Friday, April 25, 2008

First Minister's Answers

Last night I promised another blogger a considered response on Nicol Stephen's performance at Stephen's performance in First Minister's Questions yesterday.

So I watched the full replay on BBC Parliament last night to see what all the brouhaha was about.

Before Nicol even got to ask his question is most be noted that like a true economist Alex Salmond laid out a few assumptions.

"Assuming consumer behaviour is responsible, then there should be limited difficulties, both in terms of inconvenience and disruption."

"we need everyone, and the public's co-operation, to behave sensibly and responsibly, to cut out non-essential trips, to use public transport"

I have to mention these quotes from the First Minister's response to Annabel Goldie as background to what was to follow.

Nicol rose for his first question and asked about profiteering and rationing on petrol station forecourts. Raising the issue of capping these prices.

To give him his dues Alex did in his first response calmly say that "Everyone in this chamber would attack and deprecate profiteering." and stated that the remit for capping was in the remit of the Secretary of State on the Energy Act (1976).

The Herald this morning ostrich-like attacked these claims of profiteering by casting aspirations on if they are true. Don't know about any one else but I have seen petrol prices rise by 3p at the pumps where I most regularly buy petrol since Monday in two jumps 2p during the day on Monday and a further penny yesterday. While this increase is only to 106.9p unleaded there are rural areas of Scotland where that is far higher, having a higher starting base generally to start.

Now if as Alex Salmond says there is adequate supply of fuel, easy economic supply and demand theory would dictate that these prices in Edinburgh wouldn't need to raise. Of course the second assumption that the public would behave sensibly would affect the demand curve sadly forcing prices up.

It is the second question that I guess has got other bloggers so up in arms. Nicol asked had the First Minister pressed up the case for capping these prices. The wording was actually careful following the first answer. It didn't say have you done anything to cap the prices but had he pressed it home to the SoS.

The problem arises in how Alex Salmond starts almost every answer, that is with a gibe and put down. He started by saying the Nicol Stephen clearly hadn't listened to the previous answer, as pointed out I think IMHO the wording indicated that he had, had Mr Salmond listened to the question fully or was he too busy working out and going over his weekly insult for the Lib Dem leader. No wonder the cameras at that point panned to a shocked look on Nicol's face.

So Malc I'll agree it wasn't the greatest performance by Nicol, but sadly while we have a First Minster who chucks out gibes and cheap put downs at every single serious questioning of his administration or himself instead of giving answers to the tough questions it will look like that.


Malc said...


I think that is possibly fair comment. Maybe the FM doesn't (ever?) always answer the questions, but sometimes the questions are so bad they don't deserve answering, and sometimes he does answer the question and the next one is based on what the expected answer to the first one is (see Wendy...).

It's a problem for the Scottish Government that they do not have an effective opposition to hold them to account. Week after week FMQs emphasises that - the FM is by far the best political mind in the chamber and it shows.

For the good of... well, everything, the opposition parties need to up their game. If not, it is as you say - the FM is in danger of looking like a bully when h glibly dismisses opposition questions.

Maybe Nicol wasn't that bad yesterday - but he wasn't great. And that is, for the Government as well as your party, a problem.

Stephen Glenn said...

I've accepted he wasn't that great, and I do think a lot of the fuss was over the misrepresentative put down with which Alex started his retort to question 2 with.

Sadly I don't agree that Alex shows he has the far superior political mind. Churchill, Wilson or Thatcher never needed to resort to the level of consistant put down of others abilities to show that. They far rather would very often use the rope they were given to hang the questioner with.

Blair just used avoidance tactics and sadly Alex seems to have taken a leaf from his book rather than the truely great exponents from the dispatch box.


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