NICOLA Sturgeon has accused Jackson Carlaw of “grubby political opportunism” for his attacks on the Scottish Government’s coronavirus plans for schools.

The First Minister clashed with the Scottish Tory leader after she announced a new wave of lockdown changes at Holyrood.

Education Secretary John Swinney yesterday announced the Government was now aiming for a full-time return of schools in August, provided it was safe to do so.

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The Government’s initial plan for blended learning, a mix of face-to-face teaching and home schooling, was no longer the central assumption, but remained a back-up option.

Mr Swinney, who recently said it could take a year for schools to return to normal, was accused of a "screeching U-turn" in the face of parental outrage at children being offered as little as one day a week in class.

Citing the schools muddle, Mr Carlaw said the Government should get its message for reopening the economy clearer and give businesses adequate time to prepare.

He told FMQs: “We need crystal clear advice from government. We can’t have a repeat of the situation last week when pubs made preparations to open up outdoors only to be told it was all off.” 

Ms Sturgeon said she had just given clear advice in her opening remarks, and the government was putting safety at the heart of everything it did.

She then went on: “Jackson Carlaw mentions schools. I think the debate on schools ums up the real problem at the heart of the approach Jackson Carlaw is taking.

“When it looked like full-time education would not be safe for children, we developed a contingency, but now that our progress against the virus makes it possible.

“It turns out that’s exactly what Jackson Carlaw asked us to do. Five days after we published the blended learning plan, the Conservatives published a paper in Scotland called Coronavirus and Scotland’s schools on May 26.

“It didn’t demand the return of full-time education, far from it. It called upon us, and I quote, to commit to flexibility on what happens in August.

"It asked us to report monthly from August 11 on the continued need for blended learning, and then it said, and I’m quoting again, only if evidence emerges that it would be safe to move faster to a full reopening should we do so.

“So what the Tories are criticising us for now, it turns out, is exactly what they called on us to do. I think that sums up Jackson Carlaw’s approach.

“It’s not leadership. It’s not putting the safety of kids and country first. 

“It is, quite frankly, grubby political opportunism and no serious person should be indulging in that at a time of national crisis.”

Mr Carlaw replied: “It’s a bit disappointing that the First Minister relies on pre-scripted abuse from her advisers at First Minister’s Questions.

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“I think it’s pretty clear what I asked the First Minister last week. Indeed, it’s pretty clear what other leaders in the parliament asked the First Minister last week.

“And it’s pretty clear last week she said I could do whatever made me happy, she wasn’t changing her plan. That was what she said. Six days later, a complete U-turn and I think that’s there for everyone to see.”

Mr Carlaw was referring to even more sulphurous exchanges at last week’s FMQs in which Ms Sturgeon accused him of being “incapable of rising to the challenge of a national crisis”.

She also said: “If Jackson Carlaw wants to continue just to snipe from the sidelines, then I will leave him to do that because I have hard work to do and I am going to get on with the hard graft of getting this country through coronavirus, doing that safely, and building the sustainable recovery that we all want.

“I’ll focus on that job and I’ll leave Jackson Carlaw to indulge in whatever makes him happy.”