Alex Salmond and Douglas Ross clashed furiously at a Commons committee hearing this morning as the former First Minister returned to speak in the Commons for the first time since losing his seat in 2017.

Committee chair long serving SNP MP Pete Wishart was forced to intervene several times to restore order as heated arguments broke out between the two politicians.

The former First Minister was appearing before MPs who are holding an inquiry into working relations between the Scottish and UK Government since devolution.

During questions, Mr Ross pressed Mr Salmond on the record of the SNP governments under his leadership pressing him on the delivery of two ferries, on pupils' education performance and on drugs deaths.

The rows broke out after Mr Ross incorrectly accused Mr Salmond of being in charge of the Scottish Government when contracts were given to Ferguson's shipyard to build two ferries in October 2015 and also said falsely that it was Mr Salmond who nationalised the Port Glasgow shipyard. 

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Mr Salmond left office as First Minister in November 2014 and the shipyard was nationalised in December 2019.

"Check the record Douglas the contracts for the ferries were agreed sometime after I left office," said Mr Salmond.

The Herald:

Mr Ross then said: "You were involved in the nationalisation of that yard."

Mr Salmond replied suggesting Mr Ross was tired because of his dual role as a MP and a MSP. 

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The former SNP leader who now leads the Alba party said: "No, I was involved in saving the yard and a private business took over and the nationalisation of the yard was four years later.

"I mean, you know, it's people like me who are looking back over the last 20 years who can get their dates mixed up. You're meant to be on the spot and on the ball. Two parliaments have been quite exhausting going back and forth."

The Herald:

Mr Ross retorted: "Well fortunately you don't have that problem any more since you're not sitting in either."

But Mr Salmond refused to back down and urged Mr Ross to "acknowledge" that his memory had failed him over the timeline on the ferry contracts.

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Mr Ross responded: "On the point then if you don't want to focus on ferries, on education and drug deaths."

Mr Salmond intervened: "I want you to acknowledge that your assumption that my involvement in the ferries' contract was incorrect. It is manifestly incorrect. I won't ask you to apologise as you are not a minister, I'm sure you are not deliberately misleading the committee. I just want you to acknowledge that your memory had failed you."

After he was pressed again by Mr Salmond, Mr Ross replied: "I am happy to do that."

On drug deaths, Mr Salmond acknowledged the "appalling" problem.

"I think it is appalling. The area of drug misuse is a huge social issue. I welcome the fact that there is a change in approach and engagement with it.

"At that time when I was in office deaths from alcohol abuse were greater than the deaths from drug abuse...and we were extremely focused on that as a major social issue.

"Drug policy...there are a whole range of things we haven't got to grips with which are not superficial things, they are profound things. But there is no administration over that period [during the 25 years of devolution] that can claim credit for solving the extreme difficulty that Scotland has with drug abuse."

Mr Salmond then went on to defend his government's record on education after Mr Ross said Scotland had fallen down rankings drawn up by the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) in school pupils' peformances in maths, reading and science.

The former First Minister said that international reputation on education would also take into account university and college rankings which "rose considerably".

Mr Salmond added: "The amount of opportunity that youngsters in Scotland had to take part in that had a significant advance because of the abolition of any form of tuition fees."

Earlier in the committee hearing Mr Salmond set out some of his experiences of working with former Prime Ministers Tony Blair, Gordon Brown and David Cameron while he was First Minister from 2007 to 2014.

He told members of the Scottish Affairs Committee the best working relationship was with Mr Cameron's government during the lead up to the independence referendum in September 2014 echoing his views given to the Herald on Sunday in an interview published last weekend.