Sketch: Dodgy buttons, disallowed questions, and deeply offensive remarks - FMQs is back

It is always worth watching First Minister’s Questions beyond the Punch and Judy call and response antics of the leaders of the SNP, Conservatives and Labour.

The element of surprise tends to come from the backbenches, rather than the leading political lights of the front.

And on Thursday in the game of guess who will steal the headlines, the answer was Ms White, in the Chamber, with a barbed comment.

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In this first session of FMQs since summer recess, opposition MSPs were raring to go. Some rather too raring in their desperation to score some points with their parties, pushing buttons erroneously, and still getting to grips with just when was the right moment to ask a question.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister's Questions.First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister's Questions.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister's Questions.
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As a result Labour’s Michael Marra found himself roundly slapped down by the Presiding Officer for pitching in with a question about whether Nicola Sturgeon had ever “told a senior Scottish police officer she has lost confidence in them and would it be appropriate for her to do so?”, referencing claims the FM had done exactly that with former Chief Constable Stephen House.

Before she could leap to her defence, Nicola Sturgeon was told she did not have to answer.

Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone ruled the question “irrelevant”.

Admittedly Mr Marra had pitched in on the back of a question about retail stock and staff shortages. It was a bit of a stretch to see the connection. The answer would no doubt have been fascinating.

Then all hell broke loose.

Asked about recent anti-Catholic and anti-Irish sentiment on display in Glasgow and what her government would do to combat it, the First Minister said there was “never any excuse or justification for hatred or bigotry” and condemned it outright.

Scotland is a diverse multicultural society which strengthens us as a nation, she said.

It’s the kind of subject matter which tends to build consensus. Yet up piped Tory MSP Tess White to say “except if you’re English”.

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Now Ms Sturgeon has a good range of facial expressions, but that comment saw her reach a whole new level of thunderous. She was “deeply offended”, “deeply aggrieved”, and wanted the PO to make sure Ms White reflected on just what she had said.

Ninety minutes later she had. Contrite, she apologised.

All points to the First Minister.

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