The National:

AS a reason for being unable to do her duty, Tory Fisheries minister Victoria Prentis made a codswallop of things when she stated she had not read the Brexit deal because “we were all very busy on Christmas Eve, in my case organising the local nativity trail.”

Far be it from the Jouker to carp on about her floundering around, but she should have been thrown to the sharks for that one.

Instead Boris Johnson is standing by her – brill for Prentis, but she’s not the sole Unionist to cast excuses over the years. (That’s enough fishy puns – ed.)

READ MORE: Fisheries Minister 'too busy with nativity' to read Brexit deal

Prentis’s reasoning put her straight to the top of our league of the five worst excuses made by Unionist politicians over the years.

Remember current Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross being unable to attend a Westminster debate on welfare? The MP, then earning £75k a year for that job and £33k for his football "hobby", had to explain that he was officiating as an assistant referee at a Barcelona match in the Champions League.

The Moray MP used that football excuse again when missing a BBC immigration debate and, probably worst of all, a Remembrance service in Forres.

At least he was doing something useful.

Livingston Labour MP Jim Devine infamously went to jail for his part in the MPs expenses scandal, but who remembers his "excuse" for unfairly dismissing his office manager Marion Kinley? 

As the BBC reported at the time in 2010: “Devine claimed that a paper was preparing to print an article with full details of Ms Kinley's salary, and that they would be claiming that Ms Kinley was having an affair with Devine.”

READ MORE: FIFA to investigate Douglas Ross over potential rule breach

A total hoax by Devine, but at least he got his comeuppance, as did former Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander when she was forced to resign after her team accepted a £950 donation from Jersey-based property magnate Paul Green – a move which broke Scottish Parliamentary rules.

It was again the BBC which reported that she had told them some time later ”it had been a mistake for her to take on the leadership of Scottish Labour while her children were so young.”

Alexander, to be fair, followed through with that reasoning and stood down from Holyrood to spend more time with her children.

Another Scottish Labour leader, Johann Lamont, came up with a belter of an excuse when she resigned in 2014. It’s one that has haunted the party in Scotland ever since.

After Labour headquarters in London removed Scottish general secretary Ian Price she stood down, making it clear that she wasn’t prepared to be just the manager of “a branch office of a party based in London".

Actually that was more of a reason than an excuse, but it has hung over all the Unionist parties ever since, so thanks for that one, Johann.

None of them had the wit of the late French President Francois Mitterand. Challenged about concealing the existence of an illegitimate daughter, the haughty Mitterand replied “et alors?” which roughly translates as “so what?”