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Cats and lions

Brian Taylor | 15:39 UK time, Thursday, 18 November 2010

If Alex Salmond is the "Cowardly Lion", as Iain Gray avers, then who will fill the other roles in Holyrood's remake of "The Wizard of Oz?"

I suppose Annabel Goldie might audition for the role of Dorothy. Or maybe Aunt Em. (Never, just never, the Wicked Witch of the West: too composed, too demure, too dignified.)

But who is to fill the straw shoes of the Scarecrow? Who will rattle around in the metallic frame of the Tin Man? And where will we find our Munchkins?

There was real venom and vitriol in Iain Gray's demeanour as he accused the FM of being a scaredy-feline.

A Big Cat - but a Bad One.

The substance of his attack was that Ministers had side-stepped tough decisions by only announcing a budget for a single year: just enough, he snarled, to get them through the election.

Union demo

Alex Salmond seemed more interested in what was to be done in that single year.

On pay, for example. Iain Gray told Good Morning Scotland this morning that he backed pay restraint - yet yesterday he had joined a union demo which featured prominent placards condemning the planned pay freeze.

Mr Gray retorted that he was happy to join workers fearing for their jobs. Ministers argue that the pay freeze is designed to cut costs and thereby protect jobs.

But there was little scope for even such minimal subtlety. Mr Gray condemned the absence of answers from the government.

SNP members, including a plainly exercised John Swinney, taunted loudly about motes and beams (or would have done had they been feeling Biblical.)

At which point the Presiding Officer rose, magisterially. The boss of the Emerald City - and, unlike the Wizard, possessed of authentic power.

He was less than pleased. Up with this he would not put. He understood the emotion generated by forthcoming elections. But order there would be.

Pending damage

The members subsided, discernibly, like chided pupils. Rather than yelling, they muttered, unhappily.

Annabel Goldie and Tavish Scott saw their chance and, rascals that they are, opted to question Mr Salmond on the content of his government's budget, rather than the proclaimed gaps therein.

The Tory leader warned of pending damage from cuts in university funding. The LibDem boss complained that top salaries were running out of control in Scotland.

Both substantive issues. Both well delivered. Both rebutted by Mr Salmond. Plainly, we are fully in election territory now. Not Kansas.


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