Beware the killer bees of Holyrood

Bees Image copyright PA
Image caption Holyrood's bees have been up in arms. Or possibly wings

Inside, the temperature rises, relentlessly. Anxious inmates loosen clothing, decorously, and glance at each other in empathy.

Outside, the killer bees swarm, driving each other collectively berserk, as they perform their frenzied, circular dance, while massing for a final attack.

An episode from John Wyndham? A scene from Gogol? Nah, the final day of the session at Holyrood.

And, ok, they might not be killer bees. They might belong to one of the other 16,000 varieties. But nobody is taking any chances. And there are strict warning signs everywhere, imploring us to avoid the kitchen garden outside Queensberry House, where lurk the bees.

Sagacious advice. Never trust an angry bee. I mean, just think of the daft things folk say about their cousins, the wasp.

Any time wasps are out and about, annoyingly seeking a dook in your orange juice, some pest is bound to warble: "It's OK, they only sting you if you annoy them."

Which is fine if you know, precisely, what annoys a wasp. Do they get upset if you insult their uncle? Or question their lineage? Or tell them you support Brechin City? Just what irritates the yellow and black stinging ones? Better to be safe.

My theory about the bees is that they have heard that the Queen is arriving on Saturday - and they're out to defend the territory of their own regnal dame.

As I write, the bees appear to have dispersed. Three theories. They are fatigued by the excessive heat. They have been bribed - no, don't ask, how do I know what corrupts a bee? Or the experts from the bee-keeping team, who will be entertaining the lieges on Saturday, have been getting in a little early practice.

Whatever, I feel sure that they will have been moved by the time Her Majesty arrives on Saturday to mark twenty years of devolved self-government. One Queen at a time, eh?

Image copyright Scottish Parliament
Image caption The Queen will be meeting Holyrood's party leaders again on Saturday

Of all the UK institutions engaging with Holyrood, the Palace seems to be the most careful and deft. The Monarch seems to get devolution, as do her courtiers.

Or, more precisely, they understand the strategic importance for the Crown of being seen to deal honourably and seriously with Her Majesty's Other Parliament.

I was once told by a senior diplomat that the other institution which "got" devolution was the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

That was because, I was assured with a light Mandarin smile, the FCO was well used to dealing with troublesome colonies.

So what trouble is currently stirring in Caledonia? Nicola Sturgeon, the first minister, faced sundry challenges from her political opponents today. To tell sooth, none landed much of a blow.

Image caption Richard Leonard and Ruth Davidson were questioning the first minister for the final time this term

Ruth Davidson, for the Tories, pursued the issue of criminals tagged on release from the nick. She voiced concern, Ms Sturgeon offered reassurance. And then the police moved them on - "nothing to see here".

Labour's Richard Leonard asked and answered his own question. How many debates had the Scottish government instigated on education this year? The answer? Zero.

But, said Ms Sturgeon somewhat sharply, there had been statements and umpteen opportunities to quiz ministers. It wasn't her fault if Mr Leonard hadn't taken the chance.

Patrick Harvie of the Greens complained about casual contracts for college lecturers and Willie Rennie of the Lib Dems pursued a topic he has made his own, the tragic consequences of mental illness.

Both deeply serious. In the case of Mr Rennie's inquiries, frequently grim. But, on the day, Ms Sturgeon assayed a response, without perhaps contenting the inquisitors.

Image caption Nicola Sturgeon was initially thwarted from delivering an attack on the Tory leadership contenders

Then, finally, to the dog that didn't bark. Or, rather, was muzzled. Ms Sturgeon's deputy, Keith Brown, rose to ask a question which was, without question, entirely ad lib and unscheduled.

It was an invitation to the first minister - and here I summarise - to give the two Tory leadership contenders a right good kicking.

In response, Ms Sturgeon rose with a look of menace and determination. Heaven protect the random bee swarm which came into her immediate environs.

Mentally girding her attack, she prepared to speak. At which point, the presiding officer, Ken Macintosh, intervened to say, in effect, that the merits of the Tory candidates did not lie within the ambit of her role as FM. So she should stay silent.

Ms Sturgeon looked thwarted and momentarily lost. Like an owl deprived of its prey (there will be owls at the Holyrood festivities on Saturday - just don't let them get anywhere near the bees).

OK, the PO is, strictly, correct. And I suppose it would have set a tricky precedent. Order must be preserved and all that sort of thing.

But I can't help feeling Holyrood missed a chance. Ms Sturgeon, on form, delivers a powerful line in lampooning opponents.

Thus denied, she turned her attack on her Holyrood rivals. Neither Labour nor Conservative, she asserted, stood any chance of forming the devolved government any time soon.

With that, she finished. No doubt it was shortage of time which prevented her wishing a cheerful and bee-free summer to her fellow MSPs. Ken Macintosh remedied the gap.