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Daily Record
Chris McCall

SNP tried to scrap FMQs next week 'to allow new party leader time to prepare'

The SNP has failed in a bid to scrap next week's session of First Minister's Questions to allow its new leader more time to prepare and "avoid scrutiny".

Nicola Sturgeon will face MSPs for the last time as head of the Scottish Government on Thursday before she formally stands down next week.

The result of the SNP leadership contest will be announced on Monday and the victor is expected to face their first session of FMQs three days later, before parliament begins its Easter recess.

But George Adam, the government's business minister, today proposed cancelling the weekly session due to be held on March 20 - meaning the event would not resume until April 20.

The plan was scuppered after opposition parties made furious complaints to Alison Johnstone, the Presiding Officer.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Scottish Lib Dem leader, said: "That Nicola Sturgeon did not think her would-be successors would be ready for parliamentary scrutiny in week one is hardly a vote of confidence in their abilities.

"Pressing questions about dentistry, the health service and the climate emergency have been neglected while the SNP's shambolic leadership contest rattles on. The least the new First Minister can do is be prepared to answer some questions about their party's record of failure."

Alexander Burnett, the Scottish Conservatives chief whip, said: "This shameful attempt to hide the First Minister from scrutiny was a new low – even for a party as obsessed as the SNP are with secrecy and spin.

"It was an outrageous affront to democracy that Nationalist business managers even attempted this stunt.

"This was totally unprecedented and unacceptable – every new First Minister or Prime Minister has faced parliamentary scrutiny whenever their first FMQs or PMQs has happened to fall.

"Nicola Sturgeon did her first FMQs on November 20, 2014, the day after becoming First Minister.

"But this cowardly move tells you everything about the current state of the SNP. The leadership election has revealed a party in the grip of a civil war.

"The candidates have been kicking lumps out of each other, trashing Nicola Sturgeon’s record and questioning the integrity of the election itself, while the SNP’s chief executive and top spin doctor have resigned for lying to the media and party members.

"The new First Minister may not want to face the music over this carnage at FMQs but it’s part of the job – and the SNP have been forced to accept he or she can’t be hidden away."

Sturgeon will take part in her last FMQs on Thursday.

An SNP spokeswoman said: "We’ll take no lectures from a Tory party which not so long ago illegally shut down the Commons to dodge scrutiny. Whoever becomes First Minister will be more than happy to face questions at Holyrood every week."

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