Sturgeon's plea for patience

Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon wants patience from her party

There was a moment in Nicola Sturgeon's policy-rich speech when we moved from the particular to the general. To the philosophical, indeed.

She said that the generic question which had moved centre stage was this. "What kind of country do we want to be?"

At least one wag in the audience responded: "An independent one!" Ms Sturgeon paused for a moment - although she was not remotely discomfited.

As an amendment to the friendly heckle, she suggested that fairness would be handy too.

In practice, the audience wanted to hear a version of the old protest chant. "Whaddya we want?" Their answer would be independence. And the next line, "when do we want it?"

Read full article Sturgeon's plea for patience

Scotland's taxing issues

Slovenia's Roman Bezjak (jumping) celebrates Image copyright AFP/Getty Images

Nicola Sturgeon's verdict? "We are just not good enough yet". But she was adamant that the contest continues, and that the level of support will be sustained.

The dream, to borrow a phrase deployed by her predecessor, will never die.

Read full article Scotland's taxing issues

Conference defaulting towards caution

John Swinney speaking at the conference Image copyright Reuters

There has long been a dilemma confronting the SNP when preparing for a party conference. Do they yell Freedom and energise the faithful? Or do they ca' canny with the aim of attracting the unpersuaded?

In practice, of course, they customarily offer a bit of both. The issue, then, is emphasis, prioritisation. Thus far, the Glasgow conference defaults rather towards caution.

Read full article Conference defaulting towards caution

Holding onto that vital spark

Roddy McMillan as Para Handy
Image caption Roddy McMillan as Para Handy in the BBC 1970s comedy based on Neil Munro's stories

I have long been an admirer of the magnificent Para Handy tales, by Neil Munro.

They blend warm, gentle comedy with insightful narrative focusing upon the Gaelic-speaking community of western Scotland.

Read full article Holding onto that vital spark

Picking a fight with yourself

Tory conference Ruth Image copyright AFP
Image caption It's been all smiles on the surface at the Conservative conference - but internal disquiet is the order of the day

Almost by definition, almost from first principles, politics is about contention, about argument. The trick for a political party is to pick a fight with their opponents - rather than with themselves or, even worse, the voters.

The Conservatives are currently struggling with that dilemma. The mood in Manchester is cautious, constrained.

Read full article Picking a fight with yourself

FMQs: taking the single fish

Media playback is unsupported on your device
Media captionSturgeon jokes about Labour 'infighting'

It is common practice for politicians to approach their verbal contests in the chamber with a degree of apprehension.

For opposition leaders, the issue is: what should I ask? For ministers, including the first minister, it is: how should I respond?

Read full article FMQs: taking the single fish

Labour leadership: the Rowley tapes

Alex Rowley Image copyright PA
Image caption Alex Rowley found himself caught on tape voicing his (unsurprising) preference for Richard Leonard's candidacy

In the conference hall, Jeremy Corbyn's speech provoked near ecstasy from some, open adoration from others and, perhaps, faintly disbelieving admiration from others.

As a very minimum, he drew rapt attention. I must confess that I found it a little difficult to concentrate solely on his oration. Taking my cue from The Beatles, it was tricky to "keep my mind from wandering".

Read full article Labour leadership: the Rowley tapes

FMQs: siding with the millionaires

Image caption SNP members enjoyed pointing the finger at Anas Sarwar

It was, in itself, rather an effective intervention. From Labour's Alex Rowley, in the style he has made his own. Dogged, determined, redolent of Fife but shorn of chutzpah.

Whenever Nicola Sturgeon made a choice on tax, he rumbled, she "sided with the millionaires, not the millions."

Read full article FMQs: siding with the millionaires

FMQs: making a spectacle

Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon put on her glasses at key moment during the question session

Questions to the first minister frequently provide a spectacle for the viewing public. Contrary to opinion in some quarters, that is not their sole or even prime purpose.

Today the fascination lay in spectacles. Plural. When I was at school in the great and noble city of Dundee, we called specs "owls". Contact lenses were "secret owls".

Read full article FMQs: making a spectacle

History and Henry VIII at Holyrood in Brexit consent debate

Mike Russell
Image caption Mike Russell reached for a historical analogy while addressing MSPs about Brexit legislation

Scotland's Brexit Minister is Mike Russell. Perhaps he might be more accurately characterised as the anti-Brexit Minister or the Minister for Mitigating Brexit.

Either way, Mr Russell is a cultured individual, a prolific author indeed. He has a keen interest in Scotland's cultural, social and political history.

Read full article History and Henry VIII at Holyrood in Brexit consent debate