Budget inquest at First Minister's Questions

George Osborne Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The final budget before the 7 May General Election took place in the House of Commons

When contemplating the Barnett consequentials - there now, that's killed your interest in this offering.

Or perhaps enhanced it.

Perhaps you thrill to the details of the Treasury Red Book, the tome brandished at Danny Alexander in the Commons.

Anyway, at Holyrood, they were digesting the financial consequences of George Osborne's Budget. You know, the one that is designed to return Mr Osborne's party to the Commons in greater numbers. Or, indeed, Mr Alexander's, given that it is partly his work.

Labour's Kezia Dugdale opened on the issue of oil. Now that a barrel of black gold was worth the equivalent of three jamjars and a halfpenny - rather than the riches of Croesus - would the first minister be revising her estimate of the value of the North Sea and its impact upon Scottish spending plans?

Yes, replied Nicola Sturgeon, there would be a North Sea update in due course. The Scottish government's projections for the value of oil had been wide of the mark. Cue exaggerated opposition astonishment. Had the FM conceded an error?

Before that could be absorbed, however, Ms Sturgeon had moved on. If her team had got it wrong, then so had the Office for Budget Responsibility and the Department of Energy in Whitehall. Nobody called the oil change, she said.

But what, persisted Ms Dugdale, did this mean for the SNP's core UK General Election demand for full fiscal autonomy for Scotland, involving control of taxation and spending? Was that not replete with holes?

Image caption Nicola Sturgeon told the chamber there would be an update on North Sea oil and gas in due course
Image caption Kezia Dugdale opened on the issue of oil, asking if the FM would revise her estimate of the value of the North Sea
Image caption Ruth Davidson questioned why the first minister said she would vote for the Green Party if she were in England

Not so, said Ms Sturgeon. Scotland's projected onshore revenues were sufficiently strong that they more than made up the gap.

And that, she added, before the growth spurt which she forecast from Scotland having control of fiscal powers. At her side, her deputy John Swinney nodded sagely.

Further, Ms Sturgeon accused her opponent of showing "great glee" in talking Scotland down.

Not sure that was her strongest point. Opposition politicians always seek to expose weak points. Government ministers always call it "talking the country down". Welcome to politics.

Still, back to the oil. The Institute for Fiscal Studies has now said that the reduction in forecast revenues is "even more dramatic than was anticipated". Was that not a challenge to the SNP programme?

'Fossil fuel dinosaurs'

Not so, said the FM once more. The only threat to Scottish expenditure came from planned Conservative cuts and Labour's apparent desire to emulate them.

She noted that the Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls had said he would change nothing from Mr Osborne's budget (Mr Balls said that was because it was so thin in the first place).

Ruth Davidson, for the Conservatives, quoted from another party to the effect that UK Budget's support for the North Sea involved "huge tax breaks for fossil fuel dinosaurs".

Of whom did she speak? Of the Green Party in England. s Sturgeon had mused that - were she in England - she would consider voting Green.

Summoning outrage, Ms Davidson questioned why the first minister of Scotland had said she would vote for a party "that would kill Scotland's oil industry".

Now, that Green gag probably wasn't Ms Sturgeon's best. On balance, it's generally best to talk up your own party - and let the others take care of themselves. Even where you are not in direct competition, as is the case with seeking votes in England.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The Lib Dems' Danny Alexander had his own Budget box, the day after the red one was taken into the House of Commons

I suspect Ms Sturgeon knows that. Certainly, she did not repeat the line today. Rather, she said that she was in Scotland - and voting SNP. She hoped the Tories lost heavily in England because "the sooner we get rid of them, the better."

Later, Ms Sturgeon was invited to condemn racist behaviour and comparable taunts. She did so, criticising the UKIP MEP David Coburn (No doubt you have been following that tale). But she went further.

The first minister and SNP leader condemned "unreservedly" what she called a "vile, homophobic" tweet directed at Ms Davidson from a member of the SNP. The individual, she said, had been identified and suspended from the SNP.

Over on the Tory benches, Ms Davidson banged her desk in solemn approbation while a colleague placed a sympathetic hand on her shoulder.