NICOLA Sturgeon has appealed to voters to put their trust in experience as political parties set out their stalls for May’s Holyrood election.

The First Minister has suggested that her opponents “are not interested in governing or leading”, warning that “now more than ever is a time for experienced leadership and government "as she puts forward the SNP’s message.

The start of the election campaign dominated the last First Minister’s Questions before voters go to the polls in six weeks’ time – as MSPs rehearsed their attack lines and Ruth Davidson went head to head with Ms Sturgeon for a final time.

In setting out her party’s appeal to voters, Ms Sturgeon has indicated the SNP will draw up plans to “protect the NHS”, set up a national care service and protect jobs.

Ms Sturgeon has insisted the recovery "should be in Scotland’s hands – not Boris Johnson’s”.

HeraldScotland: First Minister Nicola SturgeonFirst Minister Nicola Sturgeon

She said: “That means the people of Scotland have the right to decide their future in an independence referendum when the Covid crisis is over.

“If Westminster maintains control the real risk is they will wreck Scotland’s recovery with their austerity agenda, job-destroying hard Brexit and growing threat to our NHS.

“With independence we’ll have a recovery made in Scotland and we’ll have the powers needed to build a fairer and more prosperous country.”

Douglas Ross will also put trust at the heart of the Scottish Tory campaign launch in Aberdeen today, saying the SNP would "abuse their power" if they won a majority.

Appealing for tactical Unionist votes, the Tory leader will say the Alex Salmond scandal has high highlighted the danger posed by the SNP having “unchecked power”.

He will say the most damaging implication of an SNP majority would be the economic recovery from the pandemic being derailed by the pursuit of independence.

HeraldScotland: Scottish Conservative leader Douglas RossScottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross

He will say: “The SNP have shut down scrutiny, kept crucial evidence secret and shunned any and all accountability throughout the Alex Salmond scandal.

“Nobody has resigned. Nobody has been sacked. Nobody has been held accountable.

“With an SNP majority, the situation doesn’t bear thinking about.

“We have only seen the beginnings of what the SNP would do with unchecked power. The problem runs far deeper and wider than the Alex Salmond affair.

“We need pro-UK voters to unite once again behind the Scottish Conservatives, just as they did in 2016, to stop an SNP majority so we can get 100 per cent of our focus back on rebuilding Scotland."

“With your party vote in May, we will stop them abusing their power and halt their push for another divisive referendum.”

Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, will bid for the Holyrood campaign to “focus on solutions that will deliver a fairer recovery” - insisting he will place importance on”what unites us, not what divides us”.

The Electoral Commission is considering two official slogans to be used by Labour during the campaign - “unite and rebuild Scotland” and “Get Scotland Back Better”.

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Mr Sarwar added: “Working to deliver a national recovery plan will be Scottish Labour’s only priority.

“We can’t rely on Boris Johnson’s Tories to deliver a recovery that works for everyone because they are happy to return to the failed economic model pre-Covid.

“And we can’t rely on the SNP to prioritise recovery because it has already made clear it will prioritise a referendum.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie today focus on education, visiting the Edinburgh Northern and Leith seat with candidate Rebecca Bell.

He said: “Scottish Liberal Democrats will go into this campaign putting the recovery from the pandemic first.

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"In the first week my focus will be on setting out our plans to boost Scottish education, putting forward proposals for every stage and every age: to get a good start in life; to excel at school; and to help people retrain if they need to.

"Over the past five years, the country has been let down by a tired, divided and incompetent SNP Government obsessed with independence and a clumsy and cruel Conservative party. Scotland deserves better than that."

The Scottish Greens will call for the Scottish child payment to be doubled as part of more ambitious efforts to tackle poverty.

The party’s manifesto will vow to at least double the benefit, accelerate its roll-out and to increase Best Start Grants and the school clothing allowance by £100.

Co-leader Patrick Harvie said: “Doubling the Scottish Child Payment would just be the first step to tackle rising child poverty in Scotland, and the pandemic has made that need even more urgent.

“This would be just the first step of creating a new Scotland that protects human rights and doesn’t allow anyone to fall into dire straits.

Fairness is a crucial part of a green recovery, which is why we’re asking people to vote like our future depends on it.”