With the awful polling data produced by Lord Ashcroft ringing in the ears of Scottish Labour, Kezia Dugdale returned once more to FMQs for her weekly bout with Nicola Sturgeon.
Dugdale has built an effective formula for FMQs, which involved short sharp initial questions, which are then widened out to make a broader indictment of Scottish Government policy. Previous weeks these questions have been around the NHS, and with some concerning A&E figures published this week, there was an expectation that Labour would go on that theme.
But it was not to be. Instead the deputy leader of Labour attacked the Scottish Government over its record of supporting women. The case she put to the Scottish Government was approximately 85,000 fewer women going to college since 2007, only 68 women undertook an engineering apprenticeship over the last year, and just over a quarter of a million women earning less than the living wage.
Was this, Dugdale asked, a record to be proud of after eight years of Government. Gender equality has been a key platform of the first hundred days of Sturgeon’s leadership, and she was prepared to offer a robust defence. She argued that Scottish Labour had resisted all attempts to devolve legislation in this area, claiming that it was another example of them joining forces with the Conservatives.
She went on to argue that there were 14,000 more successful completion of courses compared to the last year of the Labour government. Inevitably perhaps, the First Minister couldn’t help but reference the recent polling, describing Labour as being in a “very, very desperate position.”
It was a strong topic for Labour to lead on, and Dugdale did well. However as the polling is demonstrating, decent performances at FMQs are not translating to votes, something that the First Minister is well aware of. The First Minister for her part went back to the tried and tested method of record comparison and attacking the Labour party. Her benches enjoyed it immensely.
It was up to Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie to talk about the A&E figures, with the former offering to discuss her policy proposal that people who were drunk at the weekends, but did not require urgent medical attention should be moved elsewhere to free up space. The First Minister agreed to discuss proposals but importantly also seemed to rule out allowing the consumption of alcohol at football matches to be reinstated.