Orkney passport?

SCOTTISH Parliament officials checking arrangements for a committee visit to Kirkwall asked whether MSPs would have to bring their passports, Orkney MSP Liam McArthur informs us. "This 'independence for Orkney' talk is clearly getting out of hand," he mused.

Squeamish FM

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THE First Minister had a rough time of it when he visited a farm animal disease lab near Penicuik on Wednesday.

Not only were the media on his case over his qualified admiration for Vladimir Putin, he was also urged to peek down a microscope at some intestinal worms on leave from a sheep.

This revealed the FM to be a man with a distinctively squeamish side.

Twice he was pressed to ogle the writhing parasites, twice he declined.

Perhaps he regarded them as rivals for the little food he has left from his 5:2 diet.

Cartoon capers

TALKING of which, the FM's slimming regime seems to have made his skin thinner as well as looser.

The latest Private Eye reveals his spindoctor Campbell Gunn was recently despatched to bawl out a newspaper that had dared to print a cartoon of the FM in a courtroom witness box.

This was "almost actionable" said Gunn. It's so good to see the government keeping its sense of proportion through the referendum.

Clarke in PR boob

RED faces all round when a press release ahead of Tory minister Ken Clarke's visit to Scotland this week said that he would be highlighting the "benefits of leaving the Union".

It was quickly updated to highlighting just the "benefits of the Union".

Some backbench Tory MPs do privately believe that Scottish independence could be a good thing, for their party's battle against Labour at Westminster.

But a noted Unionist like Ken Clarke? That would be a surprise.