Thursday, 10 February 2011

FMQs: In which a particularly low standard of debate is the order of the day

The first minister announced that Outplay Entertainment is to create 150 new jobs in the computer games industry in Dundee.

That superb announcement was followed by some immature argy-bargy between the Labour group leader and the first minister about plans relating to education under Labour and SNP councils. It is beneath the dignity of this blog to report the individual questions, but let’s say it did nothing for the dignity of parliament or of either protagonist. And the first minister at one stage had his microphone turned off.

And so to Ms Goldie, who decided to try to rake up some trouble with more questions about the Al Megrahi case. She asked about the connection between the release of Al Megrahi and the slopping out process discussions between the Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Justice and the English Secretary for Justice on this subject. Alex pointed out that the discussion about slopping out having taken place in 2007, and the diagnosis of Al Megrahi having taken place in 2008, it wasn’t very likely.

There is an excellent piece on this by James Kelly at Scot Goes Pop, which explains the situation more adequately than I could, indeed, for that matter, more adequately than the First Minister did.

The blame game has thus far been played back and forward in the media between the Scottish and UK Labour governments of the time. However Alex took the opportunity Ms Goldie had afforded him to point out that two Conservatives had written to the Scottish government, one pointing out the commercial implications of continuing to hold Al Megrahi and the other suggesting that he (Megrahi) be used as a bargaining chip. So the Tories are not as clean as we had perhaps thought despite Cameron’s dribblings.

And so to Tavish who was asked about funding for the National Centre for Excellence in Traditional Music at Plockton. It had been funded from 2000 till 2007, but in 2008 it had become the responsibility of Highland Council. Fair question and the first today! Alex pointed out that along with the responsibility for funding the centre, Highland Council had also been given the funds by the government. However the Cabinet Secretary for Education had met only the day before with John Farquhar Munroe, the Liberal Democrat MSP for the area, and although Mr Salmond had not yet had a report on the meeting he was confident that Mr Russell and Mr Farquhar Munroe would have found some solution.

And so to members’ questions and the first one from the boorish Richard Baker who, for his efforts, got knocked back by the PO. His sneering question related to the Cadder decision (the fact that interrogating suspects without access to a lawyer breaks international law). The first minister, in his turn ripped the stupid little man to shreds, including humiliating him for the pathetic mess he made of an interview on Newsnight earlier in the week. It is rare for Alex to sound so disgusted with anyone other than Gray or to go to such trouble to leave anyone looking less clever. Kenny Gibson asked about Ayrshire’s plans for part time schooling, and gave the FM a chance for high comedy at the expense of Labour. But there was a serious question about councils playing politics with kids’ educations, which was roundly condemned. Kenny Gibson is a good player, and maybe a man to watch.

And so they adjourned for lunch after an inauspicious half hour, with the exception of the first and last few minutes. If this is the start of electioneering, a rise in the standard of debate is desperately needed if the voters are not to be put off getting out of their armchairs.

Pics: Alex Salmond with Douglas and Richard Hare, pretending he knows how to go a computer game.... yeah right Eck. Presiding Officer Alex Ferguson invites the elderly neighbours in for a cup of tea (we should all be doing that). John Farquhar Munro MSP (Liberal) wants extra funding for music centre. Kenny Gibson MSP (SNP) can speak faster than Eck can eat a curry...

(The tv version wasn't working when I tried it, but as usual I'm sure that Subrosa will put up a video)


  1. Richard Baker must qualify as the most fourth rate out of all the third rate pond life on the Labour seats. What a repulsive, oily, moronic toad, that comes over as being at the lower end of second hand car salesmen!

  2. Iain Gray won FMQs today, he smacked Alex around the playground.

  3. Ah Dean, I do hope the sky is a pretty colour on planet Tory!

  4. I think he seems to have a sort of superior air about him Munguin, as if there is a nasty smell under his nose. Then I wonder where on earth he gets anything at all to be superior about.

    He seems remarkably unintelligent to be a justice spokesman. He was educated at an independent school in England, and then at Aberdeen University, but his Wiki page fails to say what he studied or indeed what he then went on to do. Nothing of any account I’ll be bound.

    He has an unhappy knack of saying the wrong thing. And as well as appearing superior and dim, he just comes over as being decidedly weird. I’d not like to be alone in a room with him.

