Frankly speaking, you might not be very well up on this, but it is actually possible to cry from one eye, apparently.
It’s a phenomenon not remotely connected to the thespian theatrics attributed to Nicola Sturgeon by Scotland Secretary Alister Jack.
Jack fired probably the most memorable missile at the UK Covid inquiry hearings in Scotland. His savage put-down of Sturgeon’s tears was more stinging due to the paucity of Scottish Government WhatsApps.
It makes you wonder if the rest of the WhatsApps they suppressed were even worse.
The key thing was that the few WhatsApp messages on show exposed inner feelings and true characteristics of people in power. A unique insight into what really influenced ministers and senior officials while making life or death decisions, as opposed to the carefully-manicured messages and edited government records which normally mislead us.
That’s why they matter.
Ministers can’t be trusted to act as judge and jury over what is “salient” – a word Sturgeon used.
No wonder bereaved Covid families were keen to explore legal action against Sturgeon and others for creating this deeply suspicious black hole. Her WhatsApps are so rare that if anyone finds one, they might make a few quid on Flog It!, the BBC auction show.
Nicola Sturgeon cries during her cross examination at the Covid Inquiry, as she claims part of her wishes she wasn't First Minister during the pandemic. pic.twitter.com/N9rnjCnihn
— PoliticsJOE (@PoliticsJOE_UK) January 31, 2024
Jack was, of course, alluding mischievously to Sturgeon’s powers of deception. Were the tears akin to touching images of the late Queen, when her beloved Britannia sank from her life?
For Sturgeon, almost a year after her leadership career sailed away, it might have been a moment of vulnerability. Some thought she was human like the rest of us, after all.
Jack and some bereaved Covid families seized on it as a sham.
“She could cry from one eye if she wanted,” was Jack’s devastating one-liner. That would be quite a feat, if true.
I can now report – in case anyone was lying awake at night worrying about it – that literally crying from one socket for dramatic effect is nigh on impossible
I don’t know about you, but my curiosity was aroused; after all, you can blink or wink with one eye.
I can now report – in case anyone was lying awake at night worrying about it – that literally crying from one socket for dramatic effect is nigh on impossible. But it is possible as an uncontrollable medical issue, like a tear-duct malfunction or infection, such as a cold or flu, blocking one eye, so tears can only flow from the other side.
So, there you have it; I am grateful to my indispensable “online doctor” resources.
Has anything really changed?
Humza Yousaf might feel like weeping in frustration, especially as he’s still mopping up after the former first minister. The first anniversary of her dramatic resignation speech, on February 15 last year, is just days away.
It looks like a make-or-break year ahead for Yousaf, too, depending on the results of the general election. Maybe we’ll see another SNP leadership election on the cards?
As the Greek tragedy which engulfed Sturgeon climaxed with her resignation, she confessed to a divisive “polarising” effect she had on Scotland, and yearned for someone fresh and different to “reach across the divide” and soothe political opponents.
Establishment man Yousaf stumbled forward instead, and fell into this chasm himself; so wide, he still hasn’t come up the other side.
My point is, has anything changed?
Hostility towards the SNP might soften if a genuine unifying voice emerged (Kate Forbes, for example), but such transformation takes years. Hardliners won’t wait.
Sturgeon still casts a long shadow over Yousaf’s leadership, when he hoped to have created a lot of clear blue water between them by now.
Among the first things the new leader did was leap on Sturgeon’s dead horse and start flogging it enthusiastically; picking up where she left off, and launching a doomed court appeal against the UK’s gender recognition reform intervention – while pronouncing that the coming general election would be an independence referendum mandate.
Now, he’s busy apologising over Sturgeon’s WhatsApp debacle while still nursing bruises from the Michael Matheson iPad data bill scandal.
SNP and Labour are now neck and neck
Yousaf’s personal poll ratings might be unimpressive, but there is still plenty to play for, with a large reservoir of independence support at almost 50%.
The only snag is that most voters, even many SNP ones, put the economy and NHS at the top of their priorities – ahead of separation. And, whereas the SNP wiped the floor with Labour the last time, polling now has them neck and neck.
Even Sturgeon conceded after the last referendum that indy support needed to be consistently in 60% territory for a credible period to make a case. Lack of trust and secrecy issues are now hampering such targets.
And we still have the UK Covid inquiry findings to come, the police inquiry into the SNP, investigations into possible “subversion” of freedom of information laws, and persistent questions about Sturgeon’s role in the Alex Salmond scandal.
If nothing else, “Waterworksgate” proves that public polarisation over Sturgeon remains as potent as ever.
David Knight is the long-serving former deputy editor of The Press and Journal