NICOLA Sturgeon has branded the Tories “hypocrites” over their attacks on the Scottish Government's handling of teacher strikes while similar action in England “looms”.

During First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, Stephen Kerr criticised the Scottish Government for presiding over the first teacher strikes in Scotland for some 40 years.

The Tory MSP accused Education Secretary Shirley Anne-Somerville of showing "no energy or urgency" to resolve the dispute over pay and conditions which has seen teachers opt to strike in every single council area in Scotland.

Kerr said: “Last week, the First Minister was talking about how Humza Yousaf said something about how there hadn't been any strikes because she thinks he's so brilliant.

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“And then contrast in education we have Shirley-Anne Somerville and the first teacher strike in 40 years. Chaos for hundreds of thousands of parents and carers and pupils.

“The Cabinet Secretary shows no energy, no urgency to get involved and to resolve the teachers' strike.”

Kerr said that was not just his view, but the view of the teaching Unions.

He continued: “The first minister used to say that education was our top priority. Will she step in and end the strike?”

Sturgeon replied: “As teacher strikes loom in England the hypocrisy of the Tories is absolutely staggering.”

The response prompted jeers from the Tory benches while SNP MSPs were seen clapping in the chamber.

Sturgeon continued: “Shirley-Anne Somerville will continue to do everything possible to reach an agreement with Cosla and our teaching unions to deliver fair pay increases for teachers.

“Over the past few years, teachers have already had a 21% pay increase demonstrating the value we attach to what they do.”

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Sturgeon said teachers in Scotland enjoyed the highest pay compared to any UK nation and added that the Scottish Government will continue to negotiate a “fair” pay deal.

“The hypocrisy really is staggering because Stephen Kerr talks about the efforts Shirley-Anne Somerville is making and she's making a strenuous effort while the Tory education secretary in England, just in the last few days, said this: ‘That we didn't negotiate pay with teaching unions because that is not what we are here to do.’

“So in Scotland, the demand that the Education Secretary resolves it in England.

“Of course, the Tories simply wash their hands and dig their heels in because they don't value public sector workers. They want to take away the right to strike off public sector workers. This government does value all of our public sector workers.”

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross also focussed his questions on teaching and reports that Glasgow City Council is considering cutting 800 teaching positions. 

Ross said he was "deeply worried" by the news and said it would equate to reducing school staff in the council area by 15%. 

The National: Kerr raised the issue of teachers strikes in ScotlandKerr raised the issue of teachers strikes in Scotland

He said: "Will the First Minister tell us, if she's listening to questions, as a result of her budget choices and mistakes, how many teachers are going to lose their jobs in Scotland?"

The First Minister replied that Douglas Ross "favours riding roughshod over the decisions and powers of democratically elected institutions", in reference to the UK Government's gender bill block.

Later in the session, Ross claimed there were fewer teachers in Scotland since the SNP came into power and said the FM had failed in her promise to close the attainment gap.

The FM responded by noting that the Scottish Government are trying to tackle to poverty-related attainment gap, pointing to the Scottish Child Payment as a way the SNP is trying to tackle it.

"That task, of tackling child poverty, and helping reduce and substantially eliminate the poverty-related attainment gap wouldn't be as difficult as it is if we didn't have a Tory government pushing more people into poverty every single week," she added. 

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar focussed his questioning on the issues in the NHS and social care sectors, and called for social care staff to be given a better pay rise than the £10.90 rate due to come in in April. 

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He said the pay increase would be the equivalent of 40p in the midst of a cost of living crisis, adding it "doesn't feel like much of a reward". The MSP said the rate should be brought up to £12 an hour and then £15.

"There is no solution to the NHS crisis without a solution to the care sector crisis," he said. 

The First Minister said that the £10.90 rate is the same as in Labour-run Wales. 

She added: "I want us to go further, and we intend to go further, but we have to be able to fund that.

"To increase pay to £15ph would cost up to an addition £1.75bn.

"Labour hasn't set out how we would fund that or what we would cut as a consequence."

The Scottish Parliament had to be suspended two times on Thursday after energy campaigners and an anti-gender reform protester started shouting from the public gallery.

The live feed was cut for a few minutes just after FMQs had finished.

One protester, who shouted during a point of order, accused Nicola Sturgeon of not "consulting women" and claimed she does not allow women to speak.

The protestor shouted that "most women in Scotland are opposed to rapists and paedophiles".

The woman was removed from the chamber and could be heard accusing security of "manhandling" her.