  5. Dean....

    I disagree. it was an unedifying spectacle but I thought that they came out even. Both bad. they were just swapping insults. Each one was trying to make the other one's party to be less concerned about the kids' education.

    The two of them should be fighting the reason that kids' education is having to be cut. Together. Not having some sort of cat fight about it.

    I simply don't see Iain Gray being capabel of smacking a packet of Kit Kat round a room.

    He's another unpleasant little man, I'd not care to be alone with.

  6. Richard Baker..

    " He was educated at an independent school in England, and then at Aberdeen University
    but his Wiki page fails to say what he studied "

    It would have to be buggery and then sheep shagging when he got to University in Aberdeen.
    His dad was a briliant Pravda news reader and would be birling in his grave if he hadn't been cremated or is maybe still alive but not on the scene so much these days due to BBC ageism.

  7. The question from Ian Gray was about Renfrewshire's plans, which will be put into force, to dilute the teaching workforce. A legitimate question which Salmond refused to even acknowledge and rightly had the disgrace of having his mic switched off. The man lacks dignity.

    The other questions were on North Ayrshire's non-existent proposals to have a 4 day school week and start school at 6 years old. These "plans" never got beyond a "brainstorm" of "worst possible case" thinking by council officers, but have been fictionalised by the SNP as somehow serious proposals.

    The reason FMQs is "beneath dignity" is that serious questions are ignored by Eck and spurious tales are given credence by the likes of Kenneth Gibson.

  8. Dean's trying to deflect the total nonsense coming out from Annabelle's mouth staight from the Daily Record by mixing the evidence to fit an assertion.

    As to Gray since what he came up with was a blatant lie, misleading parliament, he shoul be offering a public apology.


  9. Yo Monty.

    I suspect that he may be dead... The BBC only practises ageism against women. John Humphries is 234 yet still going strong, Paxman is probably only a little over 200 but they still wheel him out.

    I'm wondering why it is that Kristy Wharped is still with us, but I suspect that it is because she owns the Labour party, which in turn owns the BBC.

    Baker's a stupid little man.

    I'll be honest, there is a part of me that wants the SNP to lose the next election so that we can, having proved that we can run government effectively and for the benefit of the people, not the establishment, get back to working hard ofr independence from our new position. But then I think that the likes of Baker, who to me suggest a new level of incompetence and stupidity even for the Scottish branch of the London Labour Party, and Iain Gray going around insulting countries all over the world out of ignorance and lack to tact, would be in positions of power and I think NOOOOOOOOO PLEASE.

  10. No they are not going to dilute the teaching workforce Braveheart.

    At present teachers are not qualified to teach some specialised subjects and people have to be brought in to do it for them. While the specialists, who are not qualified teachers, but are qualified football coaches or musicians or chefs or whatever, the qualified teacher has to sit at the back of the room, lest...well, lest nothing much.

    As the First Minister pointed out to your friend over and over and over, the country’s teaching standards authorities HM Inspectorate of Schools, has been brought in to look at the situation so that there can be no doubt that what they’re doing is legal and proper. It will only proceed if HMI is satisfied. Doubtless gray and his goons didn’t bother mentioning that while they were feeding the 500 with their scare stories.

    Money has to be saved. London Labour under Cyclops the Nose Picker managed to get this country into the most incredible mess imaginable by sucking up to the City and the money people and giving London nearing parity with Switzerland for easy dealings for bankers with as little tax as possible. Scotland’s kids and old folk now need to pay for this, along with the rest of the people in the island. As a result of Brown’s piss poor administration we now have a Tory government in England, which gives not a thought about Scotland because it has no votes there. So we are in a mess, despite Mr Swinney’s ability to make an English pound go a long, long, long way.

    People have to try to find some way of dealing with the fact that there is no money, and teachers sitting at the back of a gym hall or music room just because they have a Cert Ed, or a Dip Ed is a bad use of resources. You’d have thought even Labour might be able to see that.

    4 day weeks, with the attendant reduction in teachers’ jobs, teachers’ pay, and the problem for parents of what to do for childcare the day that the kids are off school was and is a non starter and the idea that our kids should start school at 6 is just a joke, and illegal.

