Sketch: Stewart Stevenson kidnaps a peacock
Has Stewart Stevenson kidnapped a peacock or have you been in lockdown for too long?
Is there a peacock squatting in Stewart Stevenson’s house, or has your imagination, forced into overdrive due to physical inactivity, pushed you into a set of feverish hallucinations? Well, worry no longer! Or worry less, anyway, because according to the SNP MSP, there is indeed a peacock either living in his house, or in its vicinity.
But he didn’t steal the peacock.
And in some ways that’s regrettable. There’s probably a pretty strong argument that ‘Stewart Stevenson denies kidnapping peacock’ is more or less the logical conclusion to the last few years of Scottish politics. Though, significantly, the peacock was unavailable for comment.
The revelation had come in a debate on stage 3 of the Animals and Wildlife Bill, with Stevenson using a question over the definition of pet theft to raise something that had obviously been weighing on his mind. “I have a peacock that has been in our vicinity for the past 18 months,” he said. “I do not own this peacock and I have failed to find out who does. If I take the peacock into my possession to address its welfare requirements, am I guilty of theft by finding?”
The other members were slightly thrown by that, in truth, with Maurice Golden overcoming his confusion to suggest that, it “would be a matter for the courts to determine”, before adding: “I am sure that the member would give a strong account of himself were that to come into play.”
Would he? How well would a court react to Stevenson? You really feel it could go either way. But anyway, in this case the debate was on animal welfare, and so Tory MSP Edward Mountain was expressing concern over the prospect of accidentally running over a badger with a combine harvester.
“Driving over a badger sett could be an accidental action if you do not know that it is there,” he pointed out, somewhat suspiciously, before Mark Ruskell hit back. “Badgers are not birds of prey”, the Green MSP claimed.
It did seem a very specific anxiety, but then it’s probably worth keeping in mind that Sir Edward Mountain once had to execute an 18-foot long python that was wrapping its way around a colleague, while deployed by the army in Uganda. He probably hadn’t expected that to happen either.
Honestly, that really happened, and after an experience like that the idea of performing a hit-and-run on a family of badgers probably doesn’t seem so far-fetched. Or as he told Holyrood at the time, “I ended up shooting the snake. I put the rifle on his [the soldier’s] shoulder and fired though the coils.”
Anyway, no one wants to run over a badger with a combine harvester. That’s a terrible day at work, regardless of the sequence of events that would be necessary to cause it. But still, watching Mountain explain that it was “perfectly possible” to run over a badger with a combine harvester (no one had suggested otherwise), it was clear he had a point. The real world can be complicated. Nothing in politics is black and white. Except badgers.
But what about peacocks? What about Stewart Stevenson’s lodger? He didn’t own it and he doesn’t know who does - fair enough - but what exactly had he meant by ‘in the vicinity’? How close was this peacock? Does he bring it to parliament?
Imagine how the neighbours feel. You’re halfway through Sunday dinner and the doorbell goes. Stewart Stevenson is standing there, with a peacock on a lead, asking if you know it. It’s confusing.
For what it’s worth, Christine Grahame seemed sceptical he could be prosecuted. “I would like to see the case in court when the peacock is brought in as a piece of evidence and asked if it was complicit,” she said, though it was unclear if she meant that in a doubtful way, or if she just genuinely wanted to see it.
But then, Christine Grahame does have a longstanding interest in the area.
The convener of the cross-party group on animal welfare, she’s also a long term champion of getting a Scottish Parliament cat, as well as the previous (human) winner of Holyrood Dog of the Year - even if her win was thrown into controversy following allegations of cheating, after a Holyrood investigation revealed she had been competing with her pockets full of ham.
So for her part, the deputy PO used her speech to threaten opponents with electrocution.
As she put it, explaining her opposition to electric shock collars: “At an SNP conference many years ago they were giving us all electric shocks at one of the stalls and they put a collar on my wrist, which I said would not be a problem. It was set at about level three out of 10 and it was really sore. That is when I became immediately converted to understanding that it is nonsense to apply shock collars to dogs, cats or any other animal. Anybody here who has any doubt about that should put a collar on any part of their body that they choose, and I bet that they will then be against electronic shock collars.”
The rest of them just did their best to roll with that, possibly because none of them wanted an electric shock. Except for Stewart Stevenson. He watched on, probably working on his defence.