Singing ban at Scottish Parliament

The sources of innocent merriment, the furrows of fun generally so plentifully ploughed by our elected tribunes, have just shrunk by a single edict.

No more will the ringing baritone of the first minister battle for control of the chamber with Johann Lamont's determined alto.

The Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick has banned singing at Holyrood.

What's that? You didn't know they sang? How little you understand devolved democracy. Actually, they don't - but the PO was anxious to make sure.

Her ruling came as Education Secretary Mike Russell, frustrated by persistent questioning from opposition MSPs, offered to add a chant or two in order to emphasise his point.

Cue a stern - correction, make that ironic - reprimand from the chair. Singing is aff.

To be frank, we could have used a few trills and tremolos at first minister questions.

Wouldn't it be great if the FM declared: "That is an excellent question but, before I answer it, let me sing you a few verses of my favourite, The Rowan Tree."

Alex Salmond was a reputable boy soprano and still possesses a fine voice, well adapted to a ballad.

I confess I have never heard his opponents sing but I am sure they could hold a tune, with a little modest encouragement. Lift this ban, I say.

It was an alleged prohibition of another sort which was exercising the Conservative leader Ruth Davidson as she pursued the question of Mr Salmond's non-appearance on BBC broadcasts connected with the Calcutta Cup rugby contest between Scotland and England.

It was all somewhat inconclusive - in sad contrast to the rugby itself in which the wrong team won, we Scots having decided to extend our traditional pre-match hospitality to include the game itself.

Ms Lamont said that the FM had sought to muscle in on BBC coverage prior to the show.

The FM conceded that he had made his schedule known but had then received an invitation, pending internal editorial checks.

Completion of said checks resulted in Mr Salmond being advised that his appearance would not be appropriate, as it would involve an imbalanced political contribution in a high-profile event.

A discontented FM then compared the senior BBC official who offered said guidance to a "gauleiter".

Apologise, urged Ms Davidson, for this slur: "gauleiter", she said, was a term used by the Nazis.

No, said the FM. The dictionary says it means an "overbearing wielder of petty authority."

Half the chamber proceeded to point, in jeering fashion, at the FM himself.

What could they mean? The rest, on exiting the chamber, went in search of Chambers, the dictionary. (Other etymological sources are available.)

'Petty sideshow'

Gauleiter is indeed defined as the FM suggested. But its historical origin is also listed as being "under the Nazi regime: a chief official of a district". From the German.

Ms Davidson persisted.

Had the FM any particular rugby expertise? At school, at university, at work? From her researches, it seemed not.

Looking just a little sad, Mr Salmond said that perhaps Ms Davidson might be invited to display her talents at kick-boxing, her favoured sport.

Does this controversy matter? You judge. Is there a context? You bet.

The all-embracing issue is the importance which politicians attach to media coverage with particular attention to the forthcoming referendum.

Incidentally, Ms Davidson accused Mr Salmond of concentrating upon a "petty sideshow" when the people were concerned about their jobs.

The FM was too polite to note that it was she who had chosen to major upon this issue - or perhaps he was still too hurt by the references to his seeming lack of rugby prowess.

Earlier, Johann Lamont had chosen to focus upon the petty sideshow of Scottish jobs from contracts relating to the replacement Forth Crossing.

She was full of sound and fury, but Alex Salmond reckoned it signified little. On the day, his mustered statistics seemed to hold sway.

But tonight, Labour insisted they would pursue the issue in an effort to establish the balance of contracts going to firms in Scotland and those going overseas.

Now, then, all together: "Cauld winter was howlin' o'er moor and o'er mountain".

What? You don't know The Road and the Miles tae Dundee. Where have you been all your life?