    Yes, it was an embarrassment that the First minister had his mic turned off, but to be honest the whole nasty episode was a disgrace to the parliament. Of course it was also an embarrassment for baker that when he thought he’d cash in on a cheap jibe, he was put firmly in his place.

    But I repeat, they need to raise their games otherwise no one is going to get off their backsides and vote for them.

  11. CH

    I suspect that she was told to ask that, following Cameron's disgusting statements in the English houses of parliament about the affair, and how he disapproved of it and he wouldn't have allowed it, and it must not be allowed to happen again. Smug, supercilous little man.

    Ater all he didn't want to be the only one to make a complete fool of himself over it.

    I had the impression she wan't too happy with it.

    I usually have time for her, but she was as poor as the others yesterday.

  12. Oh dear, oh dear, Spud, you dissembling little man.... tut tut....

    Nice link CH. I should read newsnet more often.

  13. @Tris 12.35. Why couldn't Eck have said what you have written? In any case, it's not open and shut. Putting a tennis coach in charge of a class, with the teacher elsewhere is, ignoring the fact that the tennis coach is good at coaching tennis, not necessarilly at controlling a classs. The teacher is a professional at controlling the class. It may be that it is legal and can be justified in cutting costs, but you can bet if a Labour council was suggesting such a thing the noise from the FM's chair would be engulfing.

    As I said the 4 day week and starting at 6 were "brainsttorm, worst case scenarios" that coumcil officers were asked to bring to the table. They were immediately dismissed and were never seriously considered. Putting non professionals in front of classes is being implementedd by Renfrewshire. That's worth talking about, the 4day week and starting at 6 are not.

    Yes it is a disgrace that he had his mic cut off. It should happen more often IMO. He treats parliament, the chair and other parliamentarians with contempt. He lacks dignity IMO and is barely fit to lead the SNP never mind the country.

  14. Well to answer your first question it's clearly because I'm cleverer than Eck... Simple.

    Teachers frequently have no control at all over the children in their classes. In my last year at school I was head boy. I once heard this horrific din coming from a class room, I opened the door and without looking I bellowed at the class to be quiet. I then looked around as silence fell, preparatory to reading a riot act, and noticed that the RE teacher was sitting at her desk looking extremely embarrassed. Oooops. Good morning Miss Perry, says I, as I closed the door.

    But she wasn't an isolated example; there were many others... And recently I was working in schools talking to kids about apprenticeships and training. When kids failed to turn up for mock interviews, their careers guidance teacher responded to my query by shrugging her stupid shoulders and say... “what could you do with them?” Of course I could have told her, but refrained.

    I am not a teacher, although I’ve taught at college and training level, often to people who have been sent by JC+, who don’t want to be there, and who are sometimes the roughest that you could find in the town. I’ve only once had any trouble in the past ten years, and that was a day I had 35 of them, and I had shingles. And even at that nothing serious happened.

    You don’t have to be a teacher to keep control, and being a teacher doesn’t mean you can keep control.

    You’ll not be surprised if I don’t agree with you about Mr Salmond. I think he is the best first minister that we have had, and that has nothing to do with his nationalistic politics. He is clever. He only treats Iain Gray and the likes of that half wit Baker like he does because they ask for it. Watch him with Annabel Goldie or Tavish. If they ask sensible questions designed to extract a sensible answer then that is what they get. If they try to goad him he goads them back.

    He answers members’ questions with respect. However, I think that FMQ and PMQ sessions have become ridiculous party political broadcasts, and here I blame the PO. He should tell party leaders to ask short questions. “What has the first minister to say about schools .... blab bla?” End. As it is you get a speech of 2 or 3 minutes, particularly from The Snarl, and of course that elicits a long answer, not unreasonably.

    The result is that for example yesterday only a couple of MSPs got a question. And they are the ones that matter, because WE are the ones that matter.

    If however we want a good example of how to treat parliament with disrespect we need look no farther than Brown. The absent MP who is paid £66,000 a year. He has taken part in one debate in the last 9 months, and until this week had not asked one single written question.

    Now that is taking the Mick for 66 grand.

    February 11, 2011 1:48 PM

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  15. Iain Gray, Andy Kerr and Richard Baker are tantamount to the three stooges and certainly no better. They are at best council convenors of roads that have risen (like scum) to the top and as a result of Buggins turn have reached the prospect of cabinet level.

