship with Jack the Lad, can anyone take her interviews on Scottish affairs as objective and impartial?

  • 16.
  • At 12:29 PM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • wrh wrote:

Good Afternoon,

Regarding my post at 14 - I had forgotten KW's links with JMcC, and her questioning was pretty aggressive (some of today's papers say she was poorly briefed too). I am not a journalist but was the interview so bad that it required an apology?


Number 11
I'm living in your Scotland and yes Ilove it!
Exciting times and I'm more than impressed with the start the SNP has made!Yippee!!

  • 18.
  • At 04:03 PM on 09 Jun 2007,
  • Joseph wrote:

Is wrh #14 being funny?, the behaviour of Kirsty Wark was nothing short of a disgrace, how anyone can defend her behaviour is beyond me.

I am no fan of Alex Salmond, however, he came across very well and somehow managed to keep his cool in the face of such naked hatred.

Can we expect the BBC and Kirsty Wark to make a full apology?.

I also feel that people with such close links to the Labour party should not be allowed to host programmes such as Newsnight, the charge of bias is impossible to refute and on the basis of yesterdays inquisition Kirsty Wark should be removed from Newsnight.

  • 19.
  • At 05:46 PM on 26 Jun 2007,
  • Irving Parry wrote:

So far, we have the Edinburgh Trams ( maybe!), toll free bridges, no more Graduate Tax and Edinburgh Airport Rail Link ( maybe!). Not a word about the Manifesto plege to " immediately abolish prescription charges for people with chronic conditions, people with cancer, etc.." How immediate is "immediate"?.
I asked Nicola Sturgeon. She passed it to a Civil Servant to reply. He did his best. So I asked Rob Gibson to ask her. So far, she hasn't bothered to reply to him. So that's one Manifesto pledge kicked under the table. Watch out for more in the coming months

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