THE last FMQs before a recess is usually a rumbustious affair. Not quite wedgies and water balloons, but still pretty lively. So expectations were high as we bounced into October break.
I blame Douglas Ross for what happened. He may be laughable but BoJo the Clown he ain’t.
Somehow, and Holyrood’s collective blood sugar fell so low we’re still struggling to understand it, he managed to turn a traditional romp into a ghastly civics lesson.
He has just published a bill, you see. Or rather, he hasn’t published a bill, but he keeps saying that he has. This matters to Nicola ‘The Stickler’ Sturgeon.
The Scottish Tory leader asked her to back his Right to Recovery Bill to guarantee drug abusers get the treatment they need.
Not so fast, she said. All she’d seen was a consultation.
“As a point of fact, unless I am mistaken, I understand that Douglas Ross did not publish a bill this morning; indeed, the consultation that was sent to my office stated that, at this stage, there is no bill but only a draft proposal,” she droned.
Mr Ross lamented that he was in the hands of NGBU.
Not the latest energy company to go bust, but the Non-Government Bills Unit, who deal with his bill. Sorry, non-bill. Then he called it a bill again.
“I was not criticising the process that Douglas Ross is going through,” said Ms Sturgeon, “but in his initial question to me he said he had published a bill this morning, and I was simply making the point that that is not the case.”
By now, as another Tory leader might say, a blanket of boredom, a duvet of dullness, a quilt of quietude, an eiderdown of ennui if not eternity, was descending on the chamber.
“If I could introduce a bill right now, I would,” said Mr Ross, but NGBU won’t let me.
Anyway, will the First Minister “commit her Government to backing our bill at Stage 1?”
Aargh. What bill? There is no bill! Grown men were chewing their nails down to the wrist.
“I cannot engage with a bill that does not yet exist,” said the FM.
“Douglas Ross must know that I cannot stand here and say that I will vote for a bill – giving it carte blanche – when, by his own admission and for understandable reasons, that bill does not yet exist.”
In the end, and very possibly out of pity, she said the idea sounded laudable and she’d probably give it a “fair wind” once more detail came out. That’s reasonable, eh?
Not if you’re Christine Grahame, it’s not. The SNP veteran immediately raised a point of order. Was Mr Ross blagging favourable treatment for his idea?
Because that’s not the NGBU way.
Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone reassured Ms Grahame NGBU was still numero uno.
The process “will apply in this case as it would for any other bill”.
Ms Grahame semed satisfied. Everyone else needed intravenous espresso.
That two-week recess can’t come soon enough.