Sturgeon's 'ears must have been burning' through SNP debate, says Ross

Nicola Sturgeon was told her own finance secretary had 'trashed' her government's record.

Douglas Ross has told Nicola Sturgeon her “ears must have been burning” after he accused the SNP leadership candidates of “torching her record in government”.

The Scottish Tory leader quoted comments by Kate Forbes during the STV leaders’ debate on Tuesday as he criticised the First Minister’s record on the NHS and transport.

In her opening speech, the Scottish finance secretary said “more of the same” in government was an “acceptance of mediocrity”.

“The First Minister might expect to hear that from me but did she really expect to hear that from her own finance secretary?” Ross asked Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions on Thursday.

Sturgeon replied: “I am very, very aware that for Douglas Ross, mediocrity is a dizzying height he’s never come close to achieving.”

Ross continued: “This was a Scottish minister [Forbes], someone currently serving under Nicola Sturgeon, tearing apart this record in government.”

Some in the SNP expressed shock at Forbes’ attack on Yousaf, with MSP Shona Robison saying she was “trashing” her own government’s record.

Asked by STV political editor Colin Mackay on Wednesday, Sturgeon said she had followed along with the debate on Twitter instead of watching it.

Douglas Ross at First Minister's Questions on March 9, 2023.STV News

She later said she was travelling back from a visit to Glasgow Women’s Library when the programme was aired.

The Scottish Tory leader accused the First Minister of “pretending” not to have watched the debate

Ross said: “Apparently the First Minister couldn’t bear to watch this week’s SNP leaders’ debate but her ears must have been burning as the candidates torched the SNP’s record in government.

“Let me be helpful to Nicola Sturgeon as I’ve tried to do and update her on what has been said.

“Her finance secretary, Kate Forbes, said this about Scotland: ‘The trains never run on time, the police service is stretched to breaking point, there are record-high waiting times in the NHS’.”

Sturgeon defended her record, saying the only verdict that matters is that of the people of Scotland.

She added: “And that verdict has been pretty clear over my eight years of leadership, winning no fewer than eight elections.

“Let me perhaps remind Douglas Ross, trying as I always do to be helpful to him, why that might be the case.

“Under this government, we have seen a 20% increase in NHS staff, the highest number of doctors and nurses proportionately anywhere in the UK, we’ve seen a doubling of the NHS budget, we’ve seen the best-performing A&Es anywhere in the UK for the last seven years, the only part of the UK with no NHS strikes and the highest paid workforce anywhere on these islands, a significant reduction in hospital infections, 10,000 nurse bursaries at a time when the Tories in England scrapped nurse bursaries, scrapped prescription charges, taken away parking charges at NHS hospitals, leading the way on public health measures.

“Presiding officer, I can see you’re looking at me askance. That’s just the NHS. I look forward to getting onto other topics later in this session.”

The Scottish Labour leader also criticised the SNP’s record on the NHS.

He pointed to research showing that one in five people in Scotland had paid for private medical treatment over the past 12 months.

“The first minister needs to stop hiding behind Covid,” he said.

He added: “Across Scotland, thousands of people are opting to pay for treatment because they can’t wait for the NHS.”

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