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Liddell's bridge of sighs

THE audience was waiting . . . and waiting . . . and waiting. Would Helen Liddell take the subtle approach with Tony Blair: "Where the hell have you been?" No, the Education Minister did not get where she is today . . . Where she was last Friday was waiting patiently at Deans Community High in Livingston for a live video link with the Prime Minister to launch the National Grid for Learning in Scotland (page six).

Blair had been delayed on a much more concrete superhighways initiative, opening the Scalpay bridge in the Western Isles, which links the island to Harris.

Kyle Arndt and Laurie Sneddon, the first-year Deans pupils chosen to speak to Scalpay, were left staring at an empty classroom for more than an hour, since the Western Isles Council had helpfully arranged for the kids to be at the bridge to greet the PM.

But the wait was worth it as Blair hove jerkily into view, having been tutored by young Donnie Morrison to greet Livingston with a near perfect "ciamar a tha thu?" Or at least it was near perfect enough for the monoglot Lothian audience to realise it was not English.

After a couple of perfunctory questions to the PM, Liddell ordered them both out of the way so the kids could get on with it.

Kyle and Laurie told Scalpay that Livingston was a good place to live, had a wonderful shopping centre, plenty of things to do and a reasonable football team.

James Morrison told Livingston that Scalpay was quiet and without much traffic "so you can get a good night's sleep". The new community hall was "terrific" and the bridge was "just brilliant".

After that, a brief political exchange - it was goodbye from her and it was goodbye from him.

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