One of the perks of my voluntary work with Leith Open Space is an occasional chance to peek behind the scenes at the Scottish Parliament. Recently it gave me an unexpected view of the Deputy First Minister.
I started scribbling this a couple of weeks ago and nearly ditched it because it was getting too old but I have discovered a topical hook on which to hang a gossipy snippet. So lets flash back to a good day for democracy. My MSP Malcolm Chisholm has just tweeted relief at Obama’s return to the White House (Best Wishes to @BarackObama. The world needs him to win and even more it needs the other man to lose) , and is now on his way, spring in step, to question Nicola Sturgeon about the Scottish Government’s draft budget.
Even better, he has booked seats for Leith Open Space and Ruth Bittern, our latest Opening Doors participant. As we head towards the Committee on Infrastructure and Capital Investment, Malcolm expresses his admiration for the new Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure, Capital Investment and Cities and her ability to master a brief: he’s looking forward to seeing how much she knows about her new role. She has hardly had time to warm the seat.
That’s probably not divulging any secrets, our (Labour) MSP for Edinburgh North and Leith is known for his open mind and ability to break free from party political chains. And since that morning, the MSP for Glasgow Southside has been named Scottish politician of the year (again). But admiration did not stop Malcolm asking, I thought, the most pertinent questions of the morning: how can the new cabinet secretary reconcile the Scottish Government’s ambitious targets for carbon reduction with their expansive road building programme? And shouldn’t they be investing in more energy-efficient affordable housing?
Would you be surprised to hear the answer? The government would like to spend more on public transport and housing but they are limited by a fixed capital budget from Westminster. Committee meetings at Holyrood are wonderfully well-mannered but members could have pushed the minister harder on the question of choices. Even an independent Scotland would have a fixed budget, how it is spent is always going to be a matter of choice.
But Malcolm’s questioning did produce a small diary story that as far as I have seen has not made it into the press: Nicola Sturgeon does not drive a car (indeed she says she aims to get more of us walking, cycling or on to public transport too).
From our viewpoint, right behind the minister, I couldn’t help noticing her very stylish and spindly high heels. Since then a casual search online has produced the gossipy information that the deputy first minister is the very Imelda Marcos of the Scottish Government. In short she has a footwear fetish. If she walks or cycles to work it’s definitely not in those shoes! Perhaps she carries a comfy pair in her briefcase.
And the topical hook? Oh, yes, the Scottish Government is now reviewing a new walking strategy for Scotland to be revealed in 2013. If the Cabinet Secretary is at the launch make sure to take a look at her feet.