MSPs show sombre solidarity at FMQs

Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright PA
Image caption MSPs were in a reflective mood for the weekly session of first minister's questions

In moments of emotion, poetry frequently insinuates itself into my thoughts. I seldom discard the offer.

So it was while presenting coverage of questions to the First Minister at Holyrood today. I listened as Ruth Davidson, Kezia Dugdale and Nicola Sturgeon contrived admirably - very admirably - to sustain democratic discourse without the abrasive comment which customarily attends upon such exchanges.

I listened, too, as Patrick Harvie constructed an edifice upon the bloody foundations of the Manchester tragedy. He referred to other deaths, specifically to the lives lost on the despairing sea voyage from Libya to Italy.

Immediately, I thought of John Donne and his anthem in praise of common humanity. Writing in the 17th Century, Donne habitually talks of "man" and "mankind". However, in your thoughts, you can substitute "humanity" or what you will.

"Each man's death diminishes me

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Holyrood responds to terror

Silence
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon led MSPs in a minute's silence at Holyrood

Joy. It is, decidedly, a curious word to hear in such a tragic environment. But it was repeated at Holryood today, as MSPs responded to yet another atrocity.

What possible salience could that word possess? What relevance in the midst of tears, pain, sorrow, sympathy and anger?

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Scottish Labour goes back to the future

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Image caption Kezia Dugdale launched the Scottish Labour manifesto at an event in Edinburgh

Tempora mutantur et nos mutamur in illis. Times change and we change with them. Such idle thoughts occurred to me as I scrutinised the Scottish Labour manifesto in Edinburgh, prior to the formal launch.

Not that there was much room for Latin in the document's 120 pages, not even for sub Ovid quotations.

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Theresa May outlines her indyref double lock

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Media captionTheresa May says keeping the UK together is important to her.

An election manifesto is designed to allow a party to set out what it would do if granted governmental power or, as a very minimum, Parliamentary influence.

Today's Scottish Conservative manifesto is no different, blending its offer on UK powers - as set out in the UK launch yesterday - with longer-term devolved ambitions, for example on education and housing.

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FMQs: Holyrood action is left on the dramatic fringe

Nicola Sturgeon
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon accused Theresa May of "ducking" a coming leaders debate

If the exchanges at Holyrood today failed to whelm - as they did - then a ready answer can be found. The political focus is entirely now upon the UK general election and, today, upon the UK Conservative manifesto.

Said tome was launched at pretty well the moment when Nicola Sturgeon rose to face her weekly inquisition.

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Council coalitions and party divisions

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Image caption Labour councillors in Aberdeen have signed a coalition deal with the Tories against the wishes of central office

There are few certainties in electoral politics. One may presume baby-kissing. Further, it can be taken as read that candidates, on encountering the juvenile offspring of voters, will scarcely be able to avoid breaking into childish ditties, hummed or chanted according to choice.

However, there is one other element that is generally regarded as a constant. Voters, it can be presumed, tend not to favour parties which display elements of division.

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Grinning Corbyn talks up 'real' Labour manifesto

Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn launched his party's general election manifesto

The media questions at Labour's manifesto launch were a valuable source of innocent merriment, designed as ever to challenge and contend.

One journalist, from a paper generally seen as supporting Labour, opened by suggesting that the party's policies, as leaked a week back, had proved relatively popular with the focus groups, before whom all politicians bow.

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Labour manifesto leak proves there is bad publicity

Jeremy Corbyn Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Jeremy Corbyn might be hoping that there's no such thing as bad publicity

Perhaps Jeremy Corbyn might take comfort from the wise words of Scotland's National Bard, as regularly disseminated by Alex Salmond, he who formerly led the SNP.

Quoting Robert Burns, Mr Salmond is wont to say: "The mair they talk, I'm kent the better." *

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'Teeth are devolved' and other election conundrums

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I feel for them, I really do. Our elected and aspiring politicians, that is. Here they are in the midst of an election campaign, beset by constitutional constraints.

Not that you would notice the problem. Candidates and parties are cheerfully campaigning in this Westminster election on issues which are either devolved to Holyrood or are, more accurately, the preserve of local councils, suitably refreshed last week.

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Who won, who's celebrating?

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Image caption The SNP celebrated at the Edinburgh City Council count

What to conclude? The SNP have clearly won the local elections in Scotland. They have more seats and more councils where they are the largest party than any of their rivals.

But the Tories have also made big gains - while Labour has slipped back badly. The Conservatives, therefore, can also be counted as winners, in terms of momentum.

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