Iain Gray, the outgoing, or maybe not outgoing leader of the Labour group was at his comedy best. (I say may not be outgoing because he may have to stay on. You see, the only 2 people who appear to want the poison chalice of leading this group are (a) someone who can't really have it, on the basis that you can't be leader of the Labour group IN the Scottish parliament if you are, erm, not actually a member of, and therefore IN the Scottish parliament, and (b) Johann Lamont... who erm.. is ...erm, Johann Lamont!
Anyway, Iain, bless him, decided to go on the referendum on independence. He'd probably have done better sticking to the subject of the first question: What are the FM's engagements for the rest of the day?
But no, independence referendum it was. So Alex explained to him three or was it four times... I lost the will to live after the first couple of times... The manifesto said that it would take place sometime in the second half of a five year parliament. This is the first year, or put another way, year 1. There is year 2 to go, and half of year 3 before we will be into the second part of the parliament. From then on it might be reasonable to ask. Right now it is not. More seriously he pointed out that jobs were the priority for the moment.
Now all of that was just pathetic Iain Gray stuff, pretty much par for the course, but for his last question; the pièce de resistance if you will, Iain produced a photograph of a lady he announced was "Gypsy Amalia" in conversation with the First Minister. Maybe we should ask her about the date for the referendum... quipped the funny man. And, as her prices for a reading range from £5 - £30 wasn't she a bit like the plan for "separation" [sic]. You didn't know the cost till the deed was done. How we laughed!
Looking pleased with himself (as well he might) Iain Gray sat down, secure in the knowledge that this one must have, at long last, hit home.
Silly Iain. Alex said he remembered the occasion. The lady always had a stall at the Turrif show in Alex's constituency, and on that occasion she had read his palm and predicted that the SNP would win the election, and it hadn't cost a bean. Maybe, suggested the FM, we could ask her who would be the next Labour leader. Ouch!
Strangely my friend Annabel seemed stricken with the same inability to understand the answer at the first answering. She asked what currency Scotland would use after independence. (Why not borrow a Liberal question, Annabel; after all your mate Cameron is in hock to them according to the fragrant Nadine.) Alex referred her to the answer in a written report dated some time ago, including the page and paragraph numbers. She said he hadn't answered the question, so he read out the aforementioned paragraphs. Annabel still hadn't understood so she must have requested and been granted a further question. All in good humour, mixed with jokes about the forthcoming demise of the Tory party in Scotland, Alex told her that, in the period after the granting of independence, the pound sterling would continue to be the currency until the Scottish people had the chance to decide for themselves which currency they would use.
At long last, Bella seemed to grasp "THE POUND".
Although the second part of FMQs got under way, with sensible questions from MSPs about such matters as blood donations from gay men and the NHS, and Libya, Lockerby and Al Megrahi, it was a relief when the wretched thing was over.
Pic: Johann Lamont. What is it about Labour that they always need to bring in props. It's like "show and tell" that we had at primary school.