Nicola Sturgeon should make the most of her two-week break – she is going to need it

There was a conciliatory mood in the air as Nicola Sturgeon appeared at her final First Minister’s Questions before the parliamentary recess.

The only sense of palpable frustration came when she was unable to get the opposition leaders to understand quite how much she agreed with them.

Despite Tory leader Douglas Ross’ characteristic attempts to poke the FM, she refused to be riled at his demands that she “listen to the experts and grieving families” by backing his plans for drug treatment legislation, instead insisting that she had full sympathy with those affected.

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First Minister's Questions: Nicola Sturgeon told to ‘take responsibility’ for ho...
First Minster Nicola Sturgeon during First Minster's Questions in the debating chamber of the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh.

"I am genuinely not trying to make this exchange a politically divisive one," she said.

On a different – but equally sensitive – topic, Anas Sarwar’s questions about the crisis surrounding Glasgow’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital were also met with an unusually soft approach.

Mr Sarwar, however, was not moved.

“Words of sympathy from the First Minister are frankly wearing thin,” he said.

Yet Ms Sturgeon’s speech on women’s rights, when she called on Scotland’s men to challenge misogyny and insisted that Scotland was at a “watershed moment” in terms of tackling violence and harassment against women, was equally heartfelt.

Perhaps the most outlandish claim of the week – coming in close competition with Fergus Ewing’s insistence in Wednesday’s education committee that all school pupils should be sent on a touch typing course – was awarded to Lib Dem education spokesman Willie Rennie, when he told education secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville that she was following the logic of 1980s Conservative Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in defending the use of standardised assessments in schools.

Yet, the softer approach will undoubtedly not last after the two-week break, when there will likely be a return to full combative mode.

Scotland is preparing for “the most challenging” winter Scotland has ever faced, according to health minister Humza Yousaf – and the government is likely to come under increasing scrutiny as to its handling of the crisis.

As the year goes on, opposition parties will also be looking for more details on reform of the bodies which oversee Scotland’s education system.

Nicola Sturgeon should make the most of her two-week break – she is going to need it.

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