Sketch: Stewart Stevenson's fishy tale

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 12 January 2018 in Comment

A parliamentary debate on the Article 50 process gets bogged down in Stewart Stevenson's ongoing attempts to send the UK cabinet fish in the post

Image credit: Iain Green

The Scottish Parliament is back following the Christmas holidays but things haven’t stopped. In fact, momentous events have taken place, but the media, distracted by less important things, like cabinet reshuffles and the impending nuclear war between the US and North Korea, has been too busy to notice.

Still, they were significant nonetheless. Matters of great import. Developments so grave they could shape the very future of our nation itself.

Yes, that’s right, Stewart Stevenson has decided to send Michael Gove some fish through the post.

Before going any further, it’s probably worth pointing out that Michael Gove is not the first member of the UK cabinet that the Banffshire and Buchan Coast MSP has announced plans to post fish to.

It comes up surpisingly often. The whole thing started over the holidays, with Stevenson contacting the nation’s media to inform them of his plans to send UK Brexit Secretary David Davis a fish pie, through the post, as part of attempts to wish him a ‘merry fishmas’.

Actually, that was related to Brexit too. Everything is, apparently. As Mike Russell put it, during a parliamentary debate on the Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee’s inquiry into Article 50, Brexit is fast becoming a “black hole, sucking in energy and resource that would be far better used elsewhere”.

To be fair, Russell was probably referring to the energy being spent on drawing up exit plans, rather than posting people Cullen Skink pies, but who knows.

And actually Stevenson had started off on a reasonably positive note, wishing a happy new year to everyone, “except Tavish Scott”, on the basis he would “shortly celebrate new year with his constituents at Up Helly Aa”.

Scott looked somewhat confused at being singled out, but with Stevenson in full swing, there was no time to seek clarification.

The reason the seafood came into it was that Stevenson was worried about potential post-Brexit queues at Dover threatening Scotland’s ability to export fish to mainland Europe.

That was why he found himself standing in the chamber and boasting of sending fish to the Environment Secretary, having claimed over Christmas that delays “could compromise the freshness of the product – as David Davis might learn to his peril if he doesn’t pick up his Christmas gift from me in time”.

And here he was, doing it again, except this time it was Michael Gove. “I hope that he enjoyed the pie as much I enjoyed one for my lunch on the same day,” he added, somewhat grandly.

To be honest, it was unclear how many fish Stevenson has been sending. It must be a strain on his spare time, if not on the postal service. After all, how many fish can the cabinet need? They’re politicians, not sea lions.

In fact it later transpired that Stevenson had become confused, and, despite the claims in his speech, had not sent Gove any fish in the post after all. Though he did send David Davis some fish.

On another occasion, he also announced his intention to send Davis some langoustines, but there’s no time to go into that. No, this was meant to be a debate on Brexit, though as far as Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton was concerned, the discussion had become bogged down in the SNP’s constitutional obsessions. As the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire MSP put it, “once again we are hearing the same old message from the SNP: independence, independence, independence”.

It was a pretty wild claim, particularly given that, by that point, no one had yet mentioned independence. In contrast, and as a standard means of measure, the word ‘fish’ had been mentioned 21 times.

After that, Tavish Scott, responding to Stevenson, announced he could “exclusively reveal that he [Stevenson] got something wrong today – probably for the first time in his whole parliamentary career”, explaining, “Up Helly Aa is not about Christmas; it is about our connections to Scandinavia.”

Unbelievably, Stevenson had left the chamber by that point, meaning he had to hear about the correction later. Though given how pleased everyone else was about it, that wasn’t likely to be a problem.

First, Mike Russell popped up to revel in the correction, calling it “an epoch-making moment” and claiming he was just repeating it to help.

Neil Findlay followed suit, jumping in to ask Russell, “now that Mr Stevenson has got something wrong, whether the cabinet secretary is left as the only member of this Parliament who has never got anything wrong”.

But Russell disagreed with this, saying the idea he had never got anything wrong was, in itself, wrong. Though of course it’s possible he was wrong about that, in which case, he would always be right.

Finally, in closing, Russell turned to Rachael Hamilton’s points, suggesting: “I recommend that Rachael Hamilton give up on her absolute obsession with the Union. She is a woman who is utterly obsessed by the Union and cannot make a speech without the Union being absolutely at the centre of it.”

Hamilton shook her head at this, and to be honest, the topic hadn’t come up much more than independence. Mostly, the debate had been on fish.

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