HAPLESS Labour leader Richard Leonard seemed to get confused with the whole devolved-reserved thing at First Minister’s Questions yesterday, when he attacked the Scottish Government for a decision taken by a UK Government body.

The left-winger accused Nicola Sturgeon of letting her administration “underwrite” the exploitation of workers on the platform extension at Edinburgh Waverley.

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But the project is operated by Network Rail, a wholly owned subsidiary of the UK Government.

Leonard’s question was a follow-up to last week when he told the First Minister workers on the Aberdeen Western Peripheral Route (AWPR) were being forced to pay to access their own wages through umbrella companies.

Yesterday in the chamber Sturgeon said Transport Scotland had carried out an urgent investigation, and that their findings disputed the Labour leader’s account.

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She said it was at the “discretion of individual employees if they choose to work through an agency,” and not mandatory.

Leonard, however, disagreed, and said it wasn’t just the AWPR where workers were being treated poorly.

“Workers at the Waverly extension project, just half a mile from the Parliament, have also been charged just to get their wages,” he told the SNP leader, asking her: “Isn’t the case you’ve got no idea how widespread this practice is on the public projects you fund?”

Sturgeon shot back: “This is a Network Rail contract, the Scottish Government has no involvement in the award of Network Rail contracts. Network Rail, despite the fact that we fund them, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the UK Government and remains accountable to the UK Government.

“But in the spirit of consensus, let me say to Richard Leonard, if he wants to join with me right now and ask, as we have many times in the past, for responsibility for Network Rail to be devolved to this parliament and this government, then we will make common cause on that issue.”

Leonard told the First Minister that this was “taxpayers’ money exploiting workers through unethical business practices.”

“And you can do something about it,” he added.

An exasperated Sturgeon told MSPs: “I think I’m, speaking in English, I think most people listening to me would understand what I’m saying, but Richard Leonard doesn’t appear to.

“Yes, we fund the contract but we do not have control over the awarding of that contract.”

“We can fix this,” Sturgeon said. “But it would involve Richard Leonard doing more than willing the end of something, he has to will the means as well. “