Nicola Sturgeon is “showboating” on independence to distract from a growing list of problems in Scotland’s public services, Jackson Carlaw has claimed.

At the last First Minister’s Questions before Christmas, the Scottish Tory leader told her she could “run but not hide” from a series of missed NHS targets.

He also said the Scottish Government was “obviously lacking” in leadership.

In a rowdy session, education secretary John Swinney was rebuked for “barracking” the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie.

Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh named Mr Swinney after SNP MSPs tried to drown out Mr Rennie as he listed a panoply of failures on the SNP’s watch.

Referring to Ms Sturgeon’s demand for referendum powers, Mr Carlaw said there was “no prize for guessing” her top priority.

He said failure to meet the 12-week treatment time guarantee, the 18-week mental health target and the 62-day target for cancer treatment were the First Minister’s record in 2019.

He said: “When the First Minister was showboating before the cameras again this morning, did she not think... that the thousands of patients who have been let down by her Government should have been due her apology?”

He added: “First Minister, you can run from your record of missed targets but you can’t hide from it.

“As we enter 2020, we’ve seen PISA figures show science and maths performance at record lows, violent crime going up for the fourth year in a row, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde suing the construction firm which built out largest hospital, commissioned by Nicola Sturgeon, and embarrassing failures in public transport on sea and rail.

“Some might even say that it is unarguable that every public service in the care of this SNP Government ends 2019 in a worst state that when the year began.

“Surely in 2020, fixing this should be the priority of any Government worthy of the name?”

The FM hit back: “I don’t run from the record of my Government. I put that record before the Scottish people in an election last week and let me remind Jackson Carlaw what happened - the SNP won that election comprehensively and the Tories lost it just as comprehensively.

“All these tired lines were rejected by the electorate just last week, which is why in 2020 I’ll get on with the job of improving our public services, of making sure that Scotland’s public services continue to perform better than they do under the Tories in England and under Labour in Wales.

“By contrast, I’m going to predict the Tories are going to spend at least part of 2020 electing a new leader.”

Mr Rennie said: “Every hour that she takes off to hold another press conference at Bute House is another hour wasted in trying to sort out those issues for the people of Scotland.”

Ms Sturgeon replied: “Not for the first time, Willie Rennie appears to have borrowed Jackson Carlaw’s question. Maybe they should just merge and be done with it.”