Nicola Sturgeon: what happened during her final First Minister's Questions session in Holyrood?

Nicola Sturgeon will step back as First Minister when a replacement leader is confirmed on 27 March

Nicola Sturgeon has defended her record in the Scottish Parliament during a fiery exchange with opposition leader during her final First Minister's Questions (FMQs) session in Holyrood.

The SNP leader is preparing to step down as First Minister of Scotland and leader of the SNP on 27 March. Humza Yousaf, Kate Forbes or Ash Regan are the candidates in the running to take over from Sturgeon. 

While the past few weeks of the leadership campaign have been concentrated on the performance of the three wannabe First Ministers and scandals surrounding membership numbers of the party, the attention was back on Sturgeon as she delivered her final address to the Holyrood chamber. She used her final appearance to defend her record over the past eight years. 

Her opponents took the opportunity to dig in one last time before she leaves office. Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross was among those to accuse her of failures over the past eight years on a range of topics including the NHS, drug deaths and ferries. 

What did Sturgeon’s opponents say during her final FMQs? 

Ross made a bold beginning to the session, which resulted in the presenting officer Alison Johnstone giving the Tory leader a verbal warning. He accused the SNP of having “lied” in the membership number scandal, to which Johnstone replied: "We do not use the word 'lie' in this chamber."

Nicola Sturgeon has taken part in her final FMQs (Credit: Getty Images)Nicola Sturgeon has taken part in her final FMQs (Credit: Getty Images)
Nicola Sturgeon has taken part in her final FMQs (Credit: Getty Images)

The SNP found itself in hot water after leadership candidates Forbes and Regan pushed for the party to release up-to-date membership numbers, which was eventually revealed to be around 72,000, down from at least 104,000 in December 2021. The party was then accused of giving false information to the media after it was revealed that it had previously denied losing 30,000 members. 

Ross also attacked Sturgeon’s record, claiming that education has been heavily affected with Scottish schools ranking lower in league tables and pointing out the attainment gap. Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar added that institutions across the board had been left weaker during the past eight years. 

Ross said that Sturgeon had "ignored Scotland's priorities in favour of her obsession with independence.” He added: “Isn't that the truth of her legacy?"

What did Nicola Sturgeon say during her final FMQs?

Sturgeon told the chamber that she was “very proud” of her party’s election record since she was made First Minister in 2014. She also told her fellow MSPs that she was proud of the SNP’s work on the Scottish Child Payment and income tax policy. 

She said: "I am proud of the record of government that I have led through some of the toughest times Scotland has faced in recent history. But ultimately the only people who will cast a verdict on the record of my or future government are the people of Scotland.

"In my time as first minister they have had eight opportunities to do that and on each of these eight opportunities they have voted for me, the SNP and my government. That is a record I'm very proud to stand on. Does my successor have a tough job? Of course, because we live in tough times but I've got confidence that whoever my successor turns out to be, they will continue to build on that record and they will continue to retain the trust of the Scottish people."