Somehow opposition leaders let Alex Salmond off the hook at First Minister’s Questions

THE feeling was that Alex Salmond had presented his opponents with an open goal as the clock ticked down to First Minister’s Questions yesterday.

THE feeling was that Alex Salmond had presented his opponents with an open goal as the clock ticked down to First Minister’s Questions yesterday.

The opposition benches were desperate for a score, but somehow the back of Mr Salmond’s net was only threatened, despite the predicament he now finds himself in.

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His opening gambit was to refer himself to investigators. This he did while pointing out with an air of smug satisfaction that he had been accused of breaching the ministerial code on five previous occasions, but there had never been a case to answer. That seemed to inflame Johann Lamont, who described the First Minister as being “as straight as a corkscrew”.

She even quoted Marx. Given the farcical nature of the last few days, it was entirely appropriate that it was from Groucho rather than Karl that she borrowed a line.

“Are you going to believe me or the evidence of your own eyes?” she said, quoting the star of Duck Soup and A Day At The Races. By this stage, Mr Salmond would have thought that he was in the former and must have been desperate to leave the chamber to escape to the latter.

The quotation neatly summed up recent events that had seen the Scottish Government admit there was no legal advice on EU membership, a few months after Mr Salmond appeared to suggest that there was.

“The reality is the First Minister will say anything to get through the moment and then ask us to take his assertions on trust. But doesn’t he realise after this week nobody trusts him,” Ms Lamont said.

It was a promising enough build-up from Ms Lamont and she finally passed the ball to Ruth Davidson, who was standing on the edge of the six-yard box with the empty net in front of her.

The Conservative leader called for the Lord Advocate Frank Mulholland to come to parliament to settle the row over EU legal advice.

Then, bizarrely, she compared Mr Salmond’s travails to those which beset Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton. “I did not have legal relations with that man Mr Mulholland,” she said.

The joke did not work and one was left with the feeling that the ball had just slid past the open goal.