FMQs: Nicola Sturgeon tells Labour to back IndyRef2 to tackle poverty

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Nicola Sturgeon today urged Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard to "see the light" and change his position on a second independence referendum, after he backed a second EU vote.

Challenged at First Minister's Questions by Mr Leonard on "watering down" Scottish Government commitments to eradicating fuel poverty, and asked to sign his letter to the UK government calling for the restoration of TV licences to pensioners over 75, Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Labour leader was raising "reserved matters".

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has urged Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard to back a second independence referendum.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has urged Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard to back a second independence referendum.

She said: "Let me say to Richard Leonard the regulation of energy prices in this country is a reserved matter. Pensions are a reserved matter, television licences are reserved matter. So if Richard Leonard wants this government to have responsibility for all of these matters he will find I am the first to agree with him.

"Having reversed his position on a second EU referendum at the weekend, maybe he will now see the light and reverse his position on a second independence referendum so that this Parliament can take control of these matters out of the hands of the Tories and serve our pensioners along with the rest of the country as well."

After a disastrous result in the European Parliament elections last month, which saw Scottish Labour fail to return a single MEP to Brussels, the party has changed its stance on a second EU referendum, and Mr Leonard has said that his party would campaign for Remain in any new vote.

READ MORE: Scottish Labour declares support for Brexit deal vote and will campaign to remain
While he steered clear of Brexit in his questions, the First Minister was quick to use the Scottish Labour leader's focus on energy price regulation and pensions to raise a second independence vote. She has pledged to have another referendum in 2021.

Ms Sturgeon made her plea after Mr Leonard demanded she do more to tackle the number of pensioners living in poverty.

He also asked the First Minister, and all party leaders in Holyrood, to join him in signing a letter to Theresa May to overturn the decision on withdrawing free TV licences for the over 75s, which he called "a direct attack" on pensioners.

READ MORE: TV licence fee: BBC say nearly 4 million over-75s must pay
He said: “The way we treat our elderly citizens is a mark of the kind of society we are. These are people, who have contributed all of their working lives.

“Many of them are still contributing today as unpaid carers. Yet too many of them are forced to choose between heating and eating.

“First Minister, your target date to end fuel poverty was 2016. Now it is 2040. Does the First Minister appreciate the anger that will be felt by pensioners when they realise not just what the Tories are doing this week but what this government has done this week?”

Nicola Sturgeon said: "I'm very happy to look at any letter Richard Leonard wants to send me but the Scottish Government has already written to the government on this matter. I oppose the decision taken by the BBC. But the BBC has been left to take this decision, when the responsibility lies fairly and squarely with the Tories in Westminster."

On fuel poverty she added: "I'm confused because I understand Labour voted for the Fuel Poverty Bill this week yet Richard Leonard now seems to oppose it. Scotland's fuel poverty rate is at the lowest rate since 2005 but we have work to do Scotland is among only a handful of European governments defining fuel poverty let alone set targets relating to its eradication."