THE Scottish Tory leader has been accused of “embarrassing himself” while questioning the First Minister on her announcement on Scotland entering Phase 2 of lockdown.

Following her statement, Jackson Carlaw again challenged Nicola Sturgeon on her plans to get schools reopened following the summer holidays. Opposition MSPs have called for the SNP leader to get pupils learning again full-time as soon as possible, but Sturgeon has stressed the importance of a cautious approach – warning moving too quickly could allow Covid-19 cases to explode again.

After days of questions on the topic, Sturgeon told Carlaw this afternoon: “Do you know what, Presiding Officer, If we did that the first person who would be standing up in this Chamber saying we’ve gone too quickly and not discharged our responsibility would be Jackson Carlaw – because he blows with the wind, or rather, he blows in whatever direction his colleagues in Westminster tell him to.”

READ MORE: Phase 2: Nicola Sturgeon's full speech on easing lockdown

Responding to Sturgeon’s comment that she is working with parent and teacher groups to try and get schools back to normal as soon as it’s safe to do so, Carlaw said he hopes she is “finally listening” because she “needs all the help she can get”.

The Scottish Tory leader went on: “On the one hand the First Minister’s top economic adviser is claiming that the UK is going to be the worst performing developed economy in the world, and that Scotland will be even worse than that.

“On the other hand the Finance Secretary Kate Forbes, the minister who is supposed to be leading our response to this generational crisis, finds time to go on Twitter to attack the media for reporting his comments and insists it’s all fine. Can someone tell Scotland’s finance minister that Trumpian tweets don’t make jobs, getting the Twitter mob to blame the media don’t make jobs. Isn’t it the