DEREK Mackay might want to ask Santa for a diet plan, judging by the lobbying register. With the Scottish budget nigh, the finance secretary is being wined and dined hard. Over just two days last month, Baillie Gifford got him lunch in a restaurant near his office to mull “the competitiveness of Scottish taxation policy”, and Edinburgh Airport took him to dinner at the Michelin-starred Kitchin in Leith to nag him about cutting Air Departure Tax. It’s a tough life.

SCOTTISH Tory justice spokesman Liam Kerr has been typecast as a cadaverous lawyer since arriving at Holyrood. But it seems he has unexpected depths. At the recent Herald Scottish Politician of the Year Awards he was shocked to be outed in a video as a former “chain-smoking Goth”, earning him good-natured pelters from others on his table. Unspun hears he was so secretly chuffed, he is now trying to obtain a copy of the clip for posterity.

IAN Blackford is, in his own words to MPs, “just a simple crofter with 10 acres”. Is there gold under them, we wonder? When the SNP’s Westminster leader met former Nat MP Margaret Ferrier near Strathpeffer last week, she posted a snap of them on Twitter. In doing so she revealed Mr Blackford, a former Edinburgh banker who tweeds it up in his Skye seat, swanks around, crofter-style, in a luxurious Range Rover convertible. To the Peatmobile, Batman!

ALSO on Twitter, SNP minister Christina McKelvie had a novel take on Small Business Saturday. Finance Secretary Derek Mackay called it “an excellent opportunity to rediscover local, independent traders and kick-start your Christmas shopping. I would encourage everyone to remember their independent traders and buy local.” Ms McKelvie tweeted: “I woke up early this morning, have completed a substantial online Christmas shop.” Oops.

SCOTTISH Labour and the TSSA rail union are always banging on about public support for renationalising ScotRail, but just how popular is it? Not much, judging by a leaked email to two Labour MSPs. “Morning comrades!” wrote the union’s press officer. “Could you give this petition a signature and pass it around the other MSPs to get theirs on it too please? Trying to get a new People’s Petition for ScotRail nationalisation to look healthy and popular before I release it to the media. Cheers!” Still, at latest they get points for trying. Points, geddit?

GREENOCK Nat MSP Stuart McMillan celebrated St Andrew’s Day in unique style, cutting the ribbon for the "grand opening" of a coffin shop. Adverts for the unmissable event at a local funeral directors were enticing. “There will be, cakes and coffee - everyone welcome to come down for a look around.” Except in the refrigerated area, presumably. Who says politics isn’t glamorous?

SCOTTISH Labour leader Richard Leonard attended a lunch with journalists on Thursday, where he faced brutal questions about his party's woes. But he still managed a few gags of his own. Labour spinner Andrew Liddle's incongruous Ruth Davidson biography is currently sitting at 67,630 in the Amazon bestseller list, he gleefully revealed. But no matter, he added – that's still 371,951 places above Labour MSP Neil Findlay's book, Socialism and Hope. Good to see the party's golden touch extends to literature.