Scots sick of John Swinney ‘passing the buck’ over SNP record

John Swinney and Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, rowed over public services
John Swinney and Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, rowed over public services - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Europe

A rattled John Swinney has been warned that Scots are “sick of you passing the buck” to Westminster as he came under sustained attack in a TV debate.

The First Minister was forced to defend his management of the NHS, education, Covid and taxes and came unstuck as he tried to defend brutal cuts to teacher numbers being imposed by SNP-run Glasgow City Council.

A frustrated parent shouted “stop passing the buck” during Mr Swinney’s response as he attempted to deflect the blame onto Labour.

‘Tidy the flat before you move out’

Another audience member at the debate, hosted by the BBC at the University of Glasgow, lamented the amount of political debate over independence instead of improving domestic services.

“I just think if you walk down the streets of Glasgow in some areas, the businesses that are closing, there’s people sitting on the street, begging,” he said, before addressing Mr Swinney directly.

“You can’t get an appointment at a dentist. It angers me when I turn on the telly and there’s so much discourse about independence. Tidy the flat before you move out, John.”

The audience applauded and Mr Swinney said: “The reason why I believe in independence is because it gives us the power to address the very issues that you are talking about.”

However, Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, responded: “You have those powers now, John.”

The First Minister had earlier described independence as a “beautiful proposition” after Mr Ross accused him of prioritising it over the NHS and education.

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The hour-long debate featured the Scottish leaders of the four parties that won seats north of the Border in the 2019 general election, plus Lorna Slater, the Scottish Greens’ co-leader.

They fielded questions from the audience on a range of issues covering the economy, public services and Scotland’s future.

Despite it being a Westminster election, many of those present targeted Mr Swinney over the devolved SNP’s government’s management of public services in the country.

Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader, said Mr Swinney had to be “honest about the decisions he made as education secretary when he shamefully attempted to downgrade the exam results for working class kids in this city during the pandemic.”

He said 173 teachers had lost their jobs in Glasgow this year and the SNP cut the affordable homes budget by £200 million, leaving children in temporary accommodation.

Scottish leaders from the Lib Dems, Greens, Conservatives, SNP and Labour took part in  a BBC TV debate
Scottish leaders from the Lib Dems, Greens, Conservatives, SNP and Labour took part in a TV debate - Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images Europe

After the First Minister repeatedly deflected by attempting to claim Labour would impose £18 billion of spending cuts, a frustrated mother called on him to stop shifting the blame.

She said: “This is directed to Mr Swinney and I want a direct answer. Glasgow parents and Scottish parents are sick of you passing the buck. We’re sick of hearing it’s Westminster’s fault that education is in crisis.

“We’re sick of hearing what Labour and the Tories would do. We want to know how you and your party are going to do to fix what’s happening in education right now.”

Another audience member, Anna, told how her 93-year-old mother had recently waited six hours for an ambulance and a further two to get into hospital. Asked how she was doing, she replied she was “not great”.

Mr Swinney acknowledged issues in the health service but again pivoted to launch an attack on Labour’s spending plans, claiming they would impose cuts on the Scottish Government.

However, Mr Sarwar told him: “Read my lips. No austerity under Labour.”