Name checks and Ninja Turtles

party leaders Image copyright PA
Image caption Ruth Davidson's Conservative's were the only opposition party not to have been name checked by Nicola Sturgeon

Let me bring you a few lines from the first minister's statement at Holyrood this afternoon. Here's one. "We will consider the introduction of a young Carers' Allowance…….this is a proposal that was in the Green Party manifesto. I think it has real merit…"

Here's another. "This work will be led by a new, dedicated minister for mental health - a key ask of the Liberal Democrat manifesto".

And here's a third. "We will examine a proposal in the Labour manifesto to extend the minor ailments service…."

The astute among you - and that includes all readers of these musings, ipso facto - will have spotted the gap. No place for the Conservatives.

That fits Nicola Sturgeon's thinking - which is to the effect that the Tories may yet be squeezed out in a parliament where, she argues, there is potentially "a clear progressive majority".

Name checks

Indeed, she went further, arguing that cross-party opposition could be assembled to key UK government policies such as the renewal of Trident.

So were those other parties in the supposed progressive consensus grateful for the name checks from the first minister? Friends, they were not.

Perhaps Labour's Kezia Dugdale was feeling the pain of being called to speak after Ruth Davidson of the Conservatives. But I thought this was a faintly grumpy contribution from the Labour leader.

Image copyright AP
Image caption Dr Baxter Stockman was an enemy of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

For example, she had rather a neat anecdote to tell about her encounter with a robot called Baxter. (I'm told by those who know these things that Baxter is a baddie in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.)

The purpose of Ms Dugdale's tale was to remind us that technology poses economic opportunities - but also potential threats to manual labour.

However, she recounted the episode in such a static fashion that its impact was palpably lessened. No doubt, to paraphrase Tennyson, she will eventually rise on stepping stones of her stunned party to higher things.

Again perhaps understandably, today's speech was largely a restatement of comments made - about tax, about spending - during the election.

For the Greens, Patrick Harvie thanked Ms Sturgeon for the reference to one of his party's policies - but then proceeded to remind her, bluntly, that she lacked a majority and would require chums.

Ditto Willie Rennie, who also revisited election themes - but rather more brightly - when he suggested that Ms Sturgeon faced a choice between aspiration and timidity. Guess which he reckons she is pursuing right now.

'Three amigos'

He then compared Ms Sturgeon to another political leader. She was, according to Mr Rennie, "beginning to sound like Gordon Brown". It was not, I suspect, intended as a compliment.

And then there was Ruth Davidson. She described the other three opposition leaders as "the three amigos". (Incidentally, one of my favourite comedy films.) They were, she said, planning to "form a high tax alliance".

And there we have another core aspect of this new parliament. Ms Sturgeon may want to form a "progressive alliance". She may be nodding in the direction of everyone but the Conservatives when it comes to striking deals or working consensually.

But her policy on income tax (and, arguably, council tax) is rather closer to that advocated by the Tories than to the schemes advanced by the other parties in parliament.

Indeed, Ms Davidson drew sklenting attention to this by noting, en passant, that she had been "flattered" to find that a raft of Tory ideas published in January had featured in the SNP manifesto in April.

If Labour, the Lib Dems and the Greens do indeed pursue, without any slippage, their tax plans, then Ms Sturgeon may yet need Tory votes. We shall see.

More on this story