Glowering Goldie takes unusual offence at St Andrew's Day celebrations
She was not her usual jovial self, complaining that Scotland’s position as part of the UK had been left out of plans
By Alan Cochrane, Scottish Editor
YOU wouldn’t normally cast Annabel Goldie in the role of spoilsport.
The former leader of the Scottish Tories is a genial soul who would normally go with the flow, certainly when everyone is trying to agree with each other.
However, she was determined yesterday to make a stand when Holyrood sought to wrap a Saltire round itself over the celebrations of Scotland’s patron saint.
Hers was the only discordant note when our tribunes waxed lyrical about St Andrew.
Or should I say when some of them did, as there was something like 100 or so fewer than the maximum 129 MSPs present for the debate which was attended by only four members of the public, one solitary policeman and one lonely soul – yours truly – in the cheap seats. Not so much a massive clamour for St Andy; more a yawn of an event on a dreich Tuesday afternoon.
I’m not sure if Miss Goldie got out of bed on the wrong side but she appeared determined not to be her normal jovial self in glowering, in word and bearing, at Fiona Hyslop, the SNP’s culture minister.
It’s difficult to point to anything that Mrs Hyslop had done wrong. Her motion merely stated her government’s encouragement to all Scots and friends of Scotland to celebrate the life and legacy of the fisherman from the shores of Galilee whose relics are reputed to have ended up on the shores of Fife. It was not in the least provocative but Miss Goldie decided to take offence as it made no mention of Scotland’s position as part of the UK. Now, that’s what you’d expect from a Nat, such as Mrs Hyslop, and it’s only fair to say that the minister wasn’t looking for trouble.
She was clearly taken aback by what she called Miss Goldie’s “uncharacteristically churlish” behaviour and accused her of a “crude attempt” to make constitutional capital out of what should be a celebratory event.
For the record I should say that Labour, normally at daggers drawn with the SNP, was, through Patricia Ferguson, a former culture minister, all sweetness and light over St Andrew.
And even this blackhearted Unionist thought that Miss Goldie’s motion went a bit far in suggesting that we shouldn’t celebrate Scottish culture without also celebrating “Scotland’s place in, and shared history, identity and culture with, the UK”. She was right to say that St Andrew and his Saltire cross were not the property of the SNP or any other nationalist. But surely Margo MacDonald was correct in saying that surely we can just be Scots on what is Scotland’s national day.
That’s not too much to ask, is it?
By the way, I heard a strangely emollient voice on radio yesterday morning. A senior representative of the SNP government wasn’t hectoring, wasn’t badgering, wasn’t bullying when discussing the claim from St Andrew’s University that it was “utterly dishonest” to lower the admission criteria for poor students.
Instead of letting students into university with lesser exam passes, the university’s admissions chief said schools should work harder to get pupils up to the required standard.
In normal circumstances such views would have been treated as something akin to heresy by our SNP masters. But these are not normal times. The SNP has had a bit of a bashing in recent weeks for its high-handed ways with the nation’s education chiefs and so, yesterday, a new approach was tried.
The new-style minister concerned was — and this will amaze many — indeed the man who’s borne the brunt of the criticism for all of that hectoring, badgering and bullying; none other than Michael William Russell, the education minister.
Instead of bashing St Andrew’s University, Mr Russell was telling Good Morning Scotland that its views were “positive” and that it had been “right to draw attention to this complex problem”.
Incredible stuff. Will it last? Don’t bet on it.