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by Kirsteen Paterson
04 May 2022
Election issues dominate as party leaders vie for votes in eve-of-poll First Minister's Questions

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was pressed on her party's record

Election issues dominate as party leaders vie for votes in eve-of-poll First Minister's Questions

Weekly session moved forwards due to council contest

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was accused of using "weasel words" by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross as he pressed her again on ferries at First Minister's Questions today.

The session was taking place one day earlier than usual as a result of tomorrow's local government elections.

Party leaders argued over campaign lines and national and local records.

Turning again to the long-running row over problems with the delivery of new ferries by rescued Ferguson Marine, Ross criticised Sturgeon for using the word "regrettable" over "wasting a quarter of a billion pounds".

He said: "First Minister, do you understand how angry it makes the public to hear you use weasel words like regrettable, rather than giving them the apology they deserve?"

The SNP leader responded: "I've made very clear that the delays, the cost overruns are deeply regrettable and I do believe that when things don't go right in government, it is important that leaders say so."

She went on: "I'll always take responsibility when things don't go right but I'll continue to act in a way that is in the interest of this country, and of course tomorrow people have the opportunity to cast their verdict on all of that."

Ross said the SNP have "let people down and Labour have helped them". Glasgow has been "overrun by rubbish and rats", he said, and Scotland has experienced the highest level of drugs deaths in Europe.

Sturgeon highlighted investment of £250m to tackle drugs deaths and accused Ross of having "spent far more time standing up for Boris Johnson than standing up for the interests of people in Scotland", calling him the PM's "cheerleader". She said: "He's not a leader, he's just a follower."

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said core council budgets had been "slashed" by £6bn since the SNP came to power. Scotland has a First Minister who "tweets about reading books" but one in eight libraries have shut since 2010.

Sturgeon said Scottish councils are "doing rather better under the SNP in Scotland than they are doing under Labour in Wales" and Labour had "robbed" women council workers in Glasgow of "money that was rightfully theirs" over that council's equal pay row. She said she was "proud" that an SNP administration had "paid them back" and told the chamber: "When Labour is in government, local authorities do much worse."

Referring to the SNP's campaign coach as "the gravy bus", Sarwar said Sturgeon's answer "might have sounded good when you were practising" but "communities across the country can see how you've decimated local communities".

The First Minister said: "Labour is in a scrap for second place with the Conservatives, that's the limit of Labour's ambition. My ambition is to win the election so that the SNP can go on delivering real improvements for people right across Scotland and I am happy to let the people of Scotland be the judge of that."

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