Scotland 'leading the way with progressive policies'

Scotland is leading the UK with its "progressive policies", Nicola Sturgeon insisted, as the SNP marked the "milestone" of 10 years in power at Holyrood.

A decade on from the nationalists first coming to power in Edinburgh, the First Minister claimed the country had "come a long way".

She hailed it as a "special day" for her party, as she marked the 10th anniversary of her predecessor Alex Salmond becoming first minister on May 16 2007

"Over the past 10 years we have worked every day to make Scotland a better country," she stated.

"And we have made real progress to be proud of."

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson said the SNP's 10th anniversary in power marked a "missed opportunity", as she insisted ministers could have achieved much more "if they hadn't spent so much time trying to rip Scotland out of the UK".

Ms Davidson, who was campaigning in Dumfries ahead of the June 8 General Election, said: "We've got schools who are going backwards, we've got college places that have been cut, 152,000 of them, so there are fewer opportunities for people. We've got an economy in Scotland that's one quarter away from recession, whilst the rest of the UK is growing.

"And all because the SNP have spent more time trying to rip Scotland out of the UK than they have spent doing the job they're paid to do, which is to look after Scotland's public services, Scotland's economy and Scotland's education system.

"I think people, if they stop and think about a Scottish Government that's got more powers than any previous Scottish Government, that's got a bigger budget than any previous Scottish Government, what they could have done in 10 years if they hadn't spent so much time trying to rip Scotland out of the UK and continuing to do so.

"There will be people in Scotland thinking it is a real missed opportunity."

However, Ms Sturgeon insisted: "The SNP has only reached the milestone of 10 years in government because we have worked hard - each and every day - to repay the trust of the people of Scotland and deliver on their priorities."

Speaking to activists in South Queensferry, outside Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said: "I know we are not perfect. We haven't got everything right and there is much more work still to do.

"Work to grow our economy, get more people into employment and drive up standards in our schools even further.

"But we can be proud in Scotland that when it comes to progressive policies, we are leading the UK.

"Labour launched its own manifesto this morning, and many of the policies in Labour's manifesto will seem very familiar."

Ms Sturgeon claimed Labour's manifesto "directly lifts policies that the SNP is already delivering" including free university tuition, ending hospital parking charges, and the abolition of the so-called Bedroom Tax.

Meanwhile, she said the Tories "who for years have mounted ideological attacks on policies as diverse as free prescriptions and council house building have now - albeit belatedly and with little credibility - decided that they are both a good thing".

The SNP leader said: "They say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. But in this case the imitation shown by both Labour and the Tories is anything but sincere.

"The fact is that they have had the chance to back the SNP's progressive policies - but instead they opposed them tooth and nail."

With the General Election approaching, Ms Sturgeon warned the UK is facing "the prospect of another Tory government, imposing more cuts, attacking the vulnerable, putting pensions at risk and imposing an extreme Brexit deal that will put jobs at risk".

In such circumstances, she argued it "is more important then ever that we have strong voices at Westminster standing up for Scotland".

Ms Sturgeon said: "Scotland has come a long way over the last 10 years - but the next few years will be hugely important in determining the kind of country we become.

"In the face of an uncertain world and an increasingly right-wing Tory Government, now more than ever it is vital to have the SNP standing up for Scotland."

Scottish Labour business manager James Kelly said: "A decade of SNP government has meant a decade of division for Scotland.

"Rather than break down the barriers that hold the poorest in our country from getting a fair chance in life, the SNP government has simply broken promise after promise.

"Whether it was scrapping the council tax, cutting classroom sizes or abolishing student debt the SNP's promises have not been worth the paper their manifestos have been printed on."

Scottish Liberal Democrats leader Willie Rennie said: "People are getting tired of the SNP and all their promises.

"They haven't been anywhere near as good as many of their supporters had hoped back in 2007."