Question Time came from Glasgow last week. Time was when such an occurrence would have brought BBC management out in a cold sweat, and for good reason. Every time the programme came to Scotland all hell seemed to break loose.

There were rows over audience selection (remember the failed Ukip candidate invited on four times?), the panelists, the host (Dimbleby got a pass, Fiona Bruce never has). Viewers were guaranteed, as a former first aide to former First Minister Nicola Sturgeon would say, a “good old-fashioned rammy”.

So what happened? Last week’s programme was a sedate affair compared to bun fights past, and the blame for that must lie with the panelists. I don’t know whose crazy idea it was to invite five reasonable sorts to fill the seats around Fifi Bruce, but please don’t do it again or we might have to start taking QT seriously, and that would never do.

Even the Tory, Lord Malcolm Offard, seemed like the kind of cove you could have a (quick) beer with, especially when we found out, via Ms Bruce’s introduction, that he “grew up in a tenement flat just 25 miles from here”. A tenement flat you say, Lady Bracknell? Are you sure it wasn’t a handbag?

If you could overlook the lack of fireworks it was nevertheless a fascinating hour that offered a glimpse of a future Scotland, a place where one woman stood head and shoulders above the rest. Welcome to the land of Kate Forbes.  

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Ms Forbes continues to have a remarkably high profile for someone who failed in her bid to be party leader. Others might have shuffled off into obscurity or Alba (same thing), but not her. On Question Time it was “Kate this” and “Kate that”, from audience, panelists and Bruce alike. It might have been because she was the only woman guest, but it seemed something more. Forbes was having an “I agree with Nick” moment, named after the 2010 TV debate when millions fell under the spell of then Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg.

The former finance secretary is everywhere, from the UK Covid-19 Inquiry and Question Time to The Herald letters page (the political equivalent of finding a star fixed on your dressing room). In a few weeks she has a column coming out in which she criticises Humza Yousaf’s higher taxes for high earners as counter-productive. No need to wait for the newsletter - the story made the front page in a Sunday paper.

As did another tale, this one harking back to the time Forbes demolished fellow leadership contender Humza Yousaf during the STV debate (“Well Humza, you’ve had a number of jobs in government…”).

According to “friends of Forbes”, this was payback for an incident in Cabinet in 2021. Yousaf had reportedly tried to humiliate the then finance secretary by claiming to have found £100 million down the back of the health department’s sofa, money she needed to keep businesses going during the pandemic. Yousaf’s “gotcha” moment backfired when the teacher, Miss Sturgeon, told him to grow up.

Every hero and heroine needs an origins tale, and this one suits Forbes very well. It shows her above the fray, more concerned with finding practical ways to help people than playing politics. After weeks of evidence at the Covid Inquiry showing the Scottish Government, and the UK Government, exploiting the pandemic for political ends, despite what they were saying in public, this earns Forbes a lot of brownie points.

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As does her not knowing about the “Gold Command” cabinet meetings held by Sturgeon. The cool kids made sure they shut her out, which reflects badly on them. What might have been different if she had attended these cabinet within a cabinet sessions?

I got the job done anyway, she told the Question Time audience. She is always careful to balance any criticism of the party’s leadership with a collegiate call to arms. We can learn lessons from this, she’ll say. All is not lost. Indeed, looked at from a certain angle, things are okay and they could be a lot better still.

It is a glaringly obvious play for the leadership. The details change but the plan goes roughly like this. The General Election is called before November, the SNP is massacred. Instead of waiting till the Scottish Parliament elections, party members demand a leadership contest now, and they get the correct candidate this time. No long drawn-out end. A First Minister Scotland can take pride in. No jokes about forensic tents and motorhomes with this one.

What do we think of this? Not much. It smacks of entitlement, not on Forbes’ part but among those men in grey kilts who like to think they are in charge. After 17 years of one party at the helm the thought of some velvet handover does not cut it.

Anyway, who is to say Forbes is still interested in being leader? When the winner of the last contest was announced she looked like the happiest person in the country. The woman who lost a fiver and found a stack of Amazon shares. Free to head home to her constituency of Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch and not prepare for government, the lucky woman.

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As it is, free from the constraints of leadership, she can do as she pleases. Stand or not stand. Write as many provocative think pieces as she likes. Annoy the Greens to her heart’s content. Why go to all that bother to stand again when you could be facing years in opposition?

I would not bet against her having another run for the leadership, coming back as a minister if Michael “iPad therefore I am” Matheson goes from health, signing up for the next Nasa mission or whatever the latest tale doing the rounds.

So kismet, Kate, what is it to be? Holding court on BBC Question Time or top billing at First Minister’s Questions; a place on the backbenches or a turn in the driving seat? A decision one way or the other would be appreciated.