From a different vintage point

scottish parliament opening 1999 Image copyright PA
Image caption For some, the opening of the Scottish Parliament is a bit more fresh in the memory than for others

It is, I suppose, a question of perspective. Tomorrow I reach a certain milestone. (Clue: the former first minister Alex Salmond is a full nine days older than me - as I never tire of reminding him.)

For me, that means that events from the 1980s and 1990s seem relatively fresh - while the issues that have arisen since the advent of the Scottish Parliament still appear starkly recent.

Inevitably, this lengthening perspective alters one's outlook on life. Do I dare to eat a peach?

However, those of a younger vintage cannot be expected to share this view. At Holyrood today, they were talking, not of Michelangelo, but of the health service.

Kezia Dugdale, Scottish Labour's deputy leader, was invited by the first minister to contemplate her own party's record in such matters. Cast your mind back, she was challenged, to the first two Holyrood administrations which Labour led.

Slightly plaintively, Ms Dugdale replied: "I was still at school in 1999."

Well, gee, thanks, Kez. Rub it in, why don't you?

To be fair, her point was not to emphasise her relative youth but to argue that the political focus should be on the here and now.

Taking command

Harking back to Labour's record might, she said, comfort SNP backbenchers but it would provide minimal succour to anyone who slept on a trolley in hospital last night.

Ms Sturgeon tried again. She was, she insisted, talking about today, talking about her government's record. Only, she argued, it was instructive to contrast it with what went before. There were, for example, three times as many A&E consultants as under Labour, she said.

The discussions with Ruth Davidson of the Tories also featured a double focus. The topic was the North Sea oil industry. The falling oil price, said Ms Davidson, was presenting a big challenge to the industry.

However, Ms Davidson was also keen to revert to the past. Imagine, she said, if Scotland had opted for independence. There would have been, she averred, a black hole in Scotland's accounts to the tune of £18.6bn because of declining duties from the North Sea.

Ms Sturgeon insisted that Scotland would be better off taking command of her own resources - and offered an historic swipe of her own, accusing successive Labour and Conservative administrations of squandering Scotland's oil wealth.

Ms Davidson then brandished today's edition of The Courier which, together with its sister paper the P&J, featured an interview with Alex Salmond in which he argued that Scotland might press for full control of the economy, with only defence and foreign affairs reserved to Westminster, should there be a substantial phalanx of SNP MPs after May's General Election.

That meant, said Ms Davidson, "tearing up" the stable tax regime which had benefited the North Sea sector. Pausing for a moment to snort, faintly, at the thought of tax stability under the UK structure, Ms Sturgeon said: "Alex Salmond backs independence? Who knew?"

I shall wear the bottoms of my trousers rolled.