JOHN Swinney tore into Keir Starmer’s six pledges speech at First Minister's Questions today.

It came after a question in the Holyrood chamber from Anas Sarwar, who criticised the Scottish Government for growing NHS waiting lists and took aim at the First Minister’s record in government.

“[Then] deputy first minister John Swinney cut hundreds of millions of pounds from health and social care budgets,” the Scottish Labour leader said.

The National: Anas Sarwar conferring with his deputy Jackie Baillie at FMQs

“Don't evade responsibility. Stand up. Apologise for the decisions you made.”

He added: “How can the man that made the mess now be the one to fix it?”

Swinney responded that it was “a bit rich” for Anas Sarwar to criticise given he “supports a party that wishes to relieve bankers of the obligation to pay into our tax system by lifting the cap on banker’s bonuses”.

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“That is just a ludicrous position,” he added.

He then tore into Keir Starmer, who unveiled a pledge card this morning with six “first steps” Labour would take if it were to win power at the next General Election as he spoke at a campaign event in Essex.

The steps include measures to invest in the NHS, education and policing, to set up a new national energy company and an elite border force, and to promote economic stability.

But critics have suggested the pledges were a scaled-back version of his party’s ambitions for government set out previously in five missions for “national renewal”.

“Now I've listened this morning to the contribution from Keir Starmer in his setting out of Labour's policy position,” the SNP leader (below) said.

The National:

“I did not hear Keir Starmer setting out an uplift in public expenditure as a consequence of 14 years of austerity.”

He added: “Anas Sarwar has accepted my point that austerity has been a curse in our society.

“But despite that austerity, resource funding for the National Health Service has more than doubled since this government came to office in 2007. We've taken tough decisions to increase tax to invest more in the National Health Service.

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“We have made the health service the best supported financially of all the public services in Scotland, and we are absolutely committed to delivering for the NHS. But what Anas Sarwar cannot do is come here and deny that we have been operating in a significantly constrained public expenditure context, and we have delivered the best settlement we can.”

Swinney also spoke of his “deep concern” over the availability of emergency care on Skye after a woman feared she could die.

Eilidh Beaton’s airway closed when she suffered an allergic reaction at a pub in Portree on the island after leaving the Skye Live Festival and she told the Press and Journal she feared she would “not be here tomorrow”.

All three available ambulances were already on other calls and Portree Community Hospital – reportedly just a few hundred yards from where Beaton was – was closed.

In 2018, a review by Dr Sir Lewis Ritchie recommended the out-of-hours service at the facility should be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross raised Beaton’s case during FMQs, asking Swinney if he accepted “this should never be allowed to happen”.

“I agree with Mr Ross, this should never have happened,” the First Minister said.

Swinney added his apologies to Beaton and condolences to the family and friends of Heather Aird, who died at the festival after police said she became “unwell”.

He continued: “As Mr Ross will be aware, Portree Hospital is not operating currently as a 24/7 emergency facility.

“Sir Lewis Ritchie recommended some years ago that it should be and it is a matter of deep concern to the Government that that has not happened.

“The Health Secretary spoke to the leadership of NHS Highland yesterday to make it clear that we want that to happen at the earliest possible opportunity.”