DOUGLAS Ross made Nicola Sturgeon’s final day at Holyrood one of her stormiest, accusing her party of lying and earning a reprimand from the Presiding Officer.

The Scottish Tory leader clashed with the First Minister in her 286th session of FMQs, infuriating SNP MSPs by refusing to soften his rhetoric for Ms Sturgeon’s farewell.

He accused her “treating the public like idiots” by pleading ignorance of the SNP’s 30,000 drop in membership numbers to 72,000 since 2021.

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Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone was repeatedly forced to intervene and insist on order.

The SNP’s attempt to discredit the newspaper report revealing the membership fall led to Holyrood media chief Murray Foote and SNP chief executive Peter Murrell, Ms Sturgeon’s husband, both resigning.

SNP HQ had claimed the story was “malicious and wholly inaccurate” and “flat wrong”.

It was later shown to be accurate when the party had to reveal its membership numbers because the candidates to replace Ms Sturgeon complained about them being secret.

Ms Ross asked: “Why did Nicola Sturgeon’s party, the party of Government in this Parliament, lie to the press and the public?”

Ms Sturgeon said she had “nothing to add” to what she had already said on the matter, other to say the SNP had more members than the other Holyrood party’s combined. 

If Mr Ross wanted a meaningful debate on membership numbers, he should reveal how many members his own party had, she said.

Mr Ross replied: “This is an important issue here, in the Scottish Parliament, for the Scottish Government, because it lied. It lied to the press and it lied to the public. 

“That is absolutely clear and Nicola Sturgeon is treating the Scottish public like idiots with that embarrassing defence.”

As SNP MSPs barracked him and demanded to know how many members the Scottish Tories had, Ms Johnstone reminded Mr Ross about using “particular language”.

Mr Ross said: “But I think everyone has accepted that the SNP lied over those figures”, prompting yet more uproar.

Ms Johnstone told him: “We do not use the word ‘lie’ in this chamber.”

As Ms Sturgeon criticised Mr Ross for not asking about more substantive policy issues, he shouted: “It’s about honesty and integrity.”

Referring to Boris Johnson’s appearance before the Westminster committee investigating whether he lied over the Partygate affair, Ms Sturgeon said: “I don’t think the Conservatives, given yesterday’s events in the House of Commons, should be lecturing anyone on honesty and integrity.”

Mr Ross said the “house that Sturgeon, Salmond and Murrell built is collapsing”.

He said the “damning” report published today by a Holyrood committee into the Ferguson Marine ferries scandal had shown Ms Sturgeon prioritised “vanity over vessels”.

The Tory leader said: “She divided our country and failed on every measure she set herself.”

Ms Sturgeon said: “Eight election victories in eight years as First Minister, that’s the verdict that matters to me.”

Listing her Government’s achievements, she said: “I could go on and on and on. But I’m not going to because this is my last session of First Minister’s Questions.”

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar lowered the temperature with a calmer tone, but was also pointed in his questioning, asking Ms Sturgeon which of her Government’s “many failures” she thought her successor needed to address first.

He also demanded a Holyrood election, something which could in theory be brought about by SNP and Labour MSPs voting together to dissolve the current parliament.

He said: “Nicola Sturgeon has spent most of her political career talking about mandates.

“Her successor inherits this woeful SNP record, but they don’t inherit her mandate.”

The Holyrood poll in 2021, Mr Sarwar said, “was a pandemic election” in which the First Minister pledged to shepherd the country out of Covid-19.

He went on: “Now Scotland faces two crises - an NHS recovery that never began, and a cost-of-living crisis. Families facing spiralling bills and soaring energy prices.But as her potential successors squabble over their own record in Government, they can’t escape facts – they don’t have a plan for Scotland, and they don’t have a mandate from the public.

“That is why we need an election now.”

Quoting back comments the First Minister made during the Tory leadership turmoil at Westminster, Mr Sarwar said: “There are no words to describe this utter shambles adequately, it’s beyond hyperbole and parody.

“Reality though, is that ordinary people are paying the price, the interests of the party should concern no-one right now – an election is now a democratic imperative.”

Responding, Ms Sturgeon said: “That was about the Tories at Westminster, and one of the differences between me and Anas Sarwar is I don’t support Tory government of Scotland, because Scotland does not vote for Conservatives.

“I fought three general elections as SNP leader and the SNP has won all of them, and at every one we’ve heard the same messages from Labour – and at every single one the people of Scotland have cast their verdict.”

Ms Sturgeon said she was proud of the record of her Government in the past eight years, pointing particularly to its economic standing.

She added: “We have a good foundation in this country, we face many challenges, but I have every confidence that my successor who will be standing here next week will continue to lead this country forward, will continue to take the decisions that are in the interest of this country, and that they will lead this country to becoming an independent nation.”