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UK News Nicola Sturgeon blasted by rivals for her 'divisive' independence vote

01:50  14 april  2021
01:50  14 april  2021 Source:   dailymail.co.uk

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Nicola Sturgeon wearing a suit and tie: MailOnline logo © Provided by Daily Mail MailOnline logo

Nicola Sturgeon was tonight blasted by her political rivals over plans to pull Scotland out of the United Kingdom, as she stood firm on her pledge for a fresh independence vote.

The First Minister was accused of attempting to 'reopen old wounds' by opposition leaders in a lively television debate ahead of next month's Scottish election.

The SNP leader has pledged to hold a new independence referendum if her party wins the election - with or without the consent of the UK parliament.

But the leaders of the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour tonight took aim at her plans, branding them as 'divisive'.

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All three of the leaders instead insisted the focus should remain on the country's recovery efforts in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic.

More than 7,000 people in Scotland have died of the virus, while more than 220,000 cases have been recorded.

However the nationalist leader hit back at the suggestions, as she urged Scots to back its independence bid with their votes.

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Taking a swipe at Westminster politicians, she said she wanted the country to build back 'in its own image', rather than 'that of Boris Johnson and his band of Brexiteers'.

The Green party meanwhile backed Ms Sturgeon's referendum calls - as it stood firm on its desires to return Scotland to the EU.

However there was no mention from the leaders of Alex Salmond - whose Alba party will contest Holyrood seats at the upcoming election.

Despite facing criticism from the majority of her rival leaders, Ms Sturgeon remained firm on her pledge to hold a new independence referendum.

She led with her offer of 'continued strong leadership to steer the country through the pandemic', adding that 'when the crisis is over' Scots should have 'the choice of a better future with independence'.

But she was accused of spreading division by Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, who said: 'You are determined to open the wounds of the country.

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'This is reckless. What you should do is focus on making people's lives better.'

Conservative leader Douglas Ross also hit out at the plans, which he described as 'reckless' and 'divisive'.

Labour's Anas Sarwar meanwhile showed his opposition to the independence vote, as he urged a focus on recovery in the wake of the Covid pandemic.

The Labour leader also joined Mr Rennie in taking a swipe at Ms Strugeon's seven years as First Minister.


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Mr Rennie said Ms Sturgeon had been in charge as the country's drug death rate soared to the highest in Europe, as he tackled her on her healthcare record.

Ms Sturgeon admitted taking her 'eye off the ball' over Scotland's drugs deaths.

In 2019, 1,264 people died of drug misuse - taking the drugs death toll to its highest level on record in Scotland for a sixth year in a row.

The figure was double of that in 2014, and means Scotland now has the worst drugs death rate in Europe and is about three and a half that in England in Wales.

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She said: 'I think we took our eye off the ball on drugs deaths, and I've said as much to the Scottish Parliament.

'I've set out what we will do to try to turn that around.

'I set out at the start of this year a £250million investment programme to build up rehabilitation services, including residential rehabilitation to make sure we give more support to community services, to make sure we provide faster access to treatment and we have a taskforce working on all of that.'

Mr Ross meanwhile accused the First Minster of failing to meet promises made in key areas.

The Tory leader told her: 'You have made promises on the attainment gap, victims' rights, broadband, ferries, income tax and the treatment time guarantee.

'You have delivered your promises on none of them. You have let down Scotland for the last 14 years.'

He continued his attack by saying: 'Now in an economic crisis, you want to wreck Scotland's recovery.'

Ms Sturgeon said 'progress' had been made in tackling the attainment gap in schools and NHS waiting times had been reducing before Covid-19 hit.

Defending her record, she added: 'I am proud of the record of the Government I have led.'

'Like all governments we make mistakes, and we get things wrong and we do not shy away from putting it right and learning the lessons.'

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Mr Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, pressed her on her record on education - noting she had previously said closing the attainment gap in schools would be her top priority.

'We haven't done that yet,' Ms Sturgeon conceded.

Alex Salmond wearing a suit and tie and holding a sign: However there was no mention from the leaders of Alex Salmond - whose Alba party will contest Holyrood seats at the upcoming election © Provided by Daily Mail However there was no mention from the leaders of Alex Salmond - whose Alba party will contest Holyrood seats at the upcoming election

She said this was linked to the pandemic, stating that 'Covid has upended almost every aspect of life here in Scotland'.

She accepted there was 'more to do', urging people to 'elect me to be First Minister to continue to build on the progress we are making'.

The Green Party's co-leader Patrick Harvie kept his focus on environmental issues, as he urged voters to side with his party.

He warned that the election could be the 'last chance' to make a difference before it is 'too late' to fix the climate emergency.

During a segment in which leaders were allowed to quiz each other, Mr Harvie, also challenged Labour's Mr Sarwar on his views on the North Sea gas and oil industry.

Mr Harvie, whose party wants to move away industry, worth around £650million a year to the UK government, asked Mr Sarwar if he too wanted to end licences for further exploration.

But Mr Sarwar said the focus should be on working with the industry to create new green opportunities - in order to protect jobs.

Meanwhile, there was just a brief mention for former SNP leader Alex Salmond on the night.

The politician is leading the Alba party at the election - which will run on an independence manifesto.

Mr Salmond received no mention from his political rivals during the debate.

But he received a brief mention from host STV political editor Colin Mackay, ahead of an interview with Mr Salmond which is set to air tomorrow night.

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