Eddie Barnes: Is there OS map of Tora Bora somewhere?

CORNERED by grievous allegations of a near-treasonable nature, accused of allowing anti-monarchist bias to endanger the safety of the Queen, faced with demands that he admit mistakes by his under-fire ministers, there was only one outcome likely when Alex Salmond emerged at First Minister's Questions yesterday to face his opponents.

He stamped all over their heads.

Iain Gray, the Scottish Labour leader, had decided to press Salmond on the story of the morning; the emergence in two of the morning's papers that "Republican Rose" – aka environment minister Roseanna Cunningham – had dug in her heels over the inclusion of two paths near Balmoral in a new route map for the Cairngorms. The spooks in London declared to have done so would pose security risks to the Windsors. But Cunningham had demurred. This, we were told by Labour, was highly irresponsible. They raised the spectre of a terrorist threat.

Leaving aside the fact that the row on the floor of the Scottish Parliament was rather drawing the attention of said terrorists to said paths, the revelations raised some intriguing questions about the methods of the modern terrorist. Do al-Qaeda operatives, when carrying out terrorist attacks, always stick to the path? Is this why paths are deemed so dangerous? If so, is there an OS map of Tora Bora somewhere? It might help us.

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Anyway, Gray wanted to know whether Salmond thought the safety of the Queen was a sufficient reason to keep the two paths off the map. Salmond did. But so did Rose, he added – after a bit. But the facts, by now, were of mere secondary importance, for our First Minister was in full rhetorical flow. Gray's line of argument was, he averred, a "bouquet of absurdity" (for the record, "absurd" is political-speak for "annoyingly on the money").

SNP's Alex Neil hollered: "Bring back Jack!", in reference to the former Labour leader, to general hilarity. "Jack was nodding!" jeered Salmond in response. This was not quite true: McConnell appeared to be nodding off.