Nicola Sturgeon says Scottish Labour has 'lost touch with reality'

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Nicola Sturgeon has hit out at Scottish Labour for "selfish and self indulgent" behaviour as infighting over the party's leadership contest continues.

The First Minister said the party had "somewhat lost touch with reality" after the leadership race descended into a war of words between supporters of rival candidates Anas Sarwar and Richard Leonard.

The row broke out after a recording emerged of interim leader Alex Rowley backing Mr Leonard despite a pledge to remain neutral in the contest.

He also faced accusations of being involved in plotting against former leader Kezia Dugdale, with Jackie Baillie MSP, who is supporting Mr Sarwar, calling on Mr Leonard to "urgently answer questions about his role in this plot".

Responding to a request for comment from a journalist, a spokesman for Mr Leonard later described Ms Baillie's intervention as "pish".

During First Minister's Questions at Holyrood, Mr Leonard pressed Ms Sturgeon on the future of the free bus pass amid an ongoing consultation, warning the Scottish Government had qualified its commitment to the scheme by stating it must be sustainable in the long term.

Ms Sturgeon replied: "I know Scottish Labour have somewhat lost touch with reality but is Richard Leonard really suggesting that we should have a scheme in place that is not sustainable for the long term?

"It's because we value the bus pass scheme, because we want to see it continue to benefit people right across Scotland that we're having this consultation to make sure it is sustainable for the long term and people long into the future can continue the benefits of it.

"And that really is the difference between the SNP and Labour. We fight for Scotland, Scottish Labour just fights amongst themselves.

Anas Sarwar and Kezia Dugdale
Scottish Labour party leadership candidate Anas Sarwar (left) and former leader Kezia Dugdale arrive ahead of First Minister's Questions (Jane Barlow/PA)

"I mean yesterday, it was incredible yesterday wasn't it, we had Richard Leonard accused by Jackie Baillie of betraying every value that Labour holds dear. And then we had Richard Leonard saying this was just the latest Jackie Baillie..."

After being interrupted by Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh, she continued: "I can't actually say it presiding officer. Let's just say it's a description that covers much of what Jackie Baillie says in this chamber."

Ms Sturgeon, who was interrupted again by Mr Macintosh, added: "The serious issue is this, this government continues to take the decisions that are in the interest of the people of Scotland and by contrast Scottish Labour's behaviour is selfish and self indulgent and it proves they are not fit to be in opposition, let alone a government."

Richard Leonard
Scottish Labour leadership candidate Richard Leonard (Jane Barlow/PA)

Earlier Mr Rowley was met with laughter as he stood up to ask questions of the First Minister, and a shout of "the microphone is on" from the SNP benches.

Speaking to journalists after First Minister's Questions, Mr Rowley said he intended to stay on as interim leader.

He said: "I'm clearly disappointed and gutted that what I thought was a private conversation was tape recorded.

"I believed that to be a private conversation and the point is that I now need to move and get on with what I'm doing.

"We have a party that wants to unite and a membership that wants us to get on with the job in hand and that's what we all need to do. We need to pull together, have this election and move forward."