WE’VE been ordered to get battle-ready for COP26 next week. This is very much a UK Government show but Nicola Sturgeon wants to use every lever at her disposal to show Scotland in a good light. I’ve only been up here for a few months on a secret mission to sabotage the independence movement, but by Jove I think I may be turning native.

Why, just the other day, I travelled to Glasgow to check on conditions there ahead of the climate summit. I’d been told by my new Edinburgh chums to expect something resembling a cross between war-torn Beirut and Albania in the Enver Hoxha era. “Never ask for directions,” they told me, “or you can say goodbye to the next hour as some inappropriately friendly local insists on taking you there on his own and telling you why the Georgian architecture is ‘pure different class man’ and showing you pictures of his child’s First Holy Communion.”

Instead, I found myself missing the last train home and clutching a rather audacious sweetmeat known locally as Madonna Kebab and seeking to gain ingress to a rather decent Travelodge, having been taken on a fact-finding tour of some lively city centre taverns.

Thus, I found myself in a dimly-lit lair called the Blue Dog downing a wicked concoction called a Long Tall Swally. “Here’s to Swally,” I shouted “and all who sail in her.” My host for the evening, a rather gregarious council officer with a strong local accent, kept making references to the “Bob Marley” and seemed to have a very weak bladder. Rather curiously, he kept saying “Fuck your independent Scotland! What we want is Free Glasgow.”


I AWAKE and see a number of missed calls from a withheld number. I get that sinking feeling, knowing I’m about to be carpeted after last night’s bacchanal. To my horror, it’s Nicola Sturgeon herself.

I call her back, rehearsing my apologies as I wait for her to answer. This woman has been known to reduce Boris Johnson to a gelatinous substance with a mere pursing of her bloodless lips. I needn’t have worried. She couldn’t have been more charming. “Mr St John Fontaine,” she said in a low, almost seductive voice, “it’s a pleasure finally to catch up with you. I hear you’re in Glasgow. I hope the natives are treating you well.”

“They’ve been delightful, ma’am,” and I find myself beginning to curtsey.

“Look, Rupert – may I call you Rupert? – I need you to remain in Glasgow for the next two weeks as my special adviser on the ground and report to me daily on the build-up for COP26. I’m not really supposed to have much to do with this but I need you to use your society connections to insinuate yourself into all the hoopla and tell me about any surprises. Oh, and Rupert. Will you do me a wee favour?”

“Certainly, Your Premierness; anything you want.” (I think I’m falling for this deliciously scary woman).

“Could you please drop into Battiston at Giorgio Armani in Princes Square and pick up a pair of red Louboutins for me? They’re on my account and they’ll be expecting you. And Rupert …”

“Yes, my lady.”

Her voice drops another octave. “Please just call me Nicola,” she says softly. “Ciao Bello.”

I think I’m in love.


I’VE come up with a cunning plan to switch the narrative on COP26. The local prints are suggesting that scenes of profound urban decay will greet COP26 delegates when they arrive in Glasgow. Owing to the bin workers strike they’re predicting a plague of giant rats devouring our international visitors.

But what if we turn this to our advantage? We could issue an invitation for delegates to take time off from their climate deliberations and participate in a mass clean-up of the city along with hundreds of volunteers from local schools wearing tee-shirts with the slogan “Glasgow: Giving a Rat’s Arse About the Climate”. It would challenge them all to put their money where their well-fed mouths are.

We could even invite Boris to lead the effort. I email the FM with my suggestion and spend the rest of the day in a lovelorn fugue waiting for her to respond.


A RESONANT “ping” from my laptop wakes me from my slumbers. I have a new message. It’s from Nicola. “I love this idea Rupert. Go right ahead. But instead of ‘rat’s arse’ could we change it to something a little less graphic like ‘horse’s arse’?”

I spend the rest of the day humming Cheek to Cheek and imagining me as Fred Astaire and the FM as Ginger Rogers in her Louboutins and a black dress cut to the thigh dancing a waltz at the Christmas night out.