Nicola Sturgeon has attacked Scottish Labour’s leader for “sitting on the fence” over independence after an election hustings for young people descended into an angry row about the constitution.
The First Minister appeared to lose her temper with Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, after he told viewers at the National Union of Students online event that Ms Sturgeon had been shaking her head and mouthing “rubbish” while a LibDem spokeswoman spoke about the benefits of the union.
The SNP and Tory leaders then had a furious argument in which the First Minister accused Mr Ross of spreading “fake news” about the success of the UK’s vaccination procurement and of “talking down” the Scottish rollout.
She also claimed that it had been incorrect of Mr Ross to claim Scotland’s vaccine programme had been “lagging behind” the UK’s in the early stages of the rollout, even though official figures clearly showed this was the case.
After the young debate host stepped in to cut off the heated row between the Tory and SNP leaders, Anas Sarwar said, sarcastically: “What a great example to children and young people this is, fantastic”.
An apparently irate Ms Sturgeon snapped back: “All this sitting on the fence on everything might be good for a while, but sooner or later in politics, you have to decide which side you’re on.”
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Mr Sarwar had previously spoken about his opposition to independence or a new referendum but added that he wanted to unite the country and move past the issue.
He said that his position was clear but added “I just like to not forget about the half of the country that doesn’t agree with me on the constitution.”
Ms Sturgeon said there was “nothing more divisive than telling half the population your views don’t matter” or that “they shouldn’t get the right to choose” over independence.
Following the exchanges, Carole Ford, a LibDem candidate, said it was “disappointing” that the tone of the event, which had previously been good-natured, had changed so dramatically at the mention of independence.
She added: “I think for many people that's one of the reasons that they really dislike the whole notion of independence, because it has split this country right in the middle, and it is a much less pleasant place to be now.
“I certainly regret very much the impact that even the discussion of independence has had on Scotland.
“There's absolutely no logic whatsoever to the idea that Scotland will be a more prosperous nation when it's cut off and isolated at the top end of the United Kingdom. It simply makes no sense to me at all."
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