LEGEND has it, that on leaving a boring party, comedian Groucho Marx, quipped to the host “I’ve had a perfectly wonderful evening, but this wasn’t it.”

Well, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon might well have said the same thing on Tuesday night after her lack lustre and unconvincing performance in the televised leaders’ debate, broadcast by BBC Scotland, ahead of the Scottish elections on May 6th.

A bad-tempered debate that from its shambolic beginnings to its shouty end was, surprisingly, totally bossed and controlled by Scotland’s new Labour leader Anas Sarwar. I say shambolic beginning, because in a scene reminiscent of Spartacus, most of the other leaders, including the show’s chair, a startled Sarah Smith, were all hilariously, on screen, called Anas Sarwar.

Seriously though, I cannot remember a time when our normally self-assured and commanding FM has looked so unnerved and off the pace. With some justification, she defended her leadership during the Covid crisis, but was caught off guard and unsettled, rattled even, when some angry members of the virtual audience demanded to know, and rightly so, if the SNP government’s post-pandemic plans for recovery were being put at risk and playing second fiddle to their commitment of holding another independence referendum within two and half years of them winning a parliamentary majority.


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With no super-sized props for a yammering Lib-Dem leader Willie Rennie, the “Ant Man” of Scottish politics, to play with, his talk of building bridges and the economy fell on grated ears, which is a shame, because on this occasion he was bang on the money. As for the new Tory leader Douglas Ross, well, if his debut appearance is anything to go by, he should just stick to his weekend job of running the line in empty football grounds. It was just as vacuous and fully deserving of the red card he received from the emboldened Labour leader for his ham-fisted attempts at forging an alliance and his continual bleating about another referendum - an R word he managed to use a staggering 16 times, during this tiresome debate.

Anas Sarwar aside, it was only the Green party’s co-leader Lorna Slater who could be satisfied with her debut performance and came anywhere close to giving a commanding performance, although her party’s progressive policies are somewhat fanciful and naïve, especially their obsession with re-joining the EU. It is a bureaucratic embarrassment whose slow roll out and dangerous tinkering with the vaccine programmes not only hampers the world economic recovery but threatens the lives of 350 million citizens.


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The rest were rank rotten and it was glaringly obvious to all who tuned in that there was a political heavy weight and party leader who should have been there, if only to energise those around him by pouring more petrol on the fire that he and his new party ALBA or is it Al “a” BA has recently created. The former First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond.

Saying that, the indefatigable George Galloway of the new All for Unity party should also have been asked to appear. He might be regarded by some as bonkers, but there’s no denying he is box office and the show’s ratings, as with the appearance of Alex Salmond, would have gone through the roof. However, I fear the focus would probably have again revolved around another referendum and not the more immediate worry of Scotland’s post-pandemic recovery.

Today is a Good Friday only in that the painfully slow easing of the lockdown restrictions continues with hairdressers and garden centres opening, as well as a resumption of click and collect shopping. But for everyone else, especially hospitality, it is anything but good as it’s not business as usual. It’s time therefore that government and all the other parties stopped politicking about the recovery, and focused on it, or it will be the R word “redundancies” and the huge number of them that will greet a new parliament in May.

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