FMQs: making a spectacle

Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon put on her glasses at key moment during the question session

Questions to the first minister frequently provide a spectacle for the viewing public. Contrary to opinion in some quarters, that is not their sole or even prime purpose.

Today the fascination lay in spectacles. Plural. When I was at school in the great and noble city of Dundee, we called specs "owls". Contact lenses were "secret owls".

I cannot for the life of me think why I shared that with you. But there it is. Plainly, I am well into my anecdotage.

Anyway, moving on, the FM resorted to owls at key moments today. Notably, when she was in sombre exchanges with Labour's Alex Rowley.

By contrast, Nicola Sturgeon opted to face Ruth Davidson of the Tories unadorned, visually shorn. The difference derived from the nature of the discourse.

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History and Henry VIII at Holyrood in Brexit consent debate

Mike Russell
Image caption Mike Russell reached for a historical analogy while addressing MSPs about Brexit legislation

Scotland's Brexit Minister is Mike Russell. Perhaps he might be more accurately characterised as the anti-Brexit Minister or the Minister for Mitigating Brexit.

Either way, Mr Russell is a cultured individual, a prolific author indeed. He has a keen interest in Scotland's cultural, social and political history.

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Scottish devolution: Believing in impossible things

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Media captionScottish devolution vote from the archive

It is not necessary to adopt in its entirety the practice followed by Lewis Carroll's Queen. That is, to believe six impossible things before breakfast.

But still, at various points, a degree of uncertainty, even implausibility, has attached itself to the Scottish self-government project.

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Straight to the point at FMQs - but the havers continue

Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon faced questions without preamble after Holyrood ditched diary questions

Funny thing, power. It's pretty easy to determine where it doesn't lie. For example, I recall now, with amazement, the importance once attached by the Scottish body politic to membership of the European Committee of the Regions.

To call it toothless would be an insult to Scotland's denture makers, those gallant artisans who fashion wallies for the gentry and plebeians alike.

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Scottish Labour leadership: Dugdale's departure

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Media captionScotland's Labour leader Kezia Dugdale says she is "done" with being leader of her party

Why? Why now? And who might replace her? Just a few of the questions arising as a consequence of Kezia Dugdale's decision to step down as Scottish Labour leader.

The truth is rarely pure and never simple, as Oscar Fingal O'Flaherty Wills Wilde reminded us. That is particularly so with regard to politics. Motives can be complex and many.

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FMQs: a stormy session before the summer recess

Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright PA
Image caption It was not the sunniest session of FMQs

Looking ever so slightly bemused, like a model pupil who has stumbled across a playground fight, Patrick Harvie of the Greens tried to lift the mood in Holyrood by wishing every single MSP "all the best for the summer".

Outside, the rain poured down, passing effortlessly from torrent to monsoon. The storm assaulted the Parliamentary windows with unyielding ferocity.

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Indyref2 is deferred not abandoned

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Media captionMs Sturgeon said it is still "likely" there will be a second referendum during the lifetime of the current Holyrood Parliament

I have always felt the "scunner factor" to be particularly potent in contemporary politics. (For those who lack the Scots tongue of Burns, Scott or Welsh, a person who is scunnered is one who is less than gruntled.)

Actually, scrub the word contemporary. For example, Gladstone's budget speeches lasted more than four hours. That would try the patience of even the most zealous supporter.

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The DUP deal via a Helensburgh swimming pool

Tory-DUP deal signed Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Before the deal was signed

It is rather a stretch, I would admit, from the future of the European Union, the fate of the UK government and the condition of Scotland.

It is scarcely the answer to the meaning of life, the universe and everything. Which, if you remember from the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, was 42.

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No, Holyrood cannot 'veto' or 'block' Brexit

Flags outside Holyrood Image copyright PA

Does Holyrood have a power of veto over the Great Repeal Bill? Could the Scottish Parliament block Brexit? Bluntly, no.

The issue arises once more because there is discourse again over the prospect that the Brexit bill might require an accompanying Legislative Consent Motion (LCM) at Holyrood.

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Reforms for 'reducing waffle' at Holyrood

Parly reform Image copyright Andrew Cowan/Scottish Parliament
Image caption Commission chairman John McCormick (left) launched the report alongside presiding officer Ken Macintosh (left)

There is a scene in the film "Blazing Saddles" where the townsfolk are discussing a threat to their tiny settlement in the American West.

In keeping with the painfully satirical tone of the movie, one contribution - which consists of an inaudible and incomprehensible rant - is characterised and praised as "authentic frontier gibberish".

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