DOUGLAS Ross failed to mention indyref2 during his grilling of the First Minister in parliament today.

In what appeared to be a deliberate attempt to prevent the SNP leader from speaking about independence, the Scottish Tory leader used all of his four questions to ask about Nicola Sturgeon’s record on policing.

It comes after the major announcement from the Scottish Government it intends to take on Westminster in the Supreme Court to win the right to hold a second poll on Scotland’s future.

Ross pledged earlier this week his party would not “take part in a pretend poll when there's real work to be done”.

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At no point did Ross mention independence, even to attack Sturgeon, in the last session of First Minister’s Questions before the lengthy summer recess.

Asked if the move was a deliberate strategy to knock independence off the news agenda, a Scottish Tory spokesman told The National: “Would we like Nicola Sturgeon to stop talking about independence? Absolutely.

“Yeah, we would like her to stop going on about another referendum.”

Ross accused policing of not being a “priority” for the Scottish Government, after Police Scotland officers withdrew "goodwill” in protest over pay cuts.

Police officers are not able to go on strike so the industrial action is limited to officers refusing to start their shifts early or take radio equipment home.

It is the most disruptive action ever taken by police in Scotland. 

“Police officers don’t believe that policing is a priority for you or your government,” Ross added.

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Sturgeon defended police pay, pointing out that officers in Scotland are better paid than those in England and Wales.

Ross briefly alluded to independence vaguely towards the end of the exchange, saying: “The Government has taken its eye off the ball here.

“Resources are being used elsewhere.”

He said rising levels of reports of sex crimes and violent offences were the result of a “distracted” government, without specifying the debate around independence.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar took a similar approach, sternly interrogating the First Minister on the numbers of Scots waiting on diagnostic tests for conditions including cancer.

He blasted the Scottish Government over figures published earlier this week which showed a record level of people were waiting too long for treatment.

In the first three months of this year, only 76.9% of patients received their first treatment within 62 days of a referral for an urgent suspicion of cancer – which is the Government’s gold standard for treating cancer patients quickly. This was down from 79.1% in the previous quarter.

Towards the end of the exchange, Sarwar slammed the SNP’s focus, which he said was taking its attention off improving health services.

He said: “We’ve gone back to the decisive Nicola Sturgeon, who is now spending seven days a week, sometimes what feels like 24 hours a day focusing on what she cares about; breaking up our country and dividing our people, not rebuilding it.”