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'You've all done very well'

Brian Taylor | 14:38 UK time, Thursday, 4 December 2008

Can't help feeling a little like Young Mr Grace today?

You remember, the elderly chap in the sitcom who tottered onto the shop floor to mumble: "You've all done very well."

Now, just stop right there - before you take the comparison too far. I meant that I am with Mr G in distributing general praise.

For they did indeed all do rather well, our MSPs. In questioning the first minister, that is.

Substantive topics, diligently pursued. Plus, of course, substantive replies from the FM. And a toothsome dose of partisan politics too.

Labour's Iain Gray set out after the FM over the decision to extend Scotrail's franchise - or, more accurately, the procedure followed (or absence thereof.)

He was on secure ground given that question marks have been raised in an Audit Scotland report.

Due proceedure

Mr Salmond fought back, noting that the prospect of an extension had been set out six years ago - by one Iain Gray.

Nothing daunted, Mr Gray replied that he had followed due procedure at the time, consulting widely.

It was a sharp exchange, well argued on both sides with Mr Salmond pointing out the advantages for passengers.

If anything, I thought Mr Gray was a fraction weaker in attempting to broaden his attack to suggest that the Salmond administration had a general disregard for the rules.

I get the concept: it's a point Labour has tried to advance previously.

Didn't really work, then. And didn't really work today. But persistence is a political virtue.

Constant endeavour

For the Tories, Annabel Goldie interrogated the FM over hospital acquired infections - and drew a hit with the suggestion that a scheme being piloted in Aberdeen may be deployed more generally.

Tavish Scott was back with HBOS - a topic he has made his own by constant endeavour.

Again, there was real substance here: a disclosure that the Scottish Government has written to the Competition Appeal Tribunal on the matter detailing Ministerial and Holyrood views.

Then a discussion about Herald job losses (to whom, sympathy), about education, about the use of DNA in criminal investigations. All substantive, all valid. I say again: well done.


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