FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon and Richard Leonard clash over welfare powers

Richard Leonard questioned Nicola Sturgeon's priorities in government.
Richard Leonard questioned Nicola Sturgeon's priorities in government.
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Richard Leonard has criticised the First Minister for her plans to introduce an income supplement by 2022 - a year after she hopes to hold a second independence referendum.

At First Minister's Questions, the Scottish Labour leader raised new figures showing increasing numbers of food parcels being handed out by food banks, and questioned the government's priorities. "When it comes to a choice between protecting the poor and protecting your party, you always put your party first", Mr Leonard said.

But Nicola Sturgeon called for him to back her in asking for welfare powers to be taken into the hands of the Scottish Parliament and said if Mr Leonard failed to "recognise the relationship between the power we have in this parliament and the Tory cuts pushing children into poverty he doesn’t deserve to be in government.“

She said her priority was in taking over welfare powers from the UK Government as an independent country, and indicated that plans for an income supplement would be brought forward in June.

She added: "We will bring policies of our own to lift children out of poverty and we will argue for those powers to lie in this parliament not in the hands of Tories. If he continues to back the Tories on the constitution the people of Scotland will see him for exactly what he is."

Mr Leonard said that more and more children in Scotland are growing up in poverty and suggested that the Scottish Government already has such powers to mitigate welfare cuts by the Conservatives.

Ms Sturgeon added that the Scottish Government would continue to do everything it can to mitigate the impact of UK Government welfare policies.