FMQs: Sturgeon accuses rivals of "constitutional obsession"

Nicola Sturgeon says rivals are obsessed with the constitution
Nicola Sturgeon says rivals are obsessed with the constitution
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Nicola Sturgeon today dismissed opposition claims of "ten years of failure" in Government during Holyrood clashes on the eve of the council elections.

Ms Sturgeon also came under fire over her failure to introduce a 50 pence tax rate for top earners in Scotland, while indicating she will back one across the UK.

The First Minister won cheers from SNP backbenchers when she accused Ruth Davidson of having a "constitutional obsession" because the Tories have been campaigning on a platform of opposing a second independence referendum.

Ms Davidson went on the attack at First Minister's Questions today as the SNP marks the 10th anniversary of the 2007 election win which propelled the party to power in Scotland.

The Tory leader said there was "absolutely no acknowledgement that the failures are on her watch" over education shortcomings, including 4000 fewer teachers and a decline among Scots pupils on international league tables for maths, reading and science.

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Ms Davidson also hit out at delays to the Government's review of schools which could see the creation of new educational regions.

The Tory leader said: "Jam tomorrow just doesn't cut it.

"With this SNP Government it's not just one statistic or two or three - it's a ten year record of failure."

Schools can no longer be classed as "world leading" Ms Davidson said.

"Tomorrow we elect the councillors whose job will be to support our schools on the ground.

"The SNP says education is the top priority, but doesn't ten years of failure tell an entirely different story."

But Ms Sturgeon insisted that an extra £120 million of extra cash had been handed to head teachers to bring about improvements.

Ms Sturgeon also pointed to a Tory leaflet which mentioned the SNP leader herself or the SNP or independence 43 times - but makes no mention of education.

"In this election the Tories haven't put forward a single policy on our schools, social care, roads, transport, on anything - they have a constitutional obsession."

Labour leader Kezia Dugdale said the SNP had voted against introducing a 50p top rate of income tax on the highest earners eight times at Holyrood since 2015, despite backing such a policy UK-wide.

"We have the ridiculous situation where a Nationalist First Minister wants to tax the rich, but only if England is doing it too," Ms Dugdale said.

“Nicola Sturgeon has got plenty of principles when she’s campaigning, but nothing but excuses when she’s in power.”

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The Scottish Government says that introducing the policy in Scotland alone is likely to result in many high earners shifting their taxable income south of the border, thus lowering the overall tax take. Holyrood's powers do not cover tax evasion or avoidance. Ms Sturgeon says only a UK-wide introduction of this policy would preclude such behaviour among high earners as they would not then escape the extra levy south of the border.