NICOLA Sturgeon has hit back at opposition attacks of her Government’s management of the NHS and education.

She was probed about issues including closed hospital wards and funding for health boards during First Minister’s Questions yesterday.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard asked why the children’s ward at St John’s Hospital in Livingston has not yet been opened on a 24/7 basis. Highlighting a commitment made by the Health Secretary earlier this year that the ward would be open at all times by October, Leonard noted it currently remains closed three nights a week.

Sturgeon said: “It will be open 24/7 as soon as it is clinically safe for children for it to be so, when the recruitment levels, which have been difficult, reach a level where that ward can be open.”

Meanwhile, Tory MSPs Edward Mountain and Liam Kerr raised the issue of finances and services at NHS Highland and NHS Grampian.

READ MORE: Oil worker in court for telling Sturgeon to 'take a bullet' on independence

Sturgeon replied: “We are increasing health budgets for health boards across the country. And I would just again point to the Conservatives, as I frequently do when issues like spending on health, on education, on justice, or any other matter, are raised – if we followed the strictures and the recommendations of the Conservatives when it comes to setting our budgets, if we had prioritised tax cuts for the richest in our country, instead of extra funding for the NHS, our health service right now would have more than £500 million less in its budget than it currently does.”

LibDem leader Willie Rennie asked about NHS Highland, where he claimed patients have been told to “seek treatment elsewhere because Raigmore Hospital is nearly full up”. He asked: “After 12 years running our NHS, is the First Minister proud of that record?”

Sturgeon pointed out the NHS is seeing more patients than ever before and that funding and staff numbers had reached record highs.

After Rennie cited an Audit Scotland report, the First Minister added: “For a representative of the party that was the co-architect of austerity to get up here and talk about spending in our health service really takes the biscuit.”

The FM also countered claims she misled Parliament over the Government’s record on education.

Scottish Tory leader Jackson Carlaw claimed pupils are leaving school with fewer qualifications, and having studied fewer subjects. He accused Sturgeon of misleading MSPs for denying there had been a narrowing of subject choice.

She responded by saying there is a “wide variety of choices” available to pupils, and that more teenagers are leaving with a larger number of qualifications, at both level six (Highers) and level five.