FMQs sketch: ‘I declare an interest as the owner of Mr Smokey’

In a First Minister’s Questions dominated by the thorny issues of drugs in prisons and the NHS crisis, it was welcome light relief to turn attention to the domestic companions of the chamber.

During a series of questions posed to First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about new rules surrounding the use of fireworks in a bid to minimise distress to pets and livestock, one MSP was forced to make an unusual declaration.

"I thank the First Minister for her reply and declare an interest as convenor of the cross party group on animal welfare and indeed as the owner of Mr Smokey, a rescue cat,” Christine Grahame said, to a resounding silence around the chamber.

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Mr Smokey’s parliamentary mention isn’t the first time that he has been in the limelight with his political owner.

Christine Grahame has a rescue cat who is called Mr Smokey.

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Two years ago, a Holyrood Magazine column on “Politicians and their Pets” featured Ms Grahame and her feline companion, complete with a fetching picture of the pair embracing.

Speaking about her decision to adopt Mr Smokey from a SSPCA rescue centre, the veteran parliamentarian admitted that she had missed “the ripping of the rugs, the plaintive meows and the retching” after the death of her previous cat, Arthur – which seems odd, considering that she was working as deputy presiding officer, surrounded by mewing MSPs, during that entire period.

Continuing on the animal theme, the elephant in the room on Thursday was undoubtedly the Westminster row over the UK Government’s U-turn on the overhaul of its MP conduct policy.

If government plans, voted in on Wednesday night, had gone ahead, it would have blocked the suspension of one of its own former ministers, Owen Paterson, who was found to have breached rules on paid lobbying.

However, it was later announced announced that a second vote would be held, with Commons Leader Jacob Rees-Mogg admitting the initial poll had "conflated" the two issues and that an overhaul of the system would not go ahead without cross party support.

Mr Paterson responded by subsequently resigning as an MP.

Perhaps surprisingly, not one word was uttered on the topic during FMQs, demonstrating a rare show of Holyrood cross-party unity on the absurdity of the situation.

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