IF it’s budget time at Holyrood, it's also schmoozing time. We hear Finance Secretary Derek Mackay was recently treated to a posh business breakfast at Edinburgh’s Hotel Du Vin by one Tory-tinted lobbying firm. A client wanted to bang on about investment in the railways and ScotRail’s performance. Well, we could all moan about that. Mind you, this client was the franchise holder, Abellio. So Del Boy probably got badgered for more cash.

WE suspect Mr Mackay will savour the budget debate more than any brekkie however, particularly the moment Labour’s Neil Findlay unwisely took his intervention. “I can tell Neil Findlay what he is going to say, because I have a copy of his speech,” Mr Mackay said. “He sent it to the Scottish ministers!” For once the gobby Corbynite appeared dumbstruck. “Members will know my computing skills,” he sighed amid the laughter.

TORY Murdo Fraser also accused one Green MSP of being a sook. “Andy Wightman wrote a book called ‘Who Owns Scotland’,” Murdo roared. “The question today is: who owns Andy Wightman? The answer is Derek Mackay.” At which the SNP benches pointed to millionaire Tories Alexander Burnett and Sir Edward Mountain, who really do own swathes of Scotland. Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham was so exercised by the hypocrisy, she literally fell off her seat.

SO, farewell then, Andrew ‘Two Lobsters’ Liddle, the seafood-loving bon viveur who somehow became a Scottish Labour spindoctor. Never one for restraint, he had his second leaving bash near Holyrood on Thursday, followed by whisky and port into the small hours at his Tony Blair-themed flat. As his new employer is the US government, he tells Unspun his next task is to puff through all the Cuban cigars in his £100 humidor with chums lest they raise any eyebrows. What a true champion of ‘for the many, not the few’.

GALL of the week award goes to Tory Douglas Ross. At PMQs, the Moray MP asked Theresa May about devastating cuts at “SNP-led Moray Council”. As Mr Ross and his constituents know, the SNP only recently took over the authority. Its finances were run into the ground during six years of flaky Tory-Independent administrations. Mr Ross is also a part-time football official. Strange he was oblivious to such a dirty foul. New glasses, ref?

LATE news on Scotland’s naffest political dynasty, the MacGregors of North Lanarkshire. As we mentioned last week, the clan without a plan failed miserably to install cronies on the SNP’s Coatbridge branch. Now we hear MSP Fulton MacGregor, the chieftain o the puddin race, flopped even after dragooning brother Fraser, a former LibDem candidate for Holyrood, to vote. As this brother is an undertaker, perhaps it’s time he buried the clan’s ambitions?

TUCKED away in the footnotes of the budget vote was a sole abstention. Former childcare minister Mark McDonald, who sits as an independent after quitting the SNP in a text-pest row, wouldn’t vote for his old colleagues. It seems ministers didn’t even ask about his vote, preferring to shun him and ensure he didn’t get any cash he could brag about in Aberdeen Donside. The Nats really want that seat back in 2021...