Sketch: FMQs new term sees new faces, but same old arguments

The sparsely populated benches in the Holyrood chamber – a result of Covid social distancing – do not make for an atmosphere.

First FMQs of the new parliamentary session and Nicola Sturgeon already seemed wearied by it.

Normally on the resumption of First Minister’s Questions post-election, the place is packed and the trading of political punches between party leaders met with cheers and approvals, or pantomime boos of displeasure.

That was all missing when Nicola Sturgeon wearily rose to face yet another round of questioning from the opposition parties – and platitudes from those on her own – as the sixth session of the Scottish Parliament really got underway.

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New boy and new Tory leader, Douglas Ross, rose to his feet, but failed to fill the shoes of the departed Ruth Davidson.

His questions on the impact on business of lockdowns, particularly in Glasgow, no doubt sounded sharp and clever in his office.

In the chamber they fell somewhere between flat and contrived – and his dig about the Scottish Greens breaking Covid rules felt more like a he was having a go at the regulars of that “high-end” Edinburgh bar, Brown’s.

Mr Ross was much criticised for his delivery during the leaders’ television debates, and it feels that – in the political phrase of the moment – no lessons have been learned.

Five years is going to feel more like ten if he doesn’t find a way to dial down the rapid rifle attack style and find a more nuanced way to disarm Nicola Sturgeon.

He could take a leaf from Anas Sarwar’s book. The Scottish Labour leader is more accustomed to Holyrood, and he raised a topic that has been close to his heart for some years.

Nicola Sturgeon is unable to respond with her characteristic gusto when the death of children as a result of a hospital infection is the subject on which she is being grilled.

The Lib Dems no longer get an FMQs appearance each week given their lack of numbers – instead that privilege now goes to the Scottish “soon to be partners in government” Greens.

Patrick Harvie started as he no doubt means to go on “I’m sure the First Minister will agree with me...”

It might have been my imagination, but I’m sure I saw Nicola Sturgeon’s shoulders slump ever so slightly.

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