01 December 2005


Another ugly exchange in the Chamber: Sturgeon led on energy policy, asking the First Minister his views on issues such as the necessity, safety and value of nuclear. McConnell pointed out that they were issues. Sturgeon informed those gathered that she was aware that they were issues, but wanted to know what McConnell's position on the issues was. Jack replied by saying that they were serious issues. And so on. MConnell clearly has reservations about nuclear power, as do the LibDems, who he's trying to keep sweet, but following the smackdown over asylum policy he can't quite bring himself to say anything, so mumbled something about the safety of nuclear waste and Scotland's future energy needs. So Jack did what he always does when he's cornered: Nat-bashing. So all we really learned is that Jack McConnell and Nicola Sturgeon want to rip each other's throat out with their bare hands.

This is turning into a real problem for McConnell: on reserved matters he has a more traditional Labour approach than Blair, but that's absolutely meaningless when he's not at Westminster to affect policy on them. So the 40 Scottish Labour MP's have a dilemma: do they listen to their Parliamentary Leader (Blair) or their Scottish Leader (McConnell)? Given past form, my money's on them taking the Blairite route, but you never know. McConnell, though, is in a no-win situation on reserved matters affecting Scotland: if he says nothing (as usual), he gets slated for being silent on the issues; if he voices his opinion, then he's in danger of being slapped down by more junior Ministers who we've never heard of, thus looking like a complete idiot; if he speaks in favour of Westminster policy, he risks sounding like a London mouthpiece, thus gifting votes to the SNP - he also annoys both the LibDems and, no doubt, some of his own backbenchers.

In other news, Annabel Goldie raised rehabilitation places for drug addicts, pointing out that the lack of a centralised record means that no one seems to know how many there are. The line of questioning seemed to get lost though, with methodone being discussed and 'drugs are bad' being the line taken. The shrew-like Shiona Baird of the Greens, meanwhile, went for the proposed bypass for Aberdeen, to a smattering of applause. She needs to make her build up to her questions shorter. Firstly, it gives McConnell enough time to formulate an actual answer, and secondly, I now have a headache from listening to her voice for prolonged periods. To sum up, her position was 'new road bad'. McConnell tried to point out that the road will take cars away from the City Centre, and so reduce congestion and pollution. Baird scurried to the front of the Chamber and bit him. Actually, I'm lying. She simply hissed something about new roads meaning more cars, citing the M74 extension as proof. Quite how something that hasn't actually been built yet can provide statistical evidence of her theory, though, I'm not entirely sure.

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