RICHARD Leonard accidentally made the case for independence in a blundering performance at First Minister’s Questions.

Scottish Labour's fledgling leader was cheered by Tory MSPs as he attacked Nicola Sturgeon over the state of economy, accusing her of offering nothing more than “rhetoric and oratory” while workers were being made unemployed.

The SNP leader was quick to point out that during the recent crisis at the BiFab plant in Fife and Lewis, while she was making sure the company was safe from administration, Leonard “was having a wee photoshoot outside.”

Sturgeon also pointed out to the Labour leader that the problems he was trying to pin on the Scottish Government were the responsibility of Westminster.

In a noisy session of First Minister’s Questions, Leonard went on the attack.

"Beyond all the rhetoric and oratory of the First Minister is the loss of real jobs in the real world, so if things are so good try telling that to the workers of the Airdrie Savings Bank or RBS or Kwik Fit Insurance.

“To the workers of Doosan Babcock, of Ethicon, and Tannoy, who have lost their jobs this year.

“Try telling it as well to the workers at Amazon who, it’s been reported today, are being forced to make unrealistic targets this Christmas to try to avoid redundancy in the New Year.

“First Minister, this is a company that you handed over millions of pounds of taxpayers money to, so you should be laying down the rules.

“Because what’s Scotland economy needs is real and radical change.

“It needs a government with an industrial strategy to stimulate growth, and it needs as well a government prepared to stand up to big business.

“Will the First Minister once and for all accept that she is presiding over an economy which is not serving the people of Scotland, and that the people of Scotland demand real, radical, and urgent change to her economic strategy.”

Sturgeon said it was “hard to know where to start” with the Labour chief’s ’s meandering question.

“It's good to see Richard Leonard enthusiastically enter in to the spirit of pantomime season in that question,” she joked.

“But let me just try and perhaps insert a few facts into the debate we're having: firstly the last Labour administration gave Amazon more money than this administration has done, fact one.

“Fact two: Richard Leonard has talked about RBS and Airdrie Savings Banks, important institutions, but has it really escaped Richard Leonard’s notice, just like regulation of employment and most of the macro powers over the economy, banking regulation is reserved to the United Kingdom government, it is not a responsibility of the Scottish Government”.

One minister sitting beside Sturgeon shouted out, “but we want it to be.”

The First Minister carried on pointing out that unemployment in Scotland is close to a record low, and lower than the rest of the UK.

She added: "Despite the limited powers that we have over matters related to the economy, this is a government that does always stand up for workers "Ask the workers at Dalyell for example, who wouldn't be in a job right now without the intervention of the Scottish Government.

"Ask the workers at Ferguson’s Shipyard, who wouldn't be in a job right now.

"Or ask the works at BiFab who would not be in a job this Christmas without the intervention.

“While Richard Leonard was having wee photoshoots outside BiFab I was actually making sure we saved that company from administration and kept those workers in a job.

“That is real action to be compared with the empty rhetoric of Richard Leonard and the Scottish Labour party.”