The National:

ALEX Cole-Hamilton’s newspaper column, "Why Nicola Sturgeon doesn’t deserve to be called "Chief Mammy’’ asks "how can the First Minister live up to her nickname when she has failed Scotland’s children?" It uses certain well-kent words almost exclusively applied to women, in the workplace and throughout our lives. Women who lead, who achieve, women who dare to differ from gender stereotypes will recognise these words.

Cole-Hamilton writes: "Nicola Sturgeon has sought to soften her sometimes frosty personality by surrounding herself with children of all ages." Frosty or frigid – a classic of the genre. Women, don’t be introverted or guard your privacy. Softness is a timeworn trope of motherly femininity. It fends off its antonyms: feisty or bossy. Oh and Nicola Sturgeon has "ambitions", too.

Cole-Hamilton writes of "saccharine intentions" to "govern our children with love" and of "many a sugar-coated photo op planned for the First Minister." Yet he "doesn’t doubt that her interest in children is genuine." Too little regard is shown for the fact she doesn’t have children and, in a painful experience she has shared publicly, it is not for lack of trying.

His cynical take on Nicola Sturgeon dancing with children to Baby Shark in Bute House is that it’s for favourable optics, implying her interactions with kids try to obscure or make up for perceived SNP failings.

What, then, are we to make of Cole-Hamilton using the same children’s song and shark emoji to quote tweet a photo of the First Minister in a caption competition in 2019, in an attempt to get into a newspaper? One is good-humoured banter and the other a publicity stunt, apparently.

The nickname in question has a rather specific provenance and context – and Alex Cole-Hamilton will know this, but doesn’t mention it. I first heard Nicola Sturgeon called "Chief Mammy" by a care experienced young person who invited me to their Lifetime of Love Rally, during Care Experienced Week. It relates to responsibilities for corporate parenting. Yet she is meant to "dispel" or "deserve" it.

Alex Cole-Hamilton has long championed equalities and human rights. He is right to scrutinise and critique government policies – that’s precisely the role of being in opposition.

His activism and critique of the minimum age of criminal responsibility and policies affecting children’s human rights are well founded and I largely agree with them. Where we differ is making it about personality politics, hers or his. Debate ideas, not the calling of (maternal) names. Alex will have heard Engender and others lament and document the lack of women in politics and senior leadership roles in Scottish society.

So, my response to him is this: championing equalities and human rights isn’t an adversarial game and more thoughtful language is consistently needed in these debates. It’s entirely plausible to be an ally to women – mothers or otherwise – across Scottish Parliament and public life, and to Scotland’s children and young people. Human rights defender is a great nickname we’d hope for all MSPs.