NICOLA Sturgeon has rejected accusations of Donald Trump-like “arrogance and cowardice” for not inviting print media to the SNP’s local government campaign launch. 

The First Minister was at the People’s Pantry in Govanhill in her Glasgow Southside constituency this morning to urge voters to "send a message to Boris Johnson" at next month’s election.

However, the party only invited the BBC and Bauer, saying space was limited as they were launching the campaign “with a cost of living visit rather than a typical launch event”. 

Opposition parties accused the First Minister of hiding from scrutiny with a "media blackout".

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton described the decision as a " remarkable display of both arrogance and cowardice from the First Minister." 

“It feels more like the scrutiny dodging antics of Donald Trump than the actions of a leader at ease with her government’s record,” he added.

READ MORE: Sturgeon accused of dodging scrutiny as SNP exclude media from election launch

Despite not being invited, reporters from The Herald and The Scottish Sun attended the party’s launch and were given some time to ask the First Minister questions. 

When Mr Cole-Hamilton’s accusation was put to Ms Sturgeon, she said it didn’t stand up to scrutiny. 

“I don't think any of that is true. Because of the tightness of the space in there, we didn't invite people in there because there's limited space, but this is a public pathway, you are here. So clearly, I'm not avoiding the press.

“I think probably if you go back over the last couple of years, in particular, I'll have answered more questions from the press than any other politician in the entirety of the UK, which is right because that's my job. 

“So this is not our manifesto launch as I saw a lot of journalists allege this morning that it was, our manifesto launches next week when you will be welcome to attend. I'll be doing the Glasgow manifesto launch tomorrow, which I think press are welcome to attend. So it just doesn't be any real scrutiny.”

When it was put to here that we weren’t invited and had to track down the location of the event, the First Minister said: “You've clearly got lots of initiative. You see this tightness of space in there. That's why it wasn't an open invitation to everybody because it wouldn't have been possible. 

“I did an event this time last week in Queen Street Station, lots of space, where the print media were given an open invitation to come, very few turned up. There is plenty of access to me and I think people standing here, I think I must have spoken to you probably more over the last couple of years, albeit on Zoom, than I've spoken to some members of my own family.” 

When it was put to her that she didn’t want reporters to be there or ask questions and that the party had chosen a small venue to launch their campaign, the First Minister replied: “If you think this is an inappropriate place for me to come and launch a council campaign, given the cost of living crisis, a food pantry helping people who can't afford to feed their kids, well I'm sorry, I just disagree with you on that. 

“And it is a small space. We offered a pool facility because of the smallness of the space. So it wasn't that we weren't prepared to take questions. The broadcast media have just given me a tough line of questioning, they did it on a pool basis because of the smallness of the space. So that is not a completely unheard of thing. 

“It wasn't that there wasn't any opportunity to ask questions, it was being done on a basis to take account of the tightness of the space. I'm standing here, I'm happy to answer any questions you want to ask me. And it just seems to me a bit odd that you asked me questions about not answering your questions and I'm standing here saying ask me questions.”

The First Minister said the party wasn’t taking the election for granted: “The last few years for everybody have been really difficult and I think SNP councils have shown strong leadership. That's not to say there are not issues that councils are facing and grappling with. I'm an MSP here in the Southside of Glasgow, I know what those issues are. But I think the SNP is the right party to continue to lead Glasgow and that's the case I'll be making over the next few weeks.”

Ms Sturgeon also defended her party’s call to use the council elections to send a message to Boris Johnson’s government in London, despite the SNP being the largest party in Scottish local government. 

“I think this election is a council election. It's about local services, local leadership, I think it is about the cost of living crisis. We're living through times right now that are more serious in terms of people's ability to feed their kids and heat their homes most of us have ever experienced.

“The Scottish Government working with councils will continue to do all we can. In Scotland unlike other parts of the UK, people don't pay prescription charges they don't pay for eye tests, and they don't pay for university education other than through taxation.

"We have lower on average council tax bills, water bills, rail fears, we've just doubled the Scottish child payment, we're mitigating the bedroom tax, supporting the Scottish welfare fund. 

“So we're doing everything we can and we'll continue to do that within the powers and resources we have. But most of those powers are held at UK government level and most of the resources are controlled at UK government level and Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak are out of touch with this and are not doing nearly enough and therefore there is an opportunity for people to send that message loudly and clearly.” 

She added: “I've just been in there at a food pantry that is catering for people who literally can't feed their children. Boris Johnson holds most of the levers here to help and therefore I think every election is an opportunity to send a message to people in power.

"People will choose to do that for those who hold power at local level, they'll choose to do that if they want to the Scottish Government, but they've got the opportunity as well to do that to Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak who are not doing anything to help people right now, with the worst cost of living crisis that we've ever faced.”

The streets outside the campaign launch were strewn with litter, with a fly-tipped fridge on the pavement opposite.

HeraldScotland:

When asked about the state of the city after five years of an SNP administration, Ms Sturgeon said: “I represent this area I know these issues are important. But I also know that you will see cleansing workers doing a fantastic job cleaning up this rubbish on a regular basis. 

“So councils everywhere are dealing with difficult situations. If you take the situation in Scotland, our budget at Scottish Government level in this financial year has been reduced by 5 per cent in real terms. The decisions we've made has resulted in around a 6 per cent real terms increase in the total local government funding settlement. So we're prioritising local services and we'll continue to work with councils to do that.”

Ms Sturgeon also accused Labour leader Anas Sarwar of sexism, after he described Glasgow City Council leader Susan Aitken as a “Nicola Sturgeon puppet” at his party’s manifesto launch. 

The comment was, she said, "a bit sexist."

"She's nobody's puppet. I've known Susan Aitken for a long, long time. I just think that's childish,” Ms Sturgeon added.

Responding to the SNP campaign launch, Scottish Labour Deputy Leader Jackie Baillie said the First Minister can’t "pretend she isn’t responsible for part of this cost of living crisis."

Ms Baillie added: “She talks about sending a message, but under her government fewer Scots can afford their messages than ever before. 

“The SNP have been in government for 15 years - they are putting up water bills and raising train fares.  

“They’ve failed to back a windfall tax on oil and gas companies making £44,000 in profit from rising energy bills a minute.  

“Nicola Sturgeon wants voters to send a message to the people responsible  for this crisis.  

“They should - by abandoning the SNP and Tories and voting Labour on the 5th of May.”