Brian Monteith: Too busy to meet the deputy Prime Minister, Nicola?

It has been a tumultuous week since my last column. Scotland's football team winning 4-0 would normally be seismic, no matter the opposition, ­bearing in mind our propensity to lose to 'minnows'. So let's take that as a good win.

Thursday, 22nd November 2018, 10:59 am
Updated Thursday, 22nd November 2018, 11:04 am

What has been truly momentous is the shifting of the tectonic plates of international relations and how that plays out for generations as the UK decides what its relationship with the European union will be. It is when such big events start to happen we see what people are made of, what is in their bones and guts, as well as their brains – and if it’s a pretty sight or not.

Sadly for us, our political masters are not always too impressive. Our betters are often no better than the rest of us.

As an example my nomination for prima donna of our times goes to our own First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, whom would be the last minister I would turn to for help in a difficult situation.

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Nicola Sturgeon turned down a meeting with David Liddington. Picture: PA
Nicola Sturgeon turned down a meeting with David Liddington. Picture: PA

I have no doubt she has a very busy diary, she’s First Minister after all, responsible for big matters of state. She has ministers she appoints to make the trains run on time, or that bridges open when they are ready and not before. She swims with a shoal of advisors who look after her policy ideas, her press statements, her travel arrangements, her security, and her couture – every possible facet of her daily routine. She just needs to ask.

So demanding is her position that she’s given a grace-and-favour house filled with Scotland’s finest antiques and paintings borrowed from the nation’s galleries and museums. The salary’s not bad either, entitled to more than the Prime Minister but ­representing only one twelfth of the public, there’s enough loose change from the £135,605 she draws to keep her in style. What could go wrong, one might ask?

Then came a phone call to her office, from that of David ­Lidington, Theresa May’s number two and essentially the deputy prime minister, asking if he could meet the First Minister the next morning. Important matters of state, sort of thing (obviously). Something going down about Brexit – the biggest thing to happen to this country in 40 years – not making plans for Syrian refugees staying at Bute House.

In any normal political office, in any business, indeed in any family, what do you do when you get THAT call; the call that says there is a big thing happening and your presence to ­discuss it is requested? Why, if you have other commitments that might be politely but understandably moved by a day or two, then that’s what you do – and you meet.

In normal circumstances, you would shift heaven and hell to be there. In ­circumstances when you have been on the telly whingeing that nobody is willing to speak to you about what is happening (er, that nobody trusts you) then you really do make it your priority to be available. Ever heard the phrase “clear the diary”?

So what does our First Minister do? She throws a public tantrum, spitting her tweets out of the pram to tell ­everyone she’s affronted because the call came in “around 6pm” and she has constituency commitments the next day, already. No selfie with ­“Lidders” then?

Now I know constituency engagements are important, but when you are First Minister and have responsibilities for the whole country you ought to know where your duty lies. For the greater good and all that, eh? Constituents would understand, I’m sure. It’s called doing the day job.

It is times like these we see what people are really made of – and party politics aside, it isn’t always what we hoped.