    Let’s face it all the second rate MSPs have taken the opportunity to fly off to the “real parliament” in London and get the big money, leaving the absolute tripe behind.

    The SNP on the other hand puts all its best talent into the Scottish Parliament, they don’t need to worry (unlike their Tory and Labour associates) about the bigger picture and their career development. For that reason the SNP gives its all to the Scottish Parliament and in consequence to the Scottish people. Old crib sheet, dumb-dumb card Gray is a plodding half wit that sticks to the scrip no matter how inane, indeed he often asks a supplementary question despite the fact that Alex has just given the answer to it in his first response. No wonder Alex is prone to treat Gray with contempt bred of familiarity, I am sure Alex knows what Iain is going to say before Iain has even had a chance to shuffle his dumb-dumb cards.

  16. The sort of cheap beer garden politics we see at FMQs from Iain Gray is simply the cheapest and most transparent of party politicking by a third rate party apparatchik. If Iain, Andy and Richard attempted to try to serve the people of Scotland by holding Alex and his Government to account, instead of the tawdry points scoring that they attempt every week (and I mean attempt because they never succeed despite all the jeering and cat calls from the Labour seats) so much the better. But no, they have never been able to get over their pique that Labour were not allowed to remain in power in Scotland indefinitely. So they have chucked the toys and the interests and wellbeing of Scotland out of the pram and resorted to the worst sort of opposition for oppositions sake.

  17. Yes Munguin

    Labour sends their best to London with the hope one day to be a minister or a cabinet minister, and as we can see some even make it higher despite their very obvious inability to do the job.

    By and large the bet of the talent in the SNP stays in Scotland, thus we have John Swinney, and Nicola Sturgeon types, as opposed to Andy Kerr and Jacquie Bailey.

    I think the only exception may have been Jack McConnell, erm I’m sorry, the Noble and Rt Hon Baron McConnell of Emmerdale or someplace like that. He was a reasonable man, only turned bitter and rather pathetic when he was beaten to the FM seat by Alex. But now moved to greater things despite been peed on from a great height by Brown. (Remember High Commissar McConnell that never was?) He was the right man for the job, but not at this particular moment when Malawi was going through a particularly difficult time (that we never heard about). What I wonder would have happened if there hadn’t been a real chance of the SNP winning his seat, and he had in fact resigned to take up his ambassadorial role... and THEN this difficult situation had arisen. What would we have done them? Had two high commissioners?

  18. Is it customary for Labour controlled councils to table and make public loony ideas that are never going to be acceptable to anyone never even mind, as Alex pointed out, be illegal? If so, that’s some way to run a council. I would have thought that if the best that their “brainstorming” can do is come up with gibberish and claptrap that should never see the light of day they would be better to storm with their backsides all the while keeping it disconnected from their mouths!

  19. Tris

    It would appear that Iain Gray, was maybe economical with the truth with his questions yesterday, not a comment from me, but the celebrated Eddie Barnes of the Hootsmon.

    The relevant passage in the article is here for those who do not want to go anywhere near the Hootsmon.

    [Once the chamber was emptied, it became clear Mr Gray's logic had been a tad stretched, to say the least. It was officials in Ayrshire who had dreamt up the potty four-day-a-week idea. SNP members had dumped it in the bin. But the SNP's response came well after Mr Gray's coup de théâtre.]

    You should read the Hootsmon the comments are hilarious, there is one lone unionist like the little boy with his finger in the dyke trying to hold back the tide.

    Rather sad thought that a reporter in a main stream newspaper thinks that it is ok for a politician to deliberately mislead parliament!

  20. Tris

    Response from Councilor Matt Brown leader of the SNP group on North Ayrshire Council.

    However a spokesman for North Ayrshire SNP has hit back accusing the Labour leader of lying and of misleading parliament.

    Cllr Matt Brown, Leader of the SNP Group on North Ayrshire Council, reacted angrily and said:

    “Following upon the nonsense of North Ayrshire Council’s Labour Executive proposing a paper on a school 4-day week with thereafter children starting school at 6 and nursery at 4 years of age, they are now seeking to blame others for their folly.

    “In spite of the fact that the SNP in January pointed out to the Labour Executive that this was nonsense, probably illegal, and would finish up being the headline, they kept the paper in existence – and that is exactly what has happened.

