Poetic justice at Holyrood?

Our great poets frequently seem obsessed with immortality - or, more commonly, its counterpart. It is their role, perhaps, to lift us from the mundane.

Think of Eliot who reminded us that "Webster was much possessed by death". Think of Wordsworth who wrote of "years that bring the philosophic mind" and "thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears."

In comparable fashion, our leaders in the Scottish Parliament today appeared to be concerned with the passage of time together with mortality, the real version and the political.

It was prompted, partly, by the fact that Alex Salmond has passed a milestone and become the longest serving first minister in the relatively short history of Holyrood.

Labour's Johann Lamont essayed a contrived way of congratulating Mr Salmond, while simultaneously downplaying it.

Mr Salmond responded by congratulating . . . Glasgow Celtic for their magnificent victory over Barcelona. (No doubt shortage of time prevented him from also mentioning the evening's other triumph, by the mighty United.)

Ms Lamont seemed to feel that Mr Salmond operated in another dimension, remote from the weary plyter of daily life. She was referring to strains upon the health budget and college funding.

In response, Mr Salmond also referred to longevity - or rather its absence in the political careers of the Labour leaders he has faced.

Four to date, he said, while arguing that Ms Lamont did not look like breaking the record as long as she persisted in questioning universal services.

Ms Lamont had founded her attack upon an "amber warning" delivered by the Auditor General about NHS resources.

To be clear, the AG Caroline Gardner said the NHS was doing relatively well at present: a point Mr Salmond emphasised.

Her concern was for the future with regard to "real and significant" financial pressures.

For the Tories, Ruth Davidson also picked up on comments by the AG to the effect that money was being wasted because services to cut reoffending were inefficiently deployed.

Mr Salmond responded by noting that he was open to ideas on the issue of reoffending - but that the crime rate was down to a 37 year low.

Topics, I feel sure, which will be to the fore when I take my Big Debate to Barlinnie tomorrow. Catch it on the wireless.

Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats was rather annoyed with an item in the Daily Record which, he said, castigated pharmacists as "methadone barons".

Mr Salmond appealed mildly for the maintenance of a cross-party consensus on drugs policy.

Incidentally, if Mr Rennie was upset by today's Record, he might be advised to steer clear of tomorrow's edition.

It's a fair bet that the paper might have a word or two to offer on the topic of his intervention.

Further power

Elsewhere at Holyrood, the Scottish Secretary Michael Moore was giving evidence to the committee which is making detailed preparations for the referendum.

Among other things, Mr Moore urged MSPs to heed the advice which will emerge from the Electoral Commission on matters such as the wording of the question and campaign finance.

He disputed the suggestion that the Edinburgh Agreement provided a trigger for Ministers to seek formal legal advice on Scottish membership of the European Union.

Perhaps most significantly, he said he was "confident" that further powers would be devolved to Holyrood - once Scots had said no to independence in the referendum.

Challenged by a sceptical convener, Bruce Crawford, Mr Moore declined to specify powers - or to give a detailed timetable.

He noted that his own Liberal Democrats had proposals ready and reminded the committee that, through the Convention and the Calman Committee, the parties advocating the Union had delivered in the past and would do so again.

Enough, Brian, enough. Time for more Intimations of Immortality from Wordsworth.

Not in entire forgetfulness,

And not in utter nakedness,

But trailing clouds of glory do we come,

From God, who is our home:

Heaven lies about us in our infancy!

Shades of the prison-house begin to close

Upon the growing Boy,

But he beholds the light, and whence it flows,

He sees it in his joy.