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Black humour

Brian Taylor | 14:47 UK time, Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Warm applause at Holyrood. For what?

For the installation of Angela Constance as schools minister.

It is one of Holyrood's more endearing idiosyncrasies to oblige newly appointed ministers to win the support of parliament prior to taking office.

In practice, down the years, there has been no serious attempt to block such appointments.

MSPs tend to recognise that government is tough enough without obstacles being placed in the way of First Ministerial choice.

In fact, a tradition has emerged that such debates are short and, mostly, droll.

Today, the best gags by far came from the first minister who deployed elegant, black humour at the expense of his rivals.

Brief debate

In the event, Ms Constance was installed without a vote. Her elevation follows the resignation of Stewart Stevenson as transport minister - and the transfer of Keith Brown to that post.

It is to the credit of Mr Stevenson that he sat in the chamber throughout the brief debate on the new ministerial deployment, smiling benignly.

Perhaps he knew that he could rely upon the deft repartee of his chum, Alex Salmond, to deflect such criticism as came his way.

For Ms Constance, it is now down to work, dealing with the Byzantine intricacies of Scottish education politics.

In the immediate future, though, the dominant issue in this area of policy concerns higher education, with tomorrow's scheduled publication of a Green Paper on future prospects for the sector.

Expect all funding options, apart from tuition fees, to be canvassed.

Expect a working party, involving the universities, to be set the task of costing said options - with the prospect that the sum of several of these parts might, arguably, fill the funding gap between Scotland and England, thus pre-empting the need for a graduate contribution.

More, of course, tomorrow.


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