He emerged smiling – but this wasn’t the most comfortable of Parliamentary occasions for Alex Salmond. I’m talking about today’s session of questions to the First Minister.
He faced detailed questions on policy implementation, most notably from Cathy Jamieson and Nicol Stephen. No doubt comparably detailed answers will emerge in due course, post consultation.
But they didn’t emerge on the day. Cue opposition guffaws – and mild discomfort for the FM.
Cathy Jamieson was leading for Labour – because the Labour leader (provisional) has yet to be formally endorsed by the party’s electoral college. Wendy Alexander won’t step up to the plate until September 14.
Ms Jamieson was rather effective. Her prologue was a little discursive – but her core challenge was potent.
Ok, Mr Salmond, so you can’t get all your primary legislation through – but what about issues that don’t require changing the law?
Specifically, what about support for housing, ending PPP, freezing the council tax and reducing class sizes. More specifically still, what about the SNP manifesto promise of £2,000 to help first time home buyers?
The First Minister offered an autumn action plan on housing – but opposition parties clearly felt that fell short of incisive, manifesto-style precision. They chortled, knowingly.
Nicol Stephen was sharp too. The LibDem leader has faced murmurs of discontent. If he can sustain today’s showing, those will subside.
He pursued the FM over waiting time pledges to patients. Would those be legally binding? Would there be a lawyer at every hospital bedside? (Mr Stephen is a qualified lawyer.)
Alex Salmond advised him that he intended to follow the Norwegian model of patient guarantees which, apparently, works well – rather than the US-style blizzard of litigation envisaged by Mr Stephen.
Again, though, little detail. That’s entirely understandable. It’s very early in the life cycle of the Salmond administration. However, it doesn’t make for an easy time in the chamber. Opposition MSPs chortled knowingly once more. Those chortles said: “Welcome to government”.
PS: More name games. The Presiding Officer Mr Alex Fergusson Esq wants a bit of decorum in the chamber. No more calling other MSPs by their first names. And sit up straight, Salmond Minor.
If you were being wicked, you could blame his predecessor (but one).
In the chair, The Rt Hon Baron Steel of Aikwood advised members: “Just call me Sir David”. Once standards slip……..
Name game two. The Scotland Office indicates that it will continue to call Team Salmond the “Executive”, despite their wish to be known as “the Scottish Government”.
I still reckon that the alternative title, the White Heather Club, merits consideration.