Why First Minister’s Questions with Nicola Sturgeon is a mediocre bore-in – Brian Wilson

I made the mistake of chancing upon First Minister’s Questions and, as was heavy odds-on, found Nicola Sturgeon in full flow.

Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone needs to interrupt MSPs who speak for too long, starting with Nicola Sturgeon (Picture: Jane Barlow/WPA pool/Getty Images)
Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone needs to interrupt MSPs who speak for too long, starting with Nicola Sturgeon (Picture: Jane Barlow/WPA pool/Getty Images)

The main feature of her deliveries is neither wit nor wisdom, but sheer, repetitive length.

The ‘answer’ I stumbled on ran to 442 words. In total, she clocked up 1,300 words replying to Douglas Ross. Instead of cut-and-thrust accountability, Holyrood’s supposed showpiece is just another platform for Ms Sturgeon’s insatiable self-regard.

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Throughout her tirades, there was never a squeak of resistance from the hopeless Presiding Officer. Perhaps she could risk: “First Minister, if I may make so bold, perhaps you could limit each answer to a maximum of 300 words”. Instead, on and on she droned, denouncing the “opportunism” of any dissenter to her Omicron brilliance.

The fact there was no “tsunami”, that near-hysterical pronouncements wrecked even what was permissible for Scotland’s hospitality industry, that Sturgeon demanded more Draconian measures including furlough and putting everyone entering the country into eight days quarantine… all brushed aside in a torrent of self-serving words.

Scrutiny? Accountabilty? Certainly not at Holyrood.

Then Anas Sarwar changed the subject and tried to list some of the SNP’s multiple industrial failures. Suddenly, the Green Lady in the chair was awake. A mere 172 words in, she started interrupting him – three times. Consistency, Ms Johnstone?

I quite agree that the questions are also too long while the speeches-as-answers are a farcical abuse. The Westminster chamber has its faults but at least it is capable of producing the theatre of challenge, rather than Holyrood’s mediocre bore-in.

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