ANAS Sarwar has defended Liz Truss’s right to call Nicola Sturgeon an “attention seeker” who is best ignored.

The Scottish Labour leader said the First Minister was “a politician like the rest of us”, and so was open to criticism by other politicians and the media.

The Foreign Secretary’s comments about the First Minister, made in a Tory leadership hustings on Monday, were criticised as disrespectful across the polticial spectrum.

Deputy FM Jon Swinney called them “obnoxious” and emblematic of the way Westminster treated Scotland and devolution, while former Labour spindoctor Alastair Campbell said they were “mindblowingly stupid” and offensive, and could undermine the Union.

However Mr Sarwar refused to condemn the remarks when asked today if he considered them disrespectful to Ms Sturgeon or the office of First Minister.

Speaking to the media as he launched plans to beef up transparency at Holyrood, the Glasgow MSP said: “The first thing I would say is Nicola Sturgeon is not Scotland. 

“So all of this rhetoric around ‘This is about ignoring Scotland’ and all the rest of it, I think we should be guarded about that.

"Nicola Sturgeon is not Scotland. The SNP is not Scotland.

“Nicola Sturgeon is a politician like the rest of us, and if the rest of us can be criticised by other politicians and by the media, so can Nicola Sturgeon. 

“She can be criticised by other politicians and the media.

“But in saying that, I don’t want Nicola Sturgeon to be ignored. I want her to be held to account.

“I don't want Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak to be ignored. I want them held to account.

“I want them challenged, their failures exposed, and for us to have a different government, both across the UK and her in Scotland.””

Asked if he regarded Ms Sturgeon as an attention seeker who was best ignored, he said: “ I think there's lots of attention seeking happening in Scottish and UK politics

“And so I'm not going to criticise anyone for seeking attention because I seek my own attention as you can imagine, as well. So I'm not going to criticise people for that. 

“I don't want Nicola Sturgeon to be ignored. I want her to be held to account.

“The real issues that are being ignored are massively long NHS wait lists, a cost a living crisis, the institutions and infrastructure in our country run down by two bad governments. 

“I want those issues focused on rather than personality politics between Liz truss and Nicola Sturgeon having a fight with each other because it suits them for their own political agenda.

“Because they play off each other in a way that works for Tory supporters for Liz Truss, that works for SNP supporters, and the Scottish people lose out in the process. 

“I'm sick of that style of politics. I'm sick of that [throwing] red meat to the base approach. 

“I want us to make politics about changing people's lives not about these bunfights.”