Serving the people of Scotland

It was a day for citation. Mostly, of course, our tribunes cited the People of Scotland. But, occasionally, they turned to other, lesser sources.

Alex Salmond, representing the Ancien RĂ©gime (albeit voluntarily departing), suggested drily to Labour's Johann Lamont that she might usefully pay heed to voices apparently raised by members of her party at Westminster.

Well, when I say "raised" . . . in the customary fashion, these voices were actually behind-the-hand whispers, delivered anonymously to the wicked media.

They were, seemingly, less than supportive of Ms Lamont's leadership. Unaccountably, Mr Salmond seemed to feel she might have missed the comments - and needed an update.

Ms Lamont was unperturbed - or, maybe, internecine squabbling is simply part of the warp and weft of life in the People's Party. Or, indeed, all parties at sundry times.

Referendum echo

Anyway, the Labour leader noted that, when the first minister was long gone from office, she would still be doing her job "on behalf of the people of Scotland".

Mr Salmond replied that he looked forward indeed to her continuing - in opposition. So tell me, Brian, just how is it going with the bold new, post-referendum, consensual Scotland?

Not too bad, actually. Today at Holyrood was an eerie echo, not a new concerto.

For example, Ms Lamont and Mr Salmond exchanged conflicting analyses about the future of the NHS - as they had done during the plebiscite.

But, alongside that legitimate referendum echo, there is serious work under way to ensure that the people's verdict is enacted.

And that verdict was, precisely? There they differ. Nicola Sturgeon, the heir presumptive, has argued that the "Yes" vote plus those who opted for "No" because of the offer of more powers equalled a demand for a "powerhouse parliament" in Scotland, to use the phrase deployed by the FM.

Image copyright PA
Image caption Johann Lamont and Mr Salmond exchanged conflicting analyses about the future of the NHS

Tories, at Westminster, would like to talk about English votes on English laws in parallel with the Scottish discussion. Expect more of that from UKIP at their conference this weekend.

In Scotland, the pro Union parties start out from different standpoints. Which brings us to the commission chaired by Lord Smith of Kelvin.

The parties at Holyrood are now advancing names. Not all in yet - but, so far, serious players. Expect big name involvement from the SNP too. The parties mean business here.

But back to the citations. Ruth Davidson quoted the newspapers. Apparently, they were hugely upset that the Scottish government's legislative programme is to be delayed until there is a new first minister.

So upset were the blatts, indeed, that they spoke woundingly of a "zombie" government, wandering around in search of sentient life.

Justified involvement

And just where had the Press found this brutal imagery? Well, from a Conservative news release. Ms Davidson was citing her own party.

Not to be outdone, Willie Rennie of the Liberal Democrats produced a Single Transferable Citation, with multiple membership.

Federalism, he said, had a list of devotees - including, apparently, "Gladstone, Grimond, Gordon Brown - and Michael Forsyth."

Michael Forsyth? Apart from the fact that his inclusion ruins the alliteration, what justified his involvement? On inquiry, it arose from comments made in the early watches of the night during the BBC Scotland referendum programme.

I remember that programme. I was on it. I do indeed remember Michael Forsyth arguing that, given developments, there would now need to be a redrawn constitutional settlement taking account of opinions and needs in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Willie Rennie said federalism had a list of devotees

However, I also remember him saying that he opposed Scottish devolution in the first place because he feared constitutional instability - and arguing further that the Barnett funding formula could scarcely be sustained under the emerging structures.

Mr Salmond's memory appeared to be similar - in that he instantly challenged Mr Rennie about Barnett, noting that the LibDems' own Campbell Commission had suggested a needs based funding mechanism. (Lord Forsyth, again on the referendum programme, argued that Barnett - which is based on annual modifications of historic funding levels - was not needs based.)

Mr Rennie insisted that his party position was now pro Barnett - as were the other pro Union parties.

Gently, Mr Salmond suggested that his successor - "whoever he or she may be" - might be "slightly less indulgent" of what he called "Willie Rennie's forgetfulness".

Which sounded to this observer a little like Tony Blair as prime minister advising the Tories to beware of the "great clunking fist" which would soon be pursuing them - in the shape of Gordon Brown.

But maybe not. A citation too far. Nicola Sturgeon has said she will have higher heels than Alex Salmond. Absolutely no mention of fists, clunking or otherwise.