This article appears as part of the Unspun: Scottish Politics newsletter.

You never forget your first time, whether that’s falling in love, getting flung from a bike, or finding your feet at First Minister’s Questions.

With John Swinney absent on ceremonial duties to mark the 80th anniversary of the D-Day landings, Deputy Kate Forbes was deployed to head off opposition maneuvers at Holyrood’s weekly Q-and-A session.

Though she’s been Finance Secretary in the past and is an MSP of long standing, this was her first time getting to her feet to take on the leaders of the opposition and whatever they could throw at her.

Some would wilt under the pressure. Kate Forbes did not. MSPs don’t get paid by the word, but if they did, the MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch could have covered Michael Matheson’s iPad bill, and then some.

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Forbes: Scottish Government not opposed to new North Sea oil licences

Douglas Ross was not really prepared for the whirlwind when he tried to tie Ms Forbes, and thereby the Scottish Government, down on the question of whether the SNP back the issuing of new licenses to drill for oil and gas in the North Sea.

This has become a thorny subject for all parties. On one hand, there is the urgent need to curb the emission of climate change emissions and reach Net Zero. Drilling for oil and gas is the polar opposite of doing that.

On the other, there are a lot of jobs in the North East of Scotland, and a lot of money for the economy too, and the area has become Scotland’s most contested battleground of this General Election.

Douglas Ross has more than a passing interest too, having just declared he will stand as the Conservative candidate for the Aberdeenshire North and Moray East constituency, vacated – possibly unwillingly – by current incumbent David Duguid on the grounds of ill-health.

Hoping to secure his own credentials as the North East’s man with a plan, and also highlight SNP hypocrisy on the issue, the Tory leader was left blinking in confusion as Ms Forbes's war of words swept over him.

She said: “Well Presiding Officer we’re absolutely clear in our support for the transition for Scotland’s oil and gas sector which recognises the declining nature of the North Sea basin and is in line with our climate change commitments.

“Because the difference between this party and the Conservatives is that we will never abandon our workers. We will never leave a legacy of inequality, and we will never destroy communities like the Tories in the last transition.

“Any further transition must be consistent with our climate change obligations, and we must approach licensing on a rigorously evidence-led, case-by-case basis with robust climate change compatibility and energy security in key considerations.

“Douglas Ross may not care very much for doing the hard work to understand the evidence of decisions – as he confessed earlier this week with Liz Truss’ budget – but we are evidence-led and will ensure that our decisions are consistent with the evidence.”

Total time to answer: 1 minute 4 seconds. Ms Forbes did pause for breath a couple of times as well.

Read more:

UnspunAnalysis: The SNP’s fuddle over North Sea is fraught with electoral danger

Mr Ross tried to go for the “yes or no answer” on the new licenses question – and when has that ever worked? – but Forbes was in full flow.

She replied: “I have been very clear in our approach – and our approach is to support the workers, we will continue to support the industry in line with our climate change obligations, and the industry itself believes in that transition.

“But the facts speak for themselves in terms of what we are doing. Last month alone we saw progress on two significant projects that will drive forward our energy transition and underline our position as an energy powerhouse.

“The groundbreaking on Sumitomo’s £350m high-voltage cable factory and the investment which was made through Haventus in the redevelopment of Arderseir Port. That’s because this government believes in a just transition. A transition that does not leave the workers behind, that does not turn the taps off overnight, and is very conscious of our climate change obligations.

“We’ve heard a lot of figures this week that have been cooked up by the Tories, but the bottom line for us is that we are led by the evidence and we will always back the North East and Scottish workers.”

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Time to answer? 1 minute 4 seconds again. Tired of setting Kate Forbes up to knock him down, Douglas Ross tried one last trick – quoting a Grampian Chamber of Commerce report which said that 100,000 jobs rested on the oil and gas industry in the region.

Douglas Ross couldn't seem to stump Kate Forbes at her first FMQs (Image: Newsquest)
He asked: “Why are the SNP ignoring them?”

This led to the most memorable exchange of the afternoon, with Kate Forbes adroitly switching the conversation to blow a hole in Mr Ross’ attempts to portray himself as the MP the North East needs.

Bringing up the usurpation of David Duguid, she said: “There are big questions for Douglas Ross this very day – on a day he betrays a candidate in the North East, who the Conservatives trusted to be a minister in the UK Government, who's currently recovering from ill-health, who was planning to stand for election, and who was supported by local members.

“I'm old enough to remember when Douglas Ross said he wasn't going to stand for Westminster, because he wanted to focus on Holyrood in 2026.

“Our position is clear, we will back the North East, we will back workers and we intend on achieving our climate change aims.”

All in all, a memorable day for Kate Forbes. But probably one Douglas Ross will want to forget.