CALL OF DUTYWhat a furore over Nicola Sturgeon's letter on behalf of a convicted fraudster. Alex Salmond's defence of his deputy raised almost as many eyebrows.

As devotees of the Holyrood scene will recall, Salmond maintained that Sturgeon had an "absolute obligation" to make representations on behalf of Abdul Rauf, the 59-year-old who had been twice convicted of fraud.

Presumably that means that Angela Constance, the SNP MSP for Livingston, will be obliged to write for a certain Jim Devine, Labour MP of that parish, should he ask her for a character reference now that he faces charges over his House of Commons expenses.

An unlikely scenario in the view of Drumlanrig.


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The best line from the Conservative Party conference in Perth came from Michael Gove, that son of Aberdeen who is now shadow education secretary and MP for Surrey Heath.

Gordon Brown, he said, was about as sincere as a Valentine's card from John Terry, above. Romantic or what?


In a debate on access to the Gaelic telly provided by BBC Alba, Rob Gibson, the Highlands and Islands Nationalist MSP, confessed that he has been getting Sky TV on the cheap.

He was getting Freeview at his home in Easter Ross, but his Edinburgh residence is showing the delights of Rupert Murdoch's TV channel. "I have had free satellite television in Edinburgh," said Gibson, below. "But I think that that is only because I inherited a dish – there is no way that I would be buying one from Mr Murdoch."

Watch out for the detector van, Rob.


Away from Holyrood, our diplomatic correspondent reveals that Her Majesty's former representative in sunny Uzbekistan – the controversial whistleblowing diplomat Craig Murray – has decided not to run again as rector of Dundee University.

Why? Because his glamorous wife from the former Soviet statelet won't leave London for the city of Discovery.

"When I was elected, I did hope to move to Scotland," blogged Murray, whose adventures in Central Asia have been made into a Radio 4 play to be broadcast soon. "However, Nadira has made it very clear she does not want to live in Scotland – or indeed anywhere but London. Personally, if I had the chance to live in any town in the entire world, plus the seventh circle of Hell and an oxygenless planet off Alpha Centauri, London still might be bottom of my list. But that's family life for you."