First minister's questions

Political discourse is frequently elevated but, on occasion, it can descend towards the nether regions.

Both were on display at Holyrood today.

Firstly, the elevated material. This came in exchanges between the first minister and Labour's Iain Gray who was making his final pitch before, finally, standing down when his successor is named at the weekend.

They traded statistics and economic theory over the issue of unemployment.

It was a potent display by Mr Gray, as he urged Alex Salmond to shoulder his share of the blame for the latest jobless figures.

But, equally, it was a powerful performance by Mr Salmond as he cited evidence that he had repeatedly warned of economic decline in Scotland if the UK government did not alter course.

As a prelude, Mr Salmond had offered notably warm words to his rival, commenting that he had served with distinction as a Minister and Opposition leader. Mr Gray responded in like fashion.

But then the tone tumbled.

It started innocently enough with Iain Gray reminding the chamber that Mr Salmond had arrived in China only to discover that his customary tartan trews were back at home.

He was sans trews.

Mr Gray seemed to feel that this was emblematic of the First Minister's entire approach - "all mouth and no trousers".

Then, plummet. All formality and dignity gone. Our MSPs were, suddenly and literally, talking balls.

And, of course, the wicked media were, unintentionally, responsible.

To explain, there is an annual event held by journalists at the Scottish Parliament at which one of our number is awarded an unsought prize for generating the least informed story of the year.

To cut to the chase, this Oscars ceremony in reverse is called the Tartan Bollocks. (Told you it was basic.)

The latest such event was held in Edinburgh last night - and the winner was one Michael Tait for a story written earlier in the year. (He accepted the award in notably good part.)

So far, so standard.

However, only this week Mr Tait stood down as a journalist and started a new job as the media director at the Scottish Conservatives, working for Ruth Davidson.

Mr Salmond plainly felt it was too good an opportunity to miss. He noted wryly that Ms Davidson's new man plainly had exactly the right credentials to work for the Tories.

The rebuttal. Ruth Davidson recalled that an adviser to Mr Salmond had, similarly, won the prize in the past.

Hurried chat

But, she added, "mine had the balls to go and collect his award."

Cue an exchange of puzzled glances in the media gallery - and hurried chat later.

Apparently, she meant Stuart Nicolson, who left the press to become a special adviser to Alex Salmond just after the Glasgow East by-election in July 2008.

As we recalled, it had indeed been suggested that he might attend the annual ceremony on the basis of some seven months toiling as a parliamentary correspondent that year.

He had chosen not to go on the basis that, by December, he was an established presence on the other side of the fence.

He was not shortlisted for the award. Indeed, he did not win that year or any other year.

To that extent, Ms Davidson's assertion was . . . a terminological inexactitude. (Let's keep it elevated, shall we?)