    “They then passed information to Iain Gray that this was a response to an SNP call for more radical action, not substantiated anywhere in evidence or Minute, and in fact simply not true!

    "The SNP followed the Council Leader, O’Neill, and Lifelong Learning spokesman, McNamara, in seeking alternatives.

    “Thereafter, this matter came out from the Labour Executive in January and at that stage the SNP rejected it, issuing a news release 6 days before the budget indicating that the 4 day school week and starting school at 6 and nursery at 4 was nonsense, kidding nobody.

    “This news release was circulated to all the newspapers in North Ayrshire and printed by all of them.”

    Cllr Brown accused the Labour party in the area of being ‘desperate’ and added:

    “The Labour Party in North Ayrshire is now getting desperate, so perhaps we can come to a deal - if they stop telling lies about us, we might stop telling the truth about them”.

  21. Sorry Munguin. Words of one syllable: it was not tabl - ed! Not Nev - er. Ev - er.

    Sorry again, it's not really working, I'm going to have to use more syllables... hope you don't mind....

    As I have said twice in this thread, it was a "brainstorm worst scenarios" from officers and was dismissed out of hand as soon as it was voiced. That's three times. Maybe it'll get through this time...

    As for the question:
    "Is it customary for Labour controlled councils to table and make public loony ideas that are never going to be acceptable to anyone never even mind, as Alex pointed out, be illegal? "

    It never was tabled (see above)

    It is customary for all organisations to attempt to push the boundaries from time to time. That's common and natural. Most of these outlanish ideas don't get very far. You probably know that.

    I presume it became public because it was leaked by the SNP.

    If a "looney" idea becomes public, is it not equally looney to pretend you think it is being taken seriously... when you know perfectly well it isn't? Again, that Nats for you.

    Anyway. The serious question that was asked at FMQs was about Renfrewshire's attempt to dilute the teaching profession in their schools. It was the one question Eck didn't address and he had to get his mic switched off because of his egregious behaviour.

    That's the disgrace of FMQs. The SNPs disgraceful behaviour at council level and in the chamber at Holyrood. Not "looney" proposals that were never tabled and were leaked as a distraction by (probably) the SNP.

  22. Why do you lot keep on praising Salmond

    people worship the rising, not the setting, sun.

    Iain Gray is the future even if he is the biggesst Knob head in Scotland leave Alex to his betting shop..

    For him it really is all over

  23. Braveheart: thanks for that stinging riposte! That sure put me in my place, I feel as small now as Richard Baker’s IQ. Ever thought of being a teacher? No! Well maybe in North Ayrshire, I hear they are quite desperate over there to be told the meaning of “brainstorming”!

    I think I was saying that if that is the quality of “brainstorming” then maybe they shouldn’t bother. Let me just check! Yes that’s what I did say, but not in words you would understand obviously as they were not in one syllable. Clearly not customary to make them public or even table them, so where did they come from then, just customary to have half baked, loony ideas and then blame it all on the like you!

    So nice to be put in your place with such stinging repartee. Touché!

    You’re not Richard Baker in disguise are you maybe waving a flag with a red rose on it while all the time having a Saltire painted on your arse?

    I got the impression that Alex mic was turned off when he started listing the things Iain could have asked him about. But maybe I was watching a different show to you, probably a re-run of Bagpuss or something. I will tell you what I will wait for your furious put down to find out shall I?

  24. Munguin
    if you think that was a stinging riposte you've led a very sheltered life..... :)

  25. Ah right if you say so! What was it then, more "brainstorming" not intended to see the light of day?

  26. Dubs. Fancy, who would have thought it. mr Gray being economical with the truth...

    Thanks for the link. I'm going to force myself to read it, because it's a long time since I read the comments on a Hootsman (printed in England) article.

    There were a few real fruit cakes the last time I looked, but that was over 2 years ago. I shouldn't think any of them will still be slavering over there... Still, from what you say there must be some new ones !!!

    That's a very snappy last line LOL.

  27. Hum Niko... you do realize that you called your great white hope a knob, don't you?

    I mean you're right, I just never though to hear you say it.

    We prasie Mr Salmond because he does make exceedingly good curries.

