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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 May 2007, 13:45 GMT 14:45 UK
Alex Salmond makes hot seat debut
Andrew Black
Political reporter
BBC Scotland news website

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond faced questions from political rivals

You know the old saying - ask a stupid question . . .

And so was the case as Scotland's new leader Alex Salmond made his debut in the hot seat at First Minister's Question Time.

During his grilling in the Scottish Parliament on all the hot issues of the day, those seemingly pointless questions normally asked by rival party leaders began to take on a new meaning.

Former First Minister Jack McConnell got the first crack at his successor, who now sits in the Scottish Labour leader's old seat.

Mr McConnell, who now sits in Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon's old seat, began by asking when the next cabinet would meet, a traditional FMQ opening shot.

Mr Salmond, who has yet to receive a congratulatory call from Tony Blair on his new job, replied: "I thank Jack McConnell for not asking me when I last met the prime minister".

Someone had to ask the question though, and it was indeed posed by Scottish Tory leader Annabel Goldie, who by the way has not changed seats.

Alex Salmond and the Queen
Alex Salmond said he had been congratulated by the queen

Mr Salmond lamented: "He never phones, he never writes . . . "

"The first minister's Downing Street dancing partner is nothing if not coquettish," offered Miss Goldie.

In fact, Mr Salmond went on to say he had been congratulated by a variety of people, from Her Majesty the Queen to the Rev Ian Paisley.

Once the questioning got under way, Mr McConnell, in a mocking echo of the SNP's campaign slogan, told Mr Salmond: "It's time - it's time for clarity."

Mr McConnell, who put in a good performance considering his new circumstances, accused the first minister of failing to answer questions on transport, adding that Scotland had endured "a week of spinning" by the SNP on a variety of issues.

But Mr Salmond hit back at his arch political rival, quipping to MSPs: "Jack's questions are longer than his answers used to be."

The new first minister was in his element, but perhaps slightly more subdued than he has previously been seen - but a glimpse of the old Alex was still there.

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