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Terms and conditions apply

Brian Taylor | 13:38 UK time, Thursday, 2 December 2010

Ever been caught out by one of those exclusion clauses in offers?

You know the sort of thing? "Conditions apply: this deal is not available to left-handed customers who have holidayed in Azerbaijan."

Alex Salmond plainly thinks he has detected a new version - "except for the Labour Party".

Mr Salmond deployed versions of this phrase regularly during his weekly q&a at Holyrood, assuming a cod-solemn voice on each occasion.

The point he was seeking to make was that Labour-led councils may seek an opt-out from Scottish government objectives such as police numbers (also insert here "the council tax freeze" or "class sizes", according to circumstances.)

You can see the tactic, can't you? It is to depict Scottish ministers as heroically leading a consensual battle against evil - thwarted at every turn by curmudgeonly Labourites.

Naturally, Labour's Iain Gray is disinclined to engage on these terms.

Rather, on police numbers, he was concerned to depict the Scottish government's success in meeting its self-imposed target as a "con" - made up, for example, by replacing civilian staff.

Public spirit

Mr Salmond counter-attacked by declaring that rising police numbers under the SNP meant falling crime.

However, on the day, Mr Salmond need not have bothered in seeking to isolate his opponent. Mr Gray's question set him apart from the rest of the chamber in any case.

Everyone else wanted to moan about the weather.

I suspect in this regard they were in keeping with the public spirit. Is it ever going to stop . . . snowing?

As I glance out the window here at Holyrood, I see a descending white menace which Online forecasts conjoin me to believe is a "light snow shower".

Looks like an apprentice blizzard to me.

Anyway, Annabel Goldie of the Tories paid tribute to those workers who have continued to toil, especially care workers. Cue empathetic applause.

Tough circumstances

But she was less than content with "blanket" closure of schools. Better to leave it to head teachers.

Mr Salmond very broadly concurred while, in emollient mood, noting that local authorities were having to take very tough decisions in very tough circumstances.

Tavish Scott seemed upset with Edinburgh Airport for sporadic runway closures. Aberdeen and Dundee Airports, he said, had stayed open.

As had Highland and Island airports.

By contrast, he said, Edinburgh seemed to lay greater stress on shopping facilities and charging drivers for dropping off their passengers.

Again, Mr Salmond was emollient. Edinburgh, he said, had suffered five times the level of snow as Glasgow Airport.

There might be longer-term lessons for Edinburgh but, right now, they were dealing with "exceptional conditions."

White mountain

Patrick Harvie of the Greens voiced outrage at the prospect that some workers might be threatened with disciplinary procedures if they failed to turn up for work.

Mr Salmond declined to comment without firm evidence.

And then we heard from Christine Grahame. Wasn't it wonderful, she trilled, that Scotland's youngsters were able to get out in the fresh air, to revel in the snow?

It's just all you need, isn't it? As you dig your car out of a white mountain. As the feet-deep drifts start to freeze. Somebody that likes it.

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