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by Louise Wilson
30 January 2022
Sketch: Shirley-Anne Somerville uses Boris Johnson as a human shield

Credit: Iain Green

Sketch: Shirley-Anne Somerville uses Boris Johnson as a human shield

The Scottish Government is not a spokesperson for coronavirus, a Green MSP has admitted.

Indeed, the government is not involved in any PR work or lobbying on behalf of the disease. The government is in no way in cahoots with, or in the pay of, the pandemic.

The astounding revelation was made in the middle of an education debate at the Scottish Parliament. “The Scottish Government cannot speak on behalf of Covid,” Ross Greer insisted.

Spinning the damage of the virus into a positive would indeed be a tough gig. In fact, I dare say that those efforts are not going well. So it’s good to know the Scottish Government isn’t behind coronavirus marketing, because they’d clearly be failing at it.

The UK Government, though? It is strange that the moment the UK passed 150,000 Covid-related deaths, reports of Downing Street parties and birthday bashes for the PM suddenly break. It’s going well if the aim was to knock negative headlines of Covid off the front page.

What could be worse than a viral infection bringing death and devastation? The viral infection of incompetence at No. 10, of course. The power struggle and efforts to turf Boris out of Downing Street are all part of a clever ruse to distract everyone from the last two years. Don’t look at the virus. Look at the blonde buffoon instead.

It’s a clever plan. And it’s certainly working. I hope Covid is paying the UK Government handsomely for its efforts.

Conveniently for the Scottish Government too, the Prime Minister’s travails are also providing useful cover for… well, anything they might be doing badly.

Back in the education debate, SNP MSP Kaukab Stewart suggested criticising the First Minister’s record on education – Nicola Sturgeon did once ask people to judge her on it – was bad because of the Prime Minister. Stewart told the chamber: “I do not know whether Meghan Gallacher thinks that attacking the First Minister personally is a great tactic. We are watching the worst Prime Minister dissemble, lie and bring his public office into such disrepute that now even AC12 has come in on the act.”

Clare Adamson went for a broader attack. She said the “broad shoulders of the Union” the Conservatives are so fond of were “a tad slopey”. Regarding the attainment gap, she went on: “At least let us have an honest discussion about the causes of poverty and where the blame for it lies.” Apparently, none of that blame can go to the SNP. The Scottish Government has absolutely no power to address some of the causes of poverty. Hmm.

But the SNP’s ongoing struggle to get to grips with education meant they had no choice but to deploy the SAS. That’s right. Shirley-Anne Somerville was parachuted in.

But just like her backbench colleagues, even the cabinet secretary for education was keen to not answer questions on education and instead took cover under the possible downfall of Boris Johnson. “I have been genuinely baffled by Meghan Gallacher’s assertion that we should learn lessons from what is happening down south,” said Somerville. Gallacher had earlier suggested that the Scottish Government should mirror the UK Government’s commitment to holding exams in May. But why let that get in the way of a good soundbite.

Somerville continued: “I say to Meghan Gallacher, with the greatest respect, that today is definitely not the day to espouse that view. Lessons are being given by a Tory Government that is scrapping rules to save a Prime Minister’s skin. That is highly irresponsible.” I’m starting to get the impression the SNP is enjoying the debacle down south.

To be fair to the cabinet secretary, she was probably at the end of her tether with the debate. The Tories were calling on her to “guarantee” exams would go ahead (but accepting contingency plans may be necessary if coronavirus takes a turn for the worse). She had said this was the government’s “firm intention”.

To the casual observer, this might look like the two parties actually agree. That observer would be wrong. The two do not agree on their almost identical positions. “Firm intention” and “guarantee” are different phrases. But so are ‘hot air’ and ‘drivel’.

All the Tories were wanting to provide was clarity. “The mental health of young people is paramount when it comes to exams,” said Gallacher. Which is why they are so set on forcing teens to memorise useless facts they won’t ever need to recall again, placing them into a silent room for two hours to regurgitate those facts, on the threat that if they are wrong, they will fail in school and therefore fail in life.

But Tory MSP Sharon Dowey did not get the memo about health being paramount. Kaukab Stewart asked her directly: “The safety of our children is paramount—surely, Sharon Dowey agrees.”

“No, I do not agree,” replied Dowey. Woops. You dropped your mask, Ms Dowey.

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