Business as usual has always been a relative term in politics, but never more so that in current times. Yes, the business of government and politics north and south of the border continues, but only fleeting glimpses of them can be caught against the Brexit backdrop. It takes something massive to dominate a dominant theme, but that is exactly what the current sexual harassment story has done.
Who would have thought that as we stumble through a protracted and convoluted negotiation with the EU, the challenges faced by messrs Davis, Barnier, Verhofstadt and May would be overwhelmed by attention focussed upon messrs Fallon, MacDonald et al. It’s significant, and it indicates that something has changed - the politics of powerful relationships are now being examined against the standards we should all adhere to, and we should all welcome that change.
However, we must not allow hugely significant elements of business as usual to escape examination, for some of them are genuinely significant for our future political environment.
Into that category must go the opinion article penned this week by Tory MSP Adam Tompkins, where he set out with welcome clarity a differential position for the Scottish Tories on the return of powers from the EU in policy areas which are otherwise devolved. Its significance can’t be understated, both in content and in timing.
The argument about the return of powers has festered in recent weeks, despite briefings about “progress” and “consensus” issued after last month’s negotiations between the UK and Scottish Governments over where EU powers should be returned to. In the absence of any compelling case being delivered by the Scotland Office for those powers being retained at Westminster, there can be little surprise that simmering resentment has grown in Scotland.
Two things give that new significance: the imminent (although belated) return of the EU Withdrawal Bill to the floor of the House of Commons; and the clear case for change now presented by Tomkins. The Government Chief Whip may have changed at Westminster, but it will not have escaped the notice of the new incumbent that the Scottish Tory position has the potential to deliver a defeat that the May administration could well do without.
At a time when the last days and weeks have demonstrated increasing fragility for the UK administration, the timing of the Tomkins article (and therefore the Ruth Davidson statement of policy) is truly significant. It demonstrates both a clarity of thought on the issue that is welcome, but also awareness that if ever there was a time to set out a differential policy between Conservatives north and south of Gretna, it is now.
Amongst a complicated period in politics, my intervention of the week award goes to former Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale. I will not be the only one to notice the ease with which she has settled into her role as former leader of Scottish Labour. Her interventions since standing down, have been universally well timed, perceptive and spoken by someone who is clearly relishing the prospect of her time out of the leadership spotlight. So, it was last weekend with her observation on the gender balance (or lack of it) on Holyrood’s Corporate Body business bureau. You could almost hear the collective breath across the chamber being inhaled, as everyone agreed that change was due. Yesterday, with two members stepping down to make way for female members, change was delivered.
As we move on through the next few years in Holyrood, you get the impression that, as a former leader, Dugdale will make further very significant interventions. Some of them will doubtless have consequences for the next Labour leader.
The two protagonists competing to replace her will hear their fates shortly, as the leadership contest moves towards its conclusion. Our collective exasperation with the contest should not allow us to underestimate the significance of the decision Scottish Labour are about to make.
Put simply, is their future in the centre ground, or on the far left. And consequently, is the future for the SNP going to be spent competing for dominance of the centre or the far left. Those alternatives look set to be the dominant influence on the Scottish political landscape for the next decade. However, given the tone of the tax paper issued by the First Minister and Finance Secretary last week, all the SNP mood music would indicate that they are anticipating a Leonard win, and a battle for supremacy on the left.
Behind the headlines dominated by Brexit and sex, these are significant days in Scottish politics. Again.