A surreal snow day at Holyrood

Brian Taylor
Political editor, Scotland
@tannadiceladon Twitter

  • Published
Holyrood snowman
Image caption,
Conditions were more suited to snowmen than MSPs at Holyrood

Not sure if you have ever been tail-gated by a pedestrian. It is, let me tell you, a less than thrilling experience.

There I was, trudging through a foot of snow in Edinburgh at the crack of dawn. (OK, at twenty to nine.) En route to broadcast to an astonished nation.

As I rounded a corner, what little was visible of the pavement narrowed perceptibly.

It was then I felt it. The looming presence. The discernible irritation in the hurried stamp of the feet. The hot, fetid breath on my neck. (OK, maybe not that - but work with me.)

As the pavement widened again, my pursuer cut me up. On the inside, naturally.

His bobble hat shivered with snowy indignation and his rucksack swayed grumpily on his back. But his thoroughly sensible footwear carried him forward, with resolution. Travel safely, my pedestrian friend.

I proceeded at a steady pace, encountering in the silent city only a single car, skidding gracefully. From the window issued the loud sound of "Son of a Preacher Man". By Dusty Springfield, as I recall. Kafka, illustrated by Man Ray.

On arrival at Holyrood, the mood was no less surreal. Half empty, with many staff understandably absent. Echoing. The only topic, the snow. A reminder that we are feeble and feckless in the face of natural power.

Even questions to the first minister were dominated by the climate. Nicola Sturgeon opened with a statement and then was prompted by questions to deliver a few further salient comments.

Should HGV drivers, she was asked, heed warnings to stay off the roads in difficult weather? They definitely should, she declared, noting that she had, among many other tasks, taken the chance to clock the images from the cameras on the blocked M80.

Counting the stranded lorries, she was less than happy.

Image caption,
Nicola Sturgeon issued a stern warning to firms sending lorries out in the snow

And Patrick Harvie of the Greens sought her support on the question of remuneration for workers who are deterred from turning out by the snow.

Ms Sturgeon was blunt. Employers should bear in mind their responsibility to consider the safety and security of their staff. There should be no financial penalties.

Richard Leonard, for Labour, was rather effective in diverting attention to the plight of the homeless in such weather. Ms Sturgeon readily agreed with the concerns he voiced.

Willie Rennie, for the Liberal Democrats, offered support for those struggling to keep us all safe. Ruth Davidson of the Tories did likewise, noting ruefully that her own party conference, due in Aberdeen this weekend, has been cancelled.

In all, they responded. And they responded well. But always at their back they sensed the persistent, powerful snowstorms, occasionally visible through Holyrood's capacious windows.

Then, finally, before an early close, Parliament agreed - after intense debate - to treat the EU Continuity Bill as an emergency. You remember? The measure which would transpose EU law in devolved areas into Scots law, in the absence of a UK deal.

Even in a blizzard, there's Brexit.

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