Sturgeon accuses Lamont of "smear and insinuation" over Ryder Cup trip


Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon accused the leader of the Scottish Labour Party of indulging in "smear and insinuation" over the first minister's visit to the Ryder Cup in 2012.

Ms Sturgeon was standing in for Alex Salmond, who Johann Lamont pointed out was in New York for Tartan Week, at first minister's questions on 3 April 2014.

"I hope he's left the taxpayers' credit card behind because he still hasn't accounted for his spending on his trip to the Ryder Cup in 2012", Ms Lamont said.

In January, Ms Lamont raised the issue of the first minister's expenses on a Scottish government delegation to the Ryder Cup golf tournament in Chicago.

She complained that the Scottish government failed to account for £54,000 of the total £470,000 cost of the wider trip, which included a delegation of officials, during the golf tournament.

The Scottish Labour leader had also lodged a freedom of information request on the expenses and asked Ms Sturgeon why it had not been answered after nearly three months.

The deputy first minister said: "I am quite flabbergasted that this is in the mind of Johann Lamont as the big issue of the day."

Mr Sturgeon said that all relevant information on the trip was in the public domain, as far as she knew, and that Mr Salmond's trip to the US for Tartan Week would lead to the creation of hundreds of new jobs across the country.

The deputy first minister also said that in 2005, the then Labour first minister Jack McConnell led a trip to New York for Tartan Week at a cost of over £1m, whereas the most recent figures for a similar SNP administration's Scotland Week delegation in 2013 had cost just £360,000.

She said the first minister was right to be promoting Scotland and the current government was providing "much more value for money than was perhaps the case with previous governments".

Ms Sturgeon then accused the Scottish Labour leader of choosing to "indulge in smear and insinuation, instead of discussing the real issues of the day, which is probably one of the reasons Labour is in the sorry state it is today".

Ms Lamont said: "It has been said that you can tell when the first minister is unadjacent to the truth, because Nicola Sturgeon's lips are moving".

"Johann Lamont's accusations and allegations are simply untrue." Ms Sturgeon replied.

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson asked how many Scottish jobs were held by businesses which had "broken cover" with concerns over independence.

Ms Davidson highlighted the chief executive of the Weir Group who had voiced concerns, saying independence would carry "substantial risks" to the economy.

Ms Sturgeon pointed out that the Weir Group had also been against devolution before the Scottish Parliament and had warned against its consequences, which had never materialised.

The deputy first minister said many of the concerns of the Weir Group were "predicated on the assumption of a separate currency" which "as we now know is not the real position of the UK government".

The Scottish Conservative leader accused Ms Sturgeon of misrepresenting the Weir Group and said "50,000 people are employed in Scotland by firms that, in the past few weeks alone, have warned of the risks of separating us from our biggest market".

"I did not misrepresent the Weir Group, I read out some positive comments that it had made and accepted the less-than-positive comments." Replied the deputy first minister.

Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, asked why the Scottish government opposed tax cuts to millions of Scots on lower or middle incomes, following the successive rises in the income tax threshold, saving £700 for over 2 million Scottish workers since 2010.

Ms Sturgeon said an independent Scotland would inherit the prevailing income tax rates and personal tax allowance of the UK, but it was the impact of the coalition's budget which cost the average Scottish household £750, with the second hardest hit group being the "poorest in our society".

First minister's questions had begun with the deputy first minister expressing sincere condolences to the family and friends of 12-year-old Keane Wallis-Bennett who died when a wall fell on her at Liberton High School in Edinburgh on Tuesday.

Opposition party leaders echoed the sentiments over what Ms Sturgeon said was a "tragedy that has horrified us all".

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