THE First Minister has slammed the Tories for their lack of policies during Ruth Davidson’s return to FMQs.

In her first session since giving birth to a baby boy in October, the Scottish Conservative leader asked Nicola Sturgeon if she accepted what the First Minister describes as a “positive destination” for young people when they leave school may in fact be no such thing.

Davidson chose to focus on education, with the First Minister later producing a Scottish Tory leaflet, sent to voters recently, which mentions independence 15 times yet lacks any education policy proposals.

“Under this SNP Government,” said Davidson, “the proportion of pupils leaving school with no qualifications whatsoever is at the highest level since 2011 and many others are leaving at 16 without going on to get the skills and education they need to thrive in the modern world.”

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Sturgeon responded, saying that 95% of those who leave school are, after three months of leaving, in work, training or study.

She added that the Government would continue to pursue policies which help young people to achieve those outcomes.

She said: “I’m sorry to disagree with Ruth Davidson, but I don’t consider a young person in further education or in higher education, or doing a modern apprenticeship, as not doing something positive and meaningful.”

The Scottish Tory leader then proposed a “skills-participation age of 18”, which she said has been used successfully in Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands. “This is a serious proposal,” she said, “and there is no reason why it can’t command cross-party support.”

Davidson said that education and training, a devolved power, can be tackled in Holyrood: “So I ask the First Minister, does she accept the need for change now, and when it comes to a skills-participation age of 18, will she today give a commitment to act now?”

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Sturgeon fired back: “We will continue to take forward the policies in our schools, the policies on modern apprenticeships, the policies on foundation apprenticeships, the places at further education, investments in free higher education, which will always remain with the SNP.”

She said the problem with the Tory analysis was that it is not borne out by the results young Scots are achieving.

“I would simply say to Ruth Davidson that, if this idea is such a great one, why didn’t she bother mentioning it in this leaflet to every voter across the country?” Sturgeon said, as she produced a copy of the leaflet and detailed its contents.

“She managed to mention independence 15 times, she managed to mention me 12 times – thank you very much for the free publicity – but not a single idea, not a single policy, because actually, the Tories don’t have any.”

The National: Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie asked about powers that were set to come to HolyroodScottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie asked about powers that were set to come to Holyrood

Sturgeon also clashed with Willie Rennie, after the Scottish LibDem leader accused the “incompetent” SNP Government of handing powers back to Westminster.

The Scottish Government delayed a move to allocate part of the cash raised by VAT direct to Edinburgh.

But Sturgeon insisted Westminster is sending Scottish ministers “faulty goods”, arguing the assignation of VAT would not see any control over the charge transferred north.

She said “Brexit chaos” had impacted on the move and was also leading to “creeping centralisation”.

In response to Rennie’s “incompetent” jibe, she said: “If all of what Willie Rennie says is true, imagine how frustrating it must be for Willie Rennie to know we are still, what, around 30 points in the opinion polls.”

Richard Leonard questioned the First Minister on private rent caps, urging her to back Labour’s plans.

The Scottish Labour leader called on Sturgeon to “side with tenants, tackle poverty, and back our Mary Barbour Bill” – which would bring forward the legislation to cap and control rent increases in the private sector.

Sturgeon expressed neither support for nor criticism of the plan, saying the Scottish Government would continue to “lead from the front” to improve housing.

Leonard argued that under 20 years of devolution, the private rental sector has “trebled in size and rents have soared while wages have stagnated”.