Humza Yousaf ordered to apologise after accusing Douglas Ross of ‘lies’ at FMQs
Humza Yousaf was ordered to apologise at First Minister’s Questions after accusing Tory leader Douglas Ross of lying about the police service.
The first minister came under pressure from both the Conservatives and Labour over cuts to frontline policing.
After responding to a question from Ross in which he accused the Tory leader of “lies”, Yousaf was asked three times by Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone to apologise.
Yousaf initially responded: “I'm happy to call it a deliberate inaccuracy, presiding officer, because that’s clearly what it is.”
On the third time of asking, he said: “Happy to apologise to the Chamber for any offence caused.”
Ross had urged Yousaf to reveal which stations could be permanently closed under Police Scotland plans.
And Anas Sarwar said decisions of the SNP government had “decimated police presence” in communities across Scotland.
Yousaf insisted communities were safer under the SNP and said station closures were part of a programme to modernise the police estate.
The exchange at FMQs comes after reports that 30 police stations are to be closed and sold off.
The Scottish Police Federation has also recently warned falling numbers of officers could result in deaths.
Ross accused the FM of being “sly” and “secretive” about the impact of cuts to police budgets.
He said: “Humza Yousaf is forcing Police Scotland to close dozens of stations – but he won’t say where.
“Humza Yousaf is leaving the police with no option but to stop investigating every crime – but he won’t say which crimes.
“Humza Yousaf is making the police cut officer numbers to the lowest level on record – but he won’t say how low.”
Meanwhile, Sarwar revealed how one woman had travelled to her local police station to report a crime, discovered it was closed, travelled to the next nearest one only to discover that too was closed.
He said that woman “doesn't feel very safe”. He added: “The first duty of any government is to keep its citizens safe. When police are warning that communities are going to be put at risk, Humza Yousaf must listen to them.”
But Yousaf said there were “more bobbies on the beat” per head in Scotland than England and Wales, with 600 more recruited this year.
He said while he had not yet seen the “finalised plan” for changes to the police estate, he added Police Scotland’s strategy – published in 2019 – “outlined plans to replace outdated and underused properties… with modern, fit-for-purpose spaces”.
And referencing a fall in recorded crimes to record low levels, he added: “Communities are safer because of our investment.”
Following FMQs, Tory MSP Stephen Kerr raised a point of order, saying the first minister's comments about Ross had shown a “wilful disrespect” for the parliament.
In response, the presiding officer said: “I thank Mr Kerr for his point of order. I dealt with the matter at the time, Mr Kerr.”