The importance of today’s historic First Minister’s Questions could not be over-stated. It was barely 48 hours after our MSPs’ ordeal at the hands of Dr Hilary Cass. How many of them had recovered sufficiently?

Questions surrounding this woman’s infamous display of public intellect continue to rage. Why had there been no trigger warnings? Shouldn’t Cass Review revision classes have been organised last week? And why were no trauma counsellors on hand afterwards?

Happily, they all seemed none the worse for having had their tea served up to them by this unconscionably smart academic. Holyrood will learn from this.

This being John Swinney’s debut First Minister’s Questions, all eyes were on the Scottish Greens. How quickly would they try to sink the boot? They’ve been jouking about these corridors looking slightly dazed and sporting fixed grins, pretending they care not a jot.

The Herald: Kate Forbes with John SwinneyKate Forbes with John Swinney (Image: free)

In a devastating two-week spell they’ve lost everything: their places in government; their Harry Potter ministries and the cosy add-ons that came with them. She who must not be named in progressive company, K--- F-----, has usurped them and now wields more power than they ever had.

There she was, sitting nonchalantly at Mr Swinney’s right hand, looking all Protestant and carefree. The problem for Mr Greer and Mr Swinney is not that Ms Forbes is – like them – a good Christian, but that she’s the wrong type of Christian. Doesn’t she know that, around here, your Christianity must be checked in at the door and then approved by committee? Hopefully, she too will learn lessons.

The previous day, she’d worn a vivid green frock as she accepted the post of deputy First Minister. This seems to have been triggering for some Greens. Going forward, Ms Forbes will now perhaps consider submitting her apparel choices – as well as her religious beliefs – to the appropriate committee for approval.

Patrick Harvie, chewing wasps, wasted no time in contrived pleasantries. He lamented the departure of ‘progressive’ ministers like Emma Roddick and Joe Fitzpatrick. Sadly for Ms Roddick and Mr Fitzpatrick their ‘progressiveness’ was in inverse proportion to their political acumen.

Mr Harvie traduced Ms Forbes for her outdated personal views. The 1950s were mentioned and the trauma of LGBT people across Scotland. Mr Swinney could have pointed out that Mr Harvie has known about Ms Forbes’ religious beliefs for many years in government and then asked why it was only a problem now.

Instead, he mollified them in a two-minute soliloquy that featured progressive and progressiveness seven times. Progressive taxes; progressive values; progressive attitudes; progressive progress.

Douglas Ross then chose to ask the same question four times instead of asking the four different questions to which he’s entitled. Would Mr Swinney deliver on the pledge he’d made as Education Secretary to create 3500 new teaching jobs?


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Curiously, when it was Anas Sarwar’s turn he asked more or less the same question. It was as though the two had colluded. Surely not?

And then it all became clear. The Scottish Labour leader has also been learning lessons. The previous day, Natalie Elphicke, who makes Nigel Farage look like Ross Greer, defected from the Tories into Sir Keir Starmer’s welcoming arms.

This marked the completion of Operation Invasion of the Tory-Snatchers. Why waste time trying to defeat the Tories when you can just become them instead? I fear we may be seeing a lot more joint manoeuvres between Mr Ross and Mr Sarwar.

Mr Swinney has pledged to introduce a new form of political engagement by seeking collaboration and kindness. As though he has a choice in the matter.

He could easily have had Messrs Harvie, Ross and Sarwar for his lunch. Instead, he chose the path of least resistance. He needs these people.

If he continues in this vein the rest of us will require the patience of Kate Forbes’ saints at First Minister’s Questions.