  28. braveheart: I suspect, knowing the kind of repartee that Munguin is accustomed to, that he might have been being just a wee butty, you will have noticed, is his wont. He doesn't get out much though. You're right there, but when you're a wee cross between a penguin and a monkey with very short legs, you don't get invited to too many places. Even if you are a media mogul second only to Rupe.

    Munguin: stop being a sarcastic beastie.

  29. This is my favourite Dubd... from Grahamski: (yes, he's still there)

    "Quite simply, Mr Gray has the measure of Mr Salmond.

    For months now Mr Gray has been quietly and skillfully out-manouvering Mr Salmond at FMQs.

    Every time our first minister is reduced to his default setting of a shreiking, head butting, chin-jutting figure of fun a few more votes slip away from the SNP.

    Yesterday was just another example of the nimble Mr Gray anticipating Mr Salmond's lumbering replies and letting Mr Salmond's taste in Braggadocio, bluster and bs trip him up.

    Every week Mr Salmond looks that wee bit more ludicrous, that wee bit more pathetic and that big bit less staresman-like.

    Mr Ferguson had to turn Mr Salmond's mic off yesterday as this bombastic boor of a first minister set his phasers to Full Bluster.

    The sight of our first minister ranting incoherently was one of the least edifying sights Holyrood has ever had to endure; and that's saying something bearing in mind that Christine Graham and Christina McKeelive are MSPS...

    The real problem for Mr Salmond though, is the chamber are laughing at him. A politician can recover from many things, being a figure of fun is not one of them"

    I understand that the the FM's mic was turned off because no one could hear anything abover the din, including the PO.

    But even without that Grahamski really is smoking something really hot...if he can seriously write that pap.

  30. Tris

    I think his problem is he thinks if he keeps saying it, it might just come true.

    Most of the usual suspects are still there when the Hootsmon goes into anti SNP overdrive (just about every day) but even they appeared to be in hiding after the author of the article admitted there was no truth in Grays rant.

    I just wish Alex Salmond would stop all the trying to be reasonable with his replys and say to Gray "since you are well known for being economical with the truth with these questions, I will reply when we can verify the truth or otherwise of your statements"

    Time to stop the playful slaps at Gray and tell him what he thinks of his "questions"

    I said over at Deans ramblings I thought that AS missed an open goal yesterday when Gray said "if I was First Minister" AS should have replied that if he was First Minister he could not run away like he did on Monday, sending the Schoolboy on Newsnight like a human shield to cover Grays inability to answer questions.

  31. " This is my favourite Dubd... from Grahamski: (yes, he's still there)"

    Well he would be. That's where he works.

  32. That's a good point Dubs.

    I sometimes wish Alex would just give the fool a one word answer. Or a least as short as possible so we can get his pointless dribblings over and get some constituency matters raised in parliament.

    You'd think this was all about the leaders. It's not.


    Ferguson should remember that. Tell them to shut up. I'd like at least 20 minutes of the FMQs dedicated to members of the chamber.

  33. Bless him George, have they got him a wee cleaning job?

  34. "And so to Tavish who was asked about funding for the National Centre for Excellence in Traditional Music at Plockton. It had been funded from 2000 till 2007, but in 2008 it had become the responsibility of Highland Council. Fair question and the first today! Alex pointed out that along with the responsibility for funding the centre, Highland Council had also been given the funds by the government. However the Cabinet Secretary for Education had met only the day before with John Farquhar Munroe, the Liberal Democrat MSP for the area, and although Mr Salmond had not yet had a report on the meeting he was confident that Mr Russell and Mr Farquhar Munroe would have found some solution."

    The Plockton National Centre for Excellence in Traditional Music is a great idea and I'm glad its fate has come up in the Scottish Parliament.

    Maybe Tavish and John Farquhar ought to have a word with the Lib-Dem councillors on Highland Council as they form part of the ruling coalition.

    The SNP form the opposition with 17 councillors, along with six non-aligned independents.

    The administration is 30 Independent members, 20 Lib-Dems and seven Labour.

    It looks like the old Lib-Dem trick of proposing and opposing at the same time at different levels of Government.

  35. Ho hum Doug. You're dead right. I didn't realise that when I congratulated Tavish. Clearly neither did the FM, or he'd surely have said.

    I hope John reads this blog!!! LOL