On you marks

NICOLA Sturgeon unveiled Universal Credit wizard John Paul Marks as her new permanent secretary on Thursday. Mr Marks, currently a top official at the DWP until taking over the reins from Leslie Evans at the turn of the year, has had the day-to-day running of the SNP’s least favourite Westminster policy to keep him busy. In 2018, the civil servant received a £15,000 bonus on top of his salary as Universal Credit continued to boil the blood of the SNP. Naturally the First Minister pointed to Mr Marks’ “wealth of experience” as she welcomed him to the role.

A clear benefit

ADDING to the awkwardness is Mr Marks’ recent Twitter activity in which praise is heaped on the DWP’s kickstart scheme, helping to move people into work as the Chancellor’s furlough scheme is pulled. But the project has caused much upset to the Scottish Government’s SNP chums in Westminster – with MP Stephen Flynn labelling initial low take-up levels “embarrassing”. In a blog post, Mr Marks highlighted the DWP’s “skills of understanding, empathy and compassion” – in no way not pre-empting initial conversations with his new party of government at Holyrood.

Perfectly scripted

INCREASINGLY frustrated Tory hellraiser Stephen Kerr has clearly had it up to here with the lack of respect shown by the SNP in responding to his perfectly reasonable questions. During one of his now routine points of order at Holyrood this week, the Tory chief whip lambasted Ms Sturgeon, who he said “reads out scripted answers to scripted questions at First Minster’s Questions”. It was a very fair point and he delivered his attack by flawlessly reading it off his scripted paper in front of him.


POOR John Mason. The SNP backbencher clearly had a bone to pick with Scotland’s beloved hospitality businesses this week – essentially arguing they’ve never had it so good. But he wasn’t happy. Not only had he struggled to get a table for his tea in Edinburgh, he’d suffered the same fate in Glasgow. Accusing the sector of “crying wolf” over its troubles is unlikely to help him get a reservation anytime soon – he might even drop off the Christmas card list if he’s not careful.

Petrol head

FERGUS Ewing has been keeping a fairly low profile since being dumped from Nicola Sturgeon’s Cabinet, when he insisted that good things happen when “the public and private sector work closely”. So it would likely have come as little surprise when Mr Ewing was applauded by the Tory benches this week for putting forward their case to the SNP Government about the need to keep cars running in Scotland’s far reaches in the years ahead. But to Mr Ewing’s credit, he did warn he was ”slightly embarrassed” by the reception, telling his opponents to “keep more quiet please”.

Strict security

UNSPUN’S mole hears that a well-known special adviser had a run-in with security this week. Despite much focus, quite rightly, being made on improving safety measures around Holyrood, the Spad attempted to show their pass to the security desk on arrival but was told by the security guard occupying the checkpoint ‘don’t worry, this desk isn’t manned’. We’re sure the relaxed attitude has nothing to do with the news MSPs may soon undergo self-defence training, meaning they can keep an eye on the security team.