Douglas Ross opened FMQs by blandly thanking Scotland’s schools for all they’d done over the last virus-sodden year, before adding spikily “often with little or no help from the Government”.
As SNP MSPs sucked their teeth in disapproval, Nicola Sturgeon made a point of praising teachers, pupils, parents, jannies, the lot.
“With no snark attached,” she snarked back at the Tory leader.
Mr Ross asked about the SQA, the unlamented exams quango currently awaiting euthanasia.
Three weeks ago, the FM gave it her full confidence, now it’s being scrapped. What’s with that, huh?
“It is just another example of a Government that has lost its way in education,” he concluded.
Ms Sturgeon harrumphed about the low quality of her opponents.
“I am sorry if the complexities of the arguments in the chamber are sometimes a bit challenging for Douglas Ross,” she sighed.
However Mr Ross continued to niggle her with exam questions, or rather, questions about exams.
Are we still having “traditional exams” next year in Scotland, he asked the FM repeatedly.
She repeatedly refused to say, and tried to hide in a viral mist.
“If I stood here while we are still in the grip of Covid with rising case numbers … and in a knee-jerk, ill-considered way decided now what will happen with exams next year, people across the country would rightly criticise me.
“We will consider the issue as the Covid situation develops, and we will set out the position in August, so that, when they return, schools will know what the situation will be. That is the responsible way to proceed.”
At which, klaxons sounded. Whenever a politician tells you’re they’re being responsible or sensible, they’re up to something.
Mr Ross queried how the FM was able to set out a Covid exit route for the summer on Tuesday, yet was somehow unable to say if exams would happen next spring.
He then tried to quote an education boffin little loved by the SNP, eliciting a theatrical moan from John Swinney.
“Perhaps if he had listened to Lindsay Paterson, he would not have been sacked as education secretary,” Mr Ross shot back.
As for exams, Ms Sturgeon remained hazy on the subject.
“We absolutely have to consider very carefully the place of traditional exams in the future of qualifications. No decisions have been taken around that.”
That, said Mr Ross, was the point. “I think people across Scotland will expect her to be able to say quite clearly whether she is for or against exams, but she absolutely did not do that.”
Yeah, well, “the Scottish people re-elected me in a landslide election victory,” retorted the FM. “They trust this Government.”
But whether they trust it to be A-plus or D-minus is unclear.