Drumlanrig: Welfare debate is hard to bear for McMahon

Maria Fyfe. Picture: Allan Milligan
Maria Fyfe. Picture: Allan Milligan
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THE doughty Labour MSP Michael McMahon showed a neat turn of phrase when as convenor of Holyrood’s welfare reform committee, he listened to expert evidence on food banks.

Having heard academics suggest that rising demand for food aid was linked to the coalition government’s welfare reforms, McMahon remarked: “I do not query your evidence at all, but it is like asking whether bears do certain things in their natural habitat.”

Happily, the expert witnesses were spared the blunter and more vulgar version of the phrase used by McMahon to suggest they were stating the obvious.

Cabinet kicked into touch by Irish team

DESPITE his dream of Scottish independence being kicked almost daily by the likes of Standard Life, the Alliance Trust and Lloyds, Alex Salmond remains in upbeat form. His ebullience was much in evidence when he met the sociable Irish ambassador to the UK Dan Mulhall and his equally genial colleague Pat Bourne, Consul General of Ireland to Scotland last week in Edinburgh.

The banter exchanged with the Irish duo at Bute House was obviously more entertaining than Salmond is used to from his senior ministers. Why else were his cabinet secretaries left twiddling their thumbs as the meeting over ran into the slot in the First Ministerial timetable normally devoted to his weekly Cabinet meeting?

Digging deep for memories of Dewar

THE autobiography of the redoubtable Labour MP, Maria Fyfe (below), includes some fond memories of the late Donald Dewar and his endearing untidiness. In her book A Problem Like Maria, Fyfe reveals that the father of the nation was once informed by police at Westminster that his office had been burgled.

“It hadn’t,” Fyfe recalled. “Nothing was missing. It was just in its usual chaotic state. Donald didn’t file stuff. He found it on the archaeological method: the lower down the heap, the further back the date.”

In her memoirs, Fyfe also remembered being shown the bedroom used by Dewar when he was an MP at Westminster and shared a flat with Sam Galbraith and Lewis Moonie. She describes a “room like a monk’s call. A narrow bed, a bedside table and lamp, and a metal rail across a corner that held a number of hangers. That was all”.

Displaying a motherly concern, Fyfe adds: “I used to reprove Donald for running up and down between Scotland and London so much. He regularly left parliament at night to board a sleeper to Glasgow or Edinburgh, take part in a meeting the next morning, then rush back to London for that day’s votes.

“All these night journeys by sleeper, woken up by the train jolting out of stations could not be good for him. Then John Maxton pointed out that the sleeper cabin was more comfortable than Donald’s home in Glasgow.”