Nicola Sturgeon puts education to the top of the class

  • 1 September 2015
  • From the section Scotland
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon meets pupils taking part in active maths and active literacy lessons at Craigentinny Primary School in Edinburgh Image copyright PA
Image caption First Minister Nicola Sturgeon meets pupils taking part in active maths and active literacy lessons at Craigentinny Primary School in Edinburgh

Out of the mouths, eh? Nicola Sturgeon was visiting an Edinburgh primary school as a prelude to elevating education to the top of the class in her new Programme for Government.

The first minister displayed a commendable dexterity with sums, helped a young lad with sentence construction (for which he appeared genuinely grateful) and then faced a few questions of her own.

Was it difficult, asked another youngster, to wield control over Scotland? You know, with all the politics and things?

Ms Sturgeon conceded that such a task had its sticky moments before recalling that "control" was scarcely the mot juste in these resolutely democratic days.

Image copyright PA

Her aim, she assured the inquiring child, was to work with the good and sensible people of Scotland.

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The sound of happiness

  • 31 August 2015
  • From the section Scotland
San Francisco Symphony at the Usher Hall
Image caption San Francisco Symphony at the Usher Hall proved to be "oustanding"

Did you catch much at the Festival? For me, the customary eclectic mix.

For example, over the weekend....

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Budget 2015: The return of Tina

george osborne and budget box Image copyright AFP

Tina, it would appear, is back. Forgotten Tina? The acronym for There Is No Alternative? Regularly cited by Margaret Thatcher? Thatcher? Oh, come on, it hasn't been that long since the Tories were in sole command of the UK.

Sole but not unalloyed because, of course, we now have devolved administrations including the one led by the SNP at Holyrood.

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Contenders confirmed in Scottish Labour leadership fight

  • 19 June 2015
  • From the section Scotland
MSPs Ken Macintosh and Kezia Dugdale
Image caption Ken Macintosh and Kezia Dugdale are standing in the Scottish Labour leadership contest

What does Labour, in Scotland, need? A prolonged period of study and debate, to examine what has gone wrong for the party and to work out how to put it right.

Will it get that? Nope. Elections are pending - elections are always pending - this time for Holyrood. OK, they are not until next May. Hands up those who think Scottish Labour is ready and raring to go for that contest. Yes, thanks. Hands down.

Read full article Contenders confirmed in Scottish Labour leadership fight

Turning back the clock at First Minister's Questions

  • 18 June 2015
  • From the section Scotland
Iain Gray
Image caption After 183 weeks, Iain Gray was back leading the opposition attack at FMQs

To Labour's undoubted chagrin, leadership contests have become somewhat commonplace north of the Border as the party has struggled to contain the seemingly irresistible rise of the SNP.

The problem, of course, is evident. Rather fewer people these days support what used to be styled the People's Party. The solution is less obvious.

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Playing party games

  • 11 June 2015
  • From the section Scotland
Scottish money Image copyright PA

I have never warmed to the Hokey Cokey - or its global variants such as the Hokey Pokey and even the Okey Cokey, the title favoured at Holyrood today by Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats.

For one thing, I resolutely dislike being told what to do, even if it merely involves putting one's hand in and then taking it out again.

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Taking a theological approach

St Thomas Aquinas
Image caption Could politicians of today be drawing upon the philosophical approach of theologians of the past?

While at university in Fife, I took the opportunity, briefly, to study theology. I had absolutely no intention of becoming a minister. It was but a whim, a youthful fancy, which sat alongside my wider interest in philosophy.

Nevertheless, I thoroughly enjoyed the year-long course, delivered by excellent lecturers whose oratorical skills had been honed in the pulpit.

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Things get real at Holyrood and Westminster

Scottish money Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Scotland faces cuts as a result of George Osborne's savings plan

In the Holyrood chamber, Nicola Sturgeon is facing questions about the impact of her government's spending on health, education and the rest.

The questions are pointed. Indeed, those from Labour's Kezia Dugdale once more resemble a test paper in that she asks the FM, successively, what has happened to the uptake of....

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Charles Kennedy: A political contact and a chum

Charles Kennedy in the Commons
Image caption Former MP Charles Kennedy spoke to the BBC before May's election as part of a behind-the-scenes look at the workings of the House of Commons

Anecdotes and wry observations spilled from Charles Kennedy. He had an acute intelligence and a thoroughgoing comprehension of contemporary politics. But his style was frequently conversational and companionable, rather than didactic or driven.

At the recent Scottish conference of his party, he shared a few yarns in a vintage performance. He recalled the period when he was nearing the end of his career at Glasgow University.

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Fishing for answers at FMQs

Nicola Sturgeon
Image caption Ms Sturgeon faced questions on exams, childcare, the police, the Scotland Bill and fish

Nicola Sturgeon seemed a mite disconcerted at Holyrood today. Only for a moment, mind, and not during any of her exchanges with opposition leaders.

To be clear, those conversations were robust enough. Decidedly so, in fact. Serious scrutiny on serious topics: exams, child care and police operations.

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