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A Liddell of what you fancy

The Education Minister's choice of St Ninian's High in the socialist republic of East Renfrewshire (aka Newton Mearns) to relaunch Higher Still last week was, er, interesting.

Helen Liddell is an alumna of St Patrick's High in Coatbridge (as is her colleague John Reid, the Transport Minister - Fettes College and Dunoon Grammar, eat your hearts out). A member of the staff during Liddell's pupilage was Jim McVittie, now heidie at St Ninian's. Indeed John Fitzpatrick, his depute, is another old boy of St Pat's.

The department of amazing coincidences also reminds us that McVittie was a member of the Howie committee, which started the Higher Still ball rolling all those years ago.

The Minister went down well as she toured the St Ninian classrooms, leaving the press in their accustomed role of those who stand and waitI and waitI and wait. We were, however, kept entertained by the strains of what sounded suspiciously like flute music from a distant classroom - a commendably ecumenical note.

Liddell's aides and minders had the occasion down to a fine art. The scribblers were kept away from the class visits. The photographers and film cameras, on the other hand, were kept away from the press conference.

This latter move turned out to be a wise one. A picture of where the Minister was due to sit in the school library, making her highly factual announcement, would have been framed with the legend behind her: "Fiction S1 to S4".

No doubt as a result of careful planning, Liddell strode past her allotted space and made straight for the head of the table. The lady will go far.

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