LABOUR leader Richard Leonard was accused of entering “politically suicidal territory” after pressing Nicola Sturgeon on a host of issues the First Minister has already committed to.

Mr Leonard was left red faced during First Minister’s Questions after called for Ms Sturgeon to press the UK Government to extend the furlough scheme, which is due to expire in October and commit to a “quality jobs guarantee scheme” - both of which the First Minister has already done.

Ms Sturgeon asked “where Richard Leonard has been for the last few weeks”.

She said: “I’ve been asking the UK Government to continue the furlough job retention scheme almost every day for weeks. I’m glad that Richard Leonard has now decided to back that call.

“The Scottish Government has also set out plans for a youth jobs guarantee scheme and we will set out more detail of that in the coming days and weeks.”

Ms Sturgeon added: “Richard Leonard is still capable of still surprising in this chamber. I didn’t think it would be him that stood up to extoll the virtues of Scotland being governed by a Conservative Westminster government - I thought that might come from the other side of the chamber.

“Just use your imagination and imagine if Scotland is independent right now. He wouldn’t have to be asking me to plead with the UK Government to borrow more money to extend the job retention scheme – we could do it ourselves here in Scotland like other independent countries the world over.

READ MORE: Sturgeon pressed on overseas students testing ahead of 'biggest movement of people since lockdown'

“It’s probably that conclusion that has led to the situation we have right now where almost a half of Richard Leonard’s remaining Labour supporters, a dwindling band of people I grant you, but almost a half of them now support Scotland becoming an independent country.”

Mr Leonard then highlighting the GERS figures, published today, which the Labour leader said show “Scotland has a fiscal deficit of £15 billion and rising” - and asked the First Minister “where she is going to find the £100 billion it will take to set up the separate Scottish currency that she now says she wants”.

He said that “it is time for all political parties in this parliament to focus on and do what this parliament was set up to do” and that politicians “must set out how her government will use all of the powers of this parliament in next week’s Programme for Government”.

Mr Leonard then pointed to an example, calling for Ms Sturgeon to “commit today to us this parliament’s powers to ban evictions until the next parliament and will she ensure this time it is a ban, and not simply a delay”.

The Scottish Government has already committed to extending protection against evictions as part of emergency Covid-19 legislation.

READ MORE: FMQs as it happened: Nicola Sturgeon quizzed over care homes and overseas students

Ms Sturgeon said: “I’ve already stood here and said that we will extend the protection against evictions for an additional six months. “Richard Leonard really needs to keep up with announcements as they are made by this government. I’m afraid I don’t have the luxury of going at his pace on these things – we have to power ahead and get these things completed.

“Aping the Tories on using GERS, which is a reflection on Scotland’s fiscal position within the United Kingdom, not a reflection of how Scotland would fare as an independent country.

“Talking about deficits at a time when the UK deficit is projected next year to be almost £400 billion and at a time when the UK debt has just topped £2 trillion is not the strongest territory for the Tories to be on, but it seems like politically suicidal territory for Labour to be on.”