First minister's questions

From Democracy Live: Alex Salmond was questioned on the oil wealth of an independent Scotland

Today, at Holyrood, we witnessed, in all candour, a somewhat stolid session of questions to the first minister.

The topics were substantial, primarily economic. But there was a difficult second act feel about the whole thing, as if we were treading on familiar, established ground with the denouement far distant.

Labour's Johann Lamont performed confidently, only a little perturbed by noise from the groundlings.

Her subject, once again, was the leaked Cabinet document disclosing past concerns about oil revenues and the impact upon spending plans.

She felt this added to the problems which she already discerned as besetting the government. But, then, when sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.

Ms Lamont was upset by the showing from the leading man whom she accused of indulging in "amateur dramatics", instead of addressing her questions.

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The exchanges seemed a little staged, a mite contrived”

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In response, Alex Salmond rose slowly as if to imply that he was not bound to please her with his answer. Indeed, he went further, suggesting that Ms Lamont had not paid sufficient attention to his previous comments on the economy.

Nor, he suggested, had she sufficiently digested the fact that the Scottish government had already been preparing a revised estimate of substantial North Sea oil wealth.

It had not in any way been rushed out in response to the controversy over the leaked document.

Mr Salmond said Scotland could easily afford to fund social welfare provision. He seemed to be arguing that his rival's claims were not well founded. You could see him surmising that words without thoughts never to heaven go.

There was more.

Ms Lamont wondered whether there was a Plan B to accompany the proposal that an independent Scotland would form a sterling zone with the remainder of the UK. She wanted details of the fiscal package which would enable Scotland to be neither a borrower nor a lender.

'Smoke and mirrors'

But still, somehow, the exchanges seemed a little staged, a mite contrived.

For one thing, they were, once more, rather long, despite repeated appeals from the chair in the past to the effect that brevity is the soul of wit.

Next enter, stage right, Ruth Davidson for the Tories. If anything, she was harsher upon Mr Salmond.

His economic package, she said, represented "smoke and mirrors." You could tell she believed it to be a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury and signifying nothing.

But, then, perhaps I am little jaundiced today, fretting about my team's prospects on Sunday.

When I see the number of players we have missing, I cannot help but think how weary, stale, flat and unprofitable all the uses of this world can be.

So, to conclude, if I chance to talk a little wild, forgive me.

Brian Taylor Article written by Brian Taylor Brian Taylor Political editor, Scotland

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