Brought to heel

The regular Scottish Goverrnment briefing after FMQs barely touched on FMQs this week. All the media were interested in was that evening’s dinner between Nicola Sturgeon and Rishi Sunak. Who would be in the room? Was it a candle-lit dinner for two or were shoals of officials cramping the mood? The FM’s spindoctor did his best to answer the questions but even he was stumped by the last one: “Who’s taller?” The media consensus was that if Ms Sturgeon donned her heels, the diminutive PM would surely lose that contest.

Laughing gas

NET Zero Secretary Michael Matheson appeared to have more appealing things on his mind as he delivered the Scottish Government’s energy strategy on Tuesday. At one point, he tried to list four projects getting funding in the north east, the last of which he said was “the Aberdeen hydrogen pub”. As he and other MSPs sniggered, he added: “Sorry. Aberdeen hydrogen pub?! It’s an idea, but I couldn’t see the Scottish Government investing in alcohol sales. The Aberdeen hydrogen HUB in the north east.” But now you mention it, perhaps it's worth a try.  Definitely no smoking in the beer garden though.

Ticket masters

THE SNP talk a lot about the cost of living crisis, but whether they truly get it is another matter. Take the Govan branch’s Burns Supper later this month. Tickets are a mere £50 each, or a bargain £40 for the "unwaged". Such charity. Mind you, the guest of honour is Nicola Sturgeon, and she’s ever so shy. The gig is also billed as being a Burns Supper “with a referendum twist”. You guessed it. The twist is there's no referendum. Worth every penny! 

Salty language

FORMER SNP digital wonk Alex Aitchison has been trying his hand on the competitive cooking show Next Level Chef with Gordon Ramsay. Rustling up some scran for the Great Swear Box Filler was “a dream day”, he reported on Twitter. He even attached a video clip of him receiving some timeless wisdom as he prepared a duck breast. “SALT THE F***ER!” Gordon gently advised. Makes even Scottish politics seem tame.

Not so Bene

TALKING of salt - and sauce - Holyrood’s denizens have been mourning the passing of the beloved chippy closest to the parliament. Bene’s on the Canongate was not just a font of delicious crispy things, it also gave us one of Holyrood’s tastiest and most memorable expenses stories. For it was here that former Nat MSP Richard Lyle once bought a poke of chips and claimed his £1.80 back from taxpayers. He was swiftly nicknamed Salty Dick, a moniker that dogs him to this day and which he apparently loathes. 
PS Gourmets can relax. The new take-away which is opening in Bene’s spot already has a sign in the window offering fried Mars bars.  Bon appetit.

Caught Short

Just along the Royal Mile from the chipper is that other Holyrood institution, Starbucks, where many a conspiracy has been hatched over a scalding brew. Most of the snacks on sale are fun-less buns and over-priced sandwiches. But this week a new arrival caught our attention - a block of shortbread with dead yellow eyes and a red nose named “North Pole Nat”. Surely a warning to passing SNP MSPs of the icy exile awaiting any who doubt the de facto referendum plan?

The Herald: