AT Holyrood and Westminster, the February recess is usually something of a non-event.

Halfway between Christmas and Easter, it is not long enough to go travelling unless, like Rishi Sunak, you have a plane at your disposal. In that case, Northern Ireland and Munich here we come.

For almost everyone else it is a quiet week. Nicola Sturgeon put paid to that last Wednesday with her surprise resignation. According to one report in the Sunday papers, ten people were told in advance.

We can assume the Sunday politics shows were not on the First Minister’s call list. Judging by their line-ups, most were expecting the main news to be a Brexit deal on Northern Ireland. When it came to events in Scotland producers were running to catch up.

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The main UK Government guest on Sky News’ Ridge on Sunday, and BBC1’s Sunday with Laura Kuenssberg, was Penny Mordaunt, leader of the Commons. Also doing the rounds was Yvette Cooper, the Shadow Home Secretary. Both able politicians, but they would not be many people’s first choice for a hot take on Scotland’s next First Minister.

Kuenssberg at least had Stephen Flynn MP, the SNP leader at Westminster, on the show’s commentary panel.

The MP for Aberdeen South said he heard “very early” on Wednesday morning about the First Minister’s plans.

How did you feel, asked Kuenssberg, had there been any discussion?

“Shock, disappointment, I was gutted to put it simply. Nicola was an inspirational leader not just of the SNP but of the Scottish Government too. Her warmth, her empathy, her humility and indeed her honesty were all on show on Wednesday, as they have been throughout her reign. So to see her step away was deeply disappointing.”


After interviewing Penny Mordaunt about a Brexit deal on Northern Ireland, Kuenssberg went back to the panel for their reactions.

Mr Flynn had by now traded his previously warm tones for another approach.

“We’re in this situation because Boris Johnson lied,” he said.

Kuenssberg was visibly taken aback. “That’s quite a charge.”

“It’s true though because Boris Johnson said that his deal was oven-ready and he made it out as if there had been no issues. Quite obviously there are extreme issues in relation to the [Northern Ireland] Protocol.”

He went on: “Let’s be clear Laura, Brexit has been an unmitigated disaster.”

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Former Conservative chief whip Wendy Morton jumped in to say this was “just not fair”. There had been Brexit gains, she said, citing the development of the Covid vaccine, a claim that has been disputed elsewhere.

The TV part of BBC Scotland’s The Sunday Show, usually on at 10am, had to wait an hour to air. There was no sign of the two SNP MSPs who had thus far announced their candidacies for the leadership, Humza Yousaf and Ash Regan. Speaking earlier in the radio part of the simulcast, presenter Martin Geissler made a plea for them to appear. “Get in touch, we’ll stick you on,” he said.

Cometh the hour of 11am it was clear both had managed to resist the lure of The Sunday Show. Last week no-one from the Government or its agencies would come on the programme to discuss the controversial deposit return scheme, a turn-out that former Minister Fergus Ewing called “quite extraordinary”.

There might have been an argument for both Yousaf and Regan keeping their powder dry until it becomes clear who else will be standing. The Health Secretary is holding a press conference on Monday.

In the event, The Sunday Show became deja vu all over again as the camera focussed on a certain snug in Skye where former SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford was waiting. His contribution to moving the story on, or not, was to say he had “every faith and trust” in Peter Murrell, the SNP’s chief executive officer and husband of the departing First Minister, carrying on in his job.

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One difficulty for broadcasters, and the media in general, is that the SNP leadership election is a battle being fought before two audiences. There is the selectorate, the SNP members who will elect the new leader, and the wider electorate, who will have to live with the party’s choice

If there are TV debates between candidates, as has become increasingly the norm, how do the broadcasters achieve a balanced audience? If the party wants the contest to be about a single issue, a referendum strategy for instance, do broadcasters focus on that?

The good news for anyone whose February break turned out to be not so relaxing is that voting in the leadership contest closes on March 27. The Easter recess follows not long after.