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In the public interest

Brian Taylor | 12:59 UK time, Thursday, 24 April 2008

I am sufficiently realistic and world-weary to be aware that much of what passes for news in today's media leaves folk less than intrigued.

For example, I do not imagine that families crowd round the wireless, calling Granpa in from the shed, to hear my latest meanderings upon the relative state of Scotland's political parties.

However, there are exceptions. There are certain stories which interest the public - as well as being in the public interest.

The dispute at Grangemouth is one. Folk want to know what's going on.

They want to know if they can continue to get petrol and diesel. They want to know if major public services will be affected. They want the latest news.

They also want their political leaders to act in their interests, to intervene where possible to improve matters.

They will be particularly impatient with grandstanding. Holyrood, I would suggest, mostly rose to the occasion today.

The questions were, mostly, concerned with the public interest. In response, the first minister gave considered replies, appealing for calm.

Labour's Wendy Alexander chose to pursue Mr Salmond with accusations he led a "special access government". He denied the charge.

Public mood

On another day, this might have been a useful exchange on the nature of political power.

Today, with the break-down in the Grangemouth talks to the fore, it was the wrong call.

Annabel Goldie, Nicol Stephen and a succession of backbenchers questioned the FM about the implications of the Grangemouth dispute. That, I believe, matched the public mood.

After all, MSPs are elected to hold the administration to account - on behalf of the people.

Mr Salmond faced competing demands. Ms Goldie wanted him to support ending the strike pending further negotiations over the issue of future pension provision.

Labour's Cathie Peattie wanted him to "support the workers".

The FM trod a careful, cautious path - although I would suggest he was notably warmer towards the approach adopted by Ms Goldie without in any way denigrating the demands of the workforce.

He called for calm, for an end to conflict by soundbite, for focused negotiations. Pretty much, I would guess, what the voting, driving public wanted to hear.


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