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Sketch: John Swinney promises to stop heckling

Credit: Alamy

Sketch: John Swinney promises to stop heckling

Yesterday’s man said he was too yesterday to be today’s man last year. But today, yesterday’s man has become today’s man, while insisting he can become tomorrow’s man too.

And so Scotland enters a new era – the Swinney era.

A man who (according to himself, at least) has the experience, intelligence and political nous to take on the top job in Scottish politics. Sorry, Humza Yousaf, it’s time for the grown-ups to take over. After a brief try putting the yoofs in charge (under 40s is still a yoof in politics, after all), it seems that political experiment failed. Papa John is back in charge.

And wielding his pizza cutter, now is time to start slicing off bits of government that aren’t serving their purpose. Yousaf’s gave him a good start, removing the Greens (no one wants greens on their pizza), but what else can go? And will this be salami-slicing or starting from scratch?

Lorna Slater warned the FM-designate not to slice off too much. Her party’s “explicit support” will depend on the SNP continuing to deliver the Green manifesto. There’s backseat driving, and then there’s this. “Our door remains open,” she says.

Swinney sees the door… but doesn’t pop his head in yet. Instead he offers praise to the Labour/Lib Dem government of the past, and to the Conservative opposition of old, reminding Anas Sarwar, Alex Cole-Hamilton and Douglas Ross that their parties can play nice. It seems Papa John might be inviting others in for a bite.

He is, he has said, a changed man from when he led the party back in the early noughties. He is a “different character” and a “stronger” person.

He’s also, apparently, a changed man from just a couple of weeks ago. “This parliament, as colleagues have fairly recognised, is intensely polarised at this time. I accept my part in creating that environment, whether that is shouted put-downs from the frontbench, or heckling from a sedentary position,” he humbly acknowledges.

“I do promise, presiding officer, that that will all stop. I have changed.” Tomorrow’s man can’t be a heckler, after all. It is unbecoming of a first minister (though apparently fine for a deputy first minister).

The chamber laughs in disbelief. Even Swinney’s wife raises an eyebrow. He cheekily adds: “Perhaps time will tell on that one.”

Still, like a good businessman, Swinney approaches all his potential partners after his speech. Ross, Sarwar, Cole-Hamilton, Patrick Harvie and Slater are each given a handshake. Of course, three of those five have just lost another election to him so a handshake may seem like a rubbish consolation prize. They could instead have had £100,000 and a fancy residence thrown in.

But then, Ross, Sarwar and Cole-Hamilton did all highlight in their pitches to be FM that they probably wouldn’t win. As though by not referencing that fact, the public would just assume they were stupid or unrealistic (well…)

The Lib Dem leader says his “humbly” offers himself up to be first minister. What a sacrifice. He does so “more in hope than expectation”, because after all, hope is all the Lib Dems have. It could be, he insists, part of the Lib Dem revival. As FM, he would clean shit up… quite literally. He means to put cleaning sewage at the top of the agenda.

The Tory leader has put himself forward because Swinney’s leaderships “shows the SNP can’t change”. He didn’t hear what Papa John said earlier about his metamorphosis from failed leader to first minster material.

And the Labour leader bleats out his usual lines about “chaos” and “incompetence” and continuity not cutting it. If you missed it, don’t worry. There’s another two years to go until the 2026 election.

Ultimately the MSPs had a choice. John Swinney or Non-Swinney. 64 of them plumped for the former, therefore ushering in the seventh era.

At least the new yesterday’s man, Humza Yousaf, got his time in the sun before the end came. In his last hurrah, he praised his family and his colleagues, and even said some moving things about how being leader of his country would have been beyond the wildest dreams of a young Yousaf.

And the best thing about it, he says, was being able to “make someone’s day every single day in office”. That may be by taking a selfie, or it may be through delivering the Scottish Child Payment, he adds. The order in which those were mentioned goes a long way to explain why he is no longer in government.

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Read the most recent article written by Louise Wilson - John Swinney: Voting SNP will ‘intensify pressure’ to hold independence referendum.

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