Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont said that 400 women a day were losing their jobs in Scotland, as she claimed the SNP Government was promising Scots “the world tomorrow” by promoting independence at the expense of tackling unemployment.
However, Mr Salmond dismissed Ms Lamont’s claims and insisted that more women were in work in Scotland than in other parts of the UK, as he said that female employment north of the Border is the “highest across these islands”.
The Labour leader, speaking at Holyrood yesterday on International Women’s Day, said that female unemployment was higher in Scotland than in the rest of the UK and claimed that this was Mr Salmond’s “responsibility”.
She asked the First Minister: “When is he going to start doing something to help women back to work? Or, like everything else, do we have to wait his 1,000 days for a referendum before he lifts a finger?
“Isn’t this the mañana government, doing nothing for people in difficulty today, promising them the world tomorrow, a tomorrow that is at least 1,000 days away.”
The Labour leader also took the opportunity to attack Mr Salmond for remarks his parliamentary aide Joan McAlpine had made in a newspaper column.
The MSP sparked an outcry when she likened the Union with England to “the marriage of a talented, well-educated girl with good prospects and her own income, to a domineering man”.
Ms Lamont told Mr Salmond that “his aide’s analogies are as offensive to women as his policies are damaging”.
Ms Lamont said: “It’s not being part of the United Kingdom, as his aide alleges, which is holding women back.
“We have Tory cuts compounded by the First Minister’s inaction. That is why female unemployment is higher in Scotland than the rest of the United Kingdom.”
The First Minister insisted Ms Lamont had “distorted” Ms McAlpine’s remarks and taken them “totally out of context” as he defended the SNP Government’s record on female unemployment. Mr Salmond, speaking during a bad-tempered clash with Ms Lamont, accepted that unemployment was a “huge difficulty” for Scotland with women one of the groups particularly affected.
He said: “I think the Labour Party should try to treat the hugely important issue of abuse against women with the importance it deserves and not feel the desperate need to misrepresent what other people say.
“There are 10,000 more women employed in Scotland than there were just over a year ago, the number of women in jobs is the highest across these islands.”
Ms Lamont also criticised a speech made by Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon about independence earlier this week, with the Labour leader saying she had been “making grand promises” but had done “nothing” to tackle fuel poverty, cut childcare costs or reduce the number of youngsters living in poverty”.
Meanwhile, Mr Salmond attacked plans to shut factories which provide disabled people with employment as “at best ill-timed and insensitive”, after Remploy announced the closure of 36 of its 54 factories across the UK, with potential compulsory redundancies of 1,752 people, including 1,518 disabled employees.