From hand-kissing to face-skelping

No love-in, we were assured - and indeed the exchanges between the departing Bella and the resident Nicola were notably nippy.

None of the hand-kissing which had accompanied Annabel Goldie's final exchanges with the First Minister last week. Indeed, the prevailing motif was more face-skelping.

But still there was time for Ms Sturgeon, the Deputy First Minister, to offer praise to Miss Goldie, the Conservative leader, who is stepping down.

And time too for Annabel Goldie to suggest to her fellow female that her opportunity for leadership might also yet arrive.

Ms Sturgeon, wisely, voiced complete confidence in her (temporarily) absent boss. After all, he might read the report - or, unthinkably, somebody might snitch on her.

With that, Bella departed. In office, she has brilliantly blended Tory politics with gallus humour - and even the occasional double entendre. Quite unintentionally, I feel certain.

This has won her admiration and respect - if not all the votes her party needed.

And tomorrow we will learn the name of her successor. Who will be…..the one who gets the most votes.

It was understandable that today's exchanges were acerbic - with Miss Goldie and with Labour's Iain Gray.

That is because both chose to major on the Citigroup report - which suggested that the prospect of an independence referendum was, in itself, destabilising and that an independent Scotland could not afford to fund a big increase in renewable energy.

Mr Gray chided Ministers for dismissing the report, noting that "there are none so deaf as those who will not hear".

And he generated a genuinely good put-down. Advised that the Press and Journal had published a letter from a business leader backing Scotland's renewable prospects, Mr Gray pondered aloud whether said business leader had seen the letter prior to publication.

International obligations

This was, of course, a none too oblique reference to last week's controversy when the First Minister was obliged to apologise for citing an external letter which turned out to be a draft written by the FM's own adviser.

But Ms Sturgeon was on fine form in response. She stressed the Ministerial case: that companies were investing now in Scotland, aware of the prospective referendum; and that England would still require Scotland's renewable resources to meet international obligations.

However, it was also intriguing to note her tone - which was to the effect that Mr Gray was "talking Scotland down" and underplaying Scotland's potential.

I believe this accords with SNP research on the reasons for their election success.

This found that there was something of a "mood move" in Scotland: that a tranche of voters previously hostile to independence now appeared to be, at least, open to discussion and persuasion.

Not committed to independence; by no means. But ready to listen and not innately scared of Scottish sovereignty as they were in the past.

More in due course. Much more.

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