THE VIP box at FMQs was crammed on Thursday thanks to a visit of politicians from Morocco. There was also a meet-the-MSPs lunch in the Member’s Restaurant afterwards for them, where bespectacled Nat John Mason tried to converse in his schoolboy French. His reward was to be told by one of the delegation that he was a dead ringer for Elton John. Strange, as everyone knows Mr Mason is much more of a zoomer than a Rocket Man.

ALEX ‘Red’ Salmond’s deal with a Kremlin TV channel led to much cursing and gnashing of teeth among Nats in the Holyrood bar when the news broke on Thursday. MEP Alyn Smith, who happened to be visiting, merrily gave the quote of the night to the assembled hacks, asking rhetorically: “What the f*** is he thinking?” When this lit up Twitter, a stern-faced colleague huckled him away for a word and kept him isolated from the press thereafter.

OTHERS who had previously served the great helmsman simply shook their heads and rolled their eyes, as if this was the sort of random blindsiding with which they were all too familiar. Asked for a reaction, one former aide sighed: “As with his previous show, at noon on a Thursday, people can switch off if they want”. If Vladimir allows that sort of thing, of course.

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TALKING of propaganda, the Scottish Government has revealed how often its computers are being used to access political websites. In September, the latest month for which data is held, the SNP site was visited 566 times, the Scottish Tory one 301 times, and Labour’s 163 times. However that was nothing next to the feverishly pro-independence site Wings Over Scotland, which was visited 767 times - or 25 times a day - on the public purse. Curious.

THE Holyrood bar also featured in exchanges in the chamber, as Labour MSP Daniel Johnson complained many folk outside parliament thought it odd to have a boozer inside. The bar, dubbed Margo’s, and various evening receptions made for a “drinking culture”, he claimed. Tory deputy Jackson Carlaw was aghast. The Holyrood howff was an “asset”, he said. As for receptions, the booze flowed at the Presbyterian rate of “2.5 drinks per person”.

GORDON Brown’s autobiography has been generating lots of headlines over weighty issues such as the crash, Brexit and the independence referendum. But there are also lighter moments. Recalling his arrival at Westminster as an unknown in 1983, he was surprised to see himself reported in the press as a 56-year-old “veteran”. He wrote: “A few days later, a letter arrived from a pensions company, saying I had entered a new job late in life and should make provision for impending retirement. I was 32.”

THERE’S also his account of being stuck in hospital after the rugby injury that cost him an eye. The NHS was clearly a different beast in the 1960s. “Every night at 9 o’clock a trolley came around the ward, offering each patient - thanks to a bequest to the ward - a choice of Guinness, beer or wine, which was open even to a 16-year-old. I knew the NHS was free - but I had not expected free beer.” No doubt it helped the patients wash down their fags.