The First Minister stood up in the Chamber and prepared herself to address the expectant mob of MSPs, media and schoolchildren visiting for the day. It was time for her to announce her government’s new programme, what she had promised earlier in the manufactured build-up as “creative, imaginative, bold and radical policies”.
She had said she would deliver the “most ambitious plans ever”; now she was to be found out and found wanting – or be true to her word.
“The Tories have given us austerity” she asserted at the start, “but we are going to end it.” Cheers rang out behind her.
“We now have the powers in Scotland to amend welfare benefits by topping up levels that we believe are inadequate and we are going to do just that.”
“We are going to address the issue of the Tory Rape Clause by paying benefits for all children, not just the first two.”
“And to pay for the deliverance of our social justice we are going to raise the highest levels of income tax to 50p. That way what people could afford to pay only a few years ago they can pay again and help keep people less fortunate out of Tory food banks.”
“We are going to end the private sector’s role in the NHS by cancelling GP contracts and forcing them to become salaried members of staff.”
“And we are going to put schooling on a level playing field by ending the charitable status of private schools.” The parliament erupted in chaos and bedlam.
Suddenly there was a loud repetitive bleating sound in her ear from her alarm. Startled, the First Minister woke up with a jolt.
Her husband Peter was already bringing in a small double espresso to set her up for the day. “Good sleep?” he enquired, not expecting anything but the usual “Yeah, okay, how about you?”
Instead the First Minister looked at him blankly. “Naw, I just had a nightmare. I was making today’s government business speech, promising to right all the wrongs and injustices I’ve been complaining about.
“My group were all banging on their tables and cheering me on. People were coming up and saying it was the best speech I’d ever made, how good it was all these powers that we’d neglected were at last being put to good use.
“The higher taxes to pay for higher benefits, tackling the rape clause, nationalising GPs, removing charitable status from private schools – it all went down so well. I was literally put on the shoulders of Keith Brown and Michael Matheson and taken outside with all my MSPs cheering.”
“You should have seen the Labour members’ faces, I took the wind right out of their sails – and the Tories were getting angrier and angrier.”
“I thought you said it was a nightmare? Sounds like it was all your dreams come true in one sleep! What could be wrong with that?” said Mr Murrell.
“Of course it was a bloody nightmare,” the First Minister snapped. “It’s nothing like the speech I’m giving today. I’m not proposing any of those things. That’s why it was a nightmare.”
“I can’t be creative, imaginative, bold and radical. I wouldn’t last five minutes; the media would have me for breakfast and the electorate would kick me out at the next elections once it all goes pear-shaped, as everything always does.
“Quick, pass me the draft, I need to check I’ve not left anything bold or radical in it before my car takes me to Holyrood.”
Peter Murrell stretched over for the folder with the speech in it and noticed all the red lines scoring out whole paragraphs. He handed it over to his wife, not daring to look her in the eye.