Extreme law enforcement at Holyrood

I have never been a particular fan of science fiction.

Indeed, I once chaired the estimable Iain Banks at the Edinburgh Book Festival only to discover to my dismay that the event featured his sci-fi alter-ego Iain M. Banks, whose work deals with matters inter-galactic.

The audience questions were, to me, incomprehensible.

So I was obliged to consult others when the first minister referred obliquely to the comic book character, Judge Dredd, at Holyrood today.

Apparently, Judge D. is an enforcer of the extreme variety who dispenses with court procedure, opting instead for the short, sharp shock - personally delivered.

His catch phrase, I am reliably informed, is: "I am the law."

In comparable fashion this week, Donald Trump told MSPs: "I am the evidence."

He was referring to claims - his - that tourists will shun Scotland if any more wind farms are erected.

Whereas Judge Dredd, I have been assured, inspires fear and respect, the response to Mr Trump today veered between satire and anger.

Intriguingly, among the satirists, to some extent, was Mr Salmond. He referred to "the Donald" in less than grave fashion.

Among the angry was Patrick Harvie of the Greens who urged Mr Salmond to tell Mr Trump "where to get off".

The topic of "the Donald" had been raised by Ruth Davidson of the Conservatives. She opted to pursue the subject of Mr Trump rather than Tycoon Number Two, Rupert Murdoch.

You can almost hear the discussions chez Davidson, can't you?

Now then, my prime minister is on the rack over Murdoch, the culture secretary Jeremy Hunt is facing demands to resign, his aide has already quit. Steer clear, eh?

To be fair, the Trump issue is an entirely legitimate choice of topic - but all three main opposition leaders had demanded answers in advance re Rupert Murdoch.

No such considerations for Labour's Johann Lamont. She dealt with the Murdochs, Rupert and James.

Which did not prevent Mr Salmond from noting persistent links between Labour and Mr Murdoch's News Corporation, persisting, he said, even unto the days of Ed Miliband.

Ms Lamont's opening gambit was a little too complex for public consumption.

At this point, she sounded over-much like an advocate assembling a case by taking the jury patiently through the salient documents. If you would just look at Page 17, sub section ix, I will not detain you long.

However, she soon moved to the summing-up speech when she argued that Mr Salmond, alone, had been prepared to invite Rupert Murdoch to tea (at Bute House) post the controversy over phone hacking, Milly Dowler et al.

She reckoned Mr Salmond had been taken for a "sucker".

Scottish interests

Willie Rennie, of the Liberal Democrats, pursued a comparable line with his single main question. He asked the FM to express regret for an article written in the first edition of the Scottish Sun on Sunday, again post hacking.

On the day, Mr Salmond's responses were - as you would expect - combative and well-argued. He had the benefit of vocal support throughout from his colleagues, back and front bench.

On the article, he said that he had - rightly - noted that phone hacking was not confined to the Murdoch press.

Indeed, he forecast that the Leveson inquiry will find widespread potential illegality involving newspapers.

His core argument was that, in dealing with the Murdochs, he was seeking to advance Scottish interests: to protect Scottish jobs. He cited the extent of BSkyB involvement in Scotland, including new jobs at a Glasgow call centre.

In rebuttal, critics said that he had been prepared to lobby specifically for Rupert Murdoch to gain full control of BSkyB.

That take-over had not happened - and so any jobs brought to Scotland were not predicated upon the object of the FM's potential support.

Further, critics argue that the Glasgow jobs are largely transferred from another Scottish company.

Alleged humbugs

In response to which Mr Salmond says that there was a real risk to Scottish jobs from a substantial restructuring within the BSkyB operation - and that it had been vital to engage with the Murdochs in order to prevent such damage from occurring.

He said that any FM - including a Labour one - would have to pursue such a course.

Mr Salmond's final argument was to the effect that politicians are "all in this together", to borrow the Chancellor's favourite phrase.

Labour, in particular, was guilty of "humbug and hypocrisy" after "15 years of worshipping at the feet of Rupert Murdoch".

For some reason, this latter phrase only provoked ribald laughter from the alleged humbugs and hypocrites on the Labour benches.

The Garden Lobby verdict? Depends upon standpoint, of course.

Opponents reckon Johann Lamont landed a blow with the reference to "wee Eck", ever ready to stick the kettle on for Rupert. No knock-out, they concede, but perhaps a slow burn.

Supporters say he batted it all aside - with one noting that the Opposition had missed "an open goal".

They say further that the voters are not generally talking about the issue - and that any who are tend to reckon that all politicians are much the same.