Great Britain

FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon forced to defend domestic record as opposition parties avoid constitution

Nicola Sturgeon was forced to defend her party's handling of the NHS, schools and renewables, as opposition parties steered clear of constitutional issues.

In the last session of First Minister's Questions before Christmas recess, Ms Sturgeon was challenged on her record in office with Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat party leaders criticising her for missing NHS waiting time targets, falling education standards, renewable fabrication contracts going abroad, and a lack of flexible childcare.

Nicola Sturgeon was quizzed on her domestic record in the final FMQs before Christmas.

Nicola Sturgeon was quizzed on her domestic record in the final FMQs before Christmas.

There was no mention of Ms Sturgeon's launch of a publication this morning which she said detailed the democratic case for a second independence referendum, and which she has sent to Boris Johnson along with a demand for the transfer of powers so the decision to hold a vote lies at Holyrood rather than Westminster.

Missed targets

Jackson Carlaw, the Tory interim leader, reeled off a list of missed waiting time targets for different health conditions and said: "First Minister, you can run from your record of missed targets but you can't hide from it.

"As we enter 2020, we've seen PISA figures show science and maths performance at record lows, violent crime going up for the fourth year in a row, NHS Greater Glasgow suing the construction firm which built out largest hospital, commissioned by Nicola Sturgeon.

"And embarrassing failures in public transport on sea and rail. Some might even say that it is unarguable that every public service in the care of this SNP government ends 2019 in a worst state that when the year began. Surely in 2020, fixing this should be the priority of any government worthy of the name."

Nicola Sturgeon said: "These are my priorities day in and day out, and I don't run from the record of my government.

"I put that record before the Scottish people in an election last week and let me remind Jackson Carlaw what happened - the SNP won that election comprehensively and the Tories lost it just as comprehensively."

She added: "All these tired lines were rejected by the electorate just last week, which is why in 2020 I'll get on with the job of improving our public services, of making sure that Scotland's public services continue to perform better than they do under the Tories in England and under Labour in Wales.

"By contrast, I'm going to predict the Tories are going to spend at least part of 2020 electing a new leader."

Renewables jobs

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard raised the issue of the fabrication of products for the renewables sector, with contracts going to abroad to China and Indonesia rather than being retained in Scotland.

"This is about jobs," he said. "Fabrication yards in Scotland are under utilised and skills are lying idle. We know that less than 15 per cent of the work on the NNG contract is going to Scottish yards, this is not half a loaf, it's crumbs from the table. These workers are being hired and fired on short term casual contracts, workers at Arnish Point are being paid off tomorrow, just days before Christmas, meanwhile CS Wind in Macrahanish is also serving its workers with P45s.

"A decade ago Alex Salmond promised that renewables would create so many jobs we would become the Saudi Arabia of marine power. He predicted there would 130,000 jobs from offshore power generation. ten years on can the First Minister tells the workers at these yards how many jobs there really are?"

Ms Sturgeon said that there would have been no yards such as Bifab, if the government had not intervened, and said: "I do genuinely appreciate his interests in these matters, but can I point out that many of the powers that influence this, over energy, over employment law, remain reserved to the UK government so when Labour continues to have its period of reflection and considers again its position on independence perhaps these are issues he and his colleagues would care to reflect on."

She added: "It's just a matter of weeks since Bifab did win a contract and we will continue to work with trade unions and company to make sure that more of the work from the development of Scottish renewables goes to the excellent Scottish supply chain.

Childcare expansion

"Richard Leonard cannot simply get away with willing the end, he also has to will the means and perhaps then a few more people might take him and his sorry party seriously."

A question by Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie was almost drowned out by SNP backbenchers as he raised concerns about childcare hours expansion, the failure of the Sick Kids' Hospital in Edinburgh to open, the crisis at the Queen Margaret University Hospital in Glasgow, "schools falling behind in maths and science, the promised jobs in renewables have not materialised, homelessness services are broken beyond repair, the cost of the two new ferries has doubled and are four years late, the Scotrail contract has failed and the mental health waiting times for children are the worst ever - this government should be embarrassed.

"Every hour she takes off to hold a press conference at Bute House is another hour wasted in trying to sort out those issues for the people of Scotland."

However Nicola Sturgeon hit back saying the opposition parties' "frustration was absolutely palpable". She said would continue to deliver improvements in NHS waiting times, and pointed to an improvement in reading in schools and an increase in teacher numbers. "We will continue on all of these things to get on with the job of a better, fairer, more prosperous Scotland and that's what the opposition don't really like."