Pride and prejudice at Blair Drummond Safari Park with the Scottish Secretary and a lion cub that was meant to be cute and cuddly.
THE Scottish Secretary, Michael Forsyth, walked into the lions' den yesterday - and emerged unscathed.
His Labour opposite number, George Robertson, walked into a shellfish factory and was savaged by a raw prawn.
Mr Robertson was nipped on the finger by the live langoustine while he was touring a fish processing factory on the Hebridean island of Benbecula.
As he rummaged in a boxful of crustaceans, under the erroneous impression that they were dead, one clamped its claws on to his finger.
Mr Robertson yelped, jumped back and had to be rescued by the factory owner, Angus Macman.
The shadow Scottish secretary's shellfish fiasco will go down in the annals of botched election photo opportunities.
But Mr Forsyth could hardly point the finger of scorn at him after his own edgy encounter with the animal kingdom at Blair Drummond Safari Park.
It sounded like a good idea: the Scottish Secretary and his Welsh counterpart, William Hague, posing with two cuddly lion cubs.
But these lion cubs were not for picking up or patting, and certainly not for cuddling. Five of them, seven months old, were fetched, one by one, by game wardens at Blair Drummond. And they were all the size of your average Rottweiler. Each cub resisted all attempts to place them on a tree trunk with the intrepid pair. They growled, snarled, spat and showed their teeth and claws - and that was just the party spin doctors.
However, Mr Forsyth and Mr Hague probably felt it was all reminiscent of Prime Minister's question time.
"I'm really enjoying this," he said, smiling through gritted teeth, and obviously wishing he was somewhere else. He would probably have agreed with an aide who, when asked if the party worker who thought up the wheeze was being promoted, replied: "No, he's lunch".
A different tack was called for and Mr Forsyth and Mr Hague were persuaded to go across to an area near the cages where the adult members of the pride had been temporarily locked up.
With all five prowling around, a TV cameraman asked Mr Forsyth and Mr Hague if they could look a little less nervous. "We're not the only ones who are looking nervous," retorted Mr Forsyth.
The session ended with several requests from photographers for "another two minutes, please". But in the end none of the lions satisfied the press pack's bloodlust and they were fed raw meat instead of cabinet ministers.The Scotsman, 22 nd April 1997
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