Labour cards on table in constitutional debate

Kezia Dugdale Image copyright PA
Image caption Ms Dugdale made her keynote speech at the party's annual conference in Perth

My history teacher at school was fond of quoting a song lyric which, as I recall, went as follows:

We don't want to fight but by Jingo if we do,

We've got the ships, we've got the men, we've got the money too.

It was, he informed us, the origin of the sentiment of Jingoism which stirred or appalled opinion in the 19th century, according to taste and inclination.

The words came into my head as I listened to Kezia Dugdale deliver her speech to Scottish Labour's annual conference in Perth. Not that Ms Dugdale is remotely jingoistic. Or militaristic.

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What does Scottish Labour's federal plan mean?

Kezia Dugdale Image copyright PA
Image caption Kezia Dugdale has for some time talked about a new Act of Union

A curious - yet significant - debate at the Labour conference in Perth. Speaker after speaker stressed that the topic, the constitution of the UK, was not natural or comfortable territory for the party.

One indeed said that she was "hacked off" at having to address the issue. She had hoped it had been consigned to neglect and oblivion by the outcome of the 2014 referendum on independence. She would rather talk about poverty and equality.

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FMQs: From solemn start to rowdy end

Media captionKen Macintosh: "I'm not expecting reverential silence, but......"

Discourse in parliament is frequently somewhat frenzied. Angry, impatient, combative. Full of sound and fury, some of it genuine.

Then, again, parliament can be, when required, solemn, sombre and engaged. I applaud both modes: they have their place. Both were on display at Holyrood today.

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It's a 'yes' to BBC Scotland's new TV channel

Media captionBlair Jenkins: "It is a modest and challenging budget for the channel"

There is nothing more disarming than saying yes. Elegant consensus can have a potency all of its own, capable of deflecting the murmurs or indeed growls of discontent that are common in public discourse.

Such would seem to be the case with the BBC's composite announcement today anent the future of broadcasting in Scotland.

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Taxing talk of budgets and business

Chamber
Image caption Derek Mackay made a ministerial statement after coming under pressure over business rates

Nothing concentrates ministerial minds more than upset voters. Especially when there is an election pending. In Scotland, there is always an election pending. Or a referendum.

The SNP's calculation was that Labour intended to attack them at the local elections in May with claims of service cuts. And that the Tories planned an onslaught founded upon rises in business rates.

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Education report card makes grim reading

Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright PA
Image caption Ms Sturgeon faced questions over the Scottish education system's latest report card

In theatre and politics, atmosphere is all. In both scenarios, said atmosphere is commonly amplified by the onlookers.

In Greek drama, the chorus keep us right. Turn to Bertolt Brecht and such action as there is will be regularly interrupted by a dose of distancing didacticism. In panto, the comic lead will ruin the villain's big scene with a deftly burst balloon.

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Duel of the popular mandates at Holyrood

Holyrood vote
Image caption MSPs voted to oppose the triggering of Article 50

Perhaps it was theatrical envy, but Ben Jonson was faintly acerbic about Shakespeare, noting that he had "small Latin and less Greek".

(Maybe so, Ben, but who watches Volpone today?)

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Scotland's budget: Jeers and cheers

Media captionMurdo Fraser refers to the Scottish Greens as 'lentil-munching sandal-wearing watermelons'

Party politicians frequently gain succour from identifying and targeting villains. In search of suitable hate figures, their own ranks generally suffice.

Sometimes, however, they are obliged to look beyond their own back or front benches. Step forward the new target for disparate opprobrium. Patrick Harvie. (Hiss and, indeed, boo!)

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Scotland's budget: closer to consensus

Media captionPatrick Harvie says he and the Scottish Greens would not be willing to see emergency cuts happen

Wee bit more on the Scottish budget. Not there yet - but it is looking increasingly likely at Holyrood that there will be a deal between ministers and the Greens.

Certainly, the pervasive gloom of previous days has lifted somewhat in ministerial corridors. Again, not there yet - but closer.

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Scotland's budget: anyone for chess?

draft budget
Image caption The first vote on the budget will be on Thursday

While a youth, I was rather keen on chess, my native Dundee being the global capital of that fine game, among many other things. However, I have always shied clear of the multi-dimensional version.

Which is a pity because it would have readied me for attempting to follow the contest of comparable complexity currently taking place at Holyrood anent the negotiations over the Scottish Government's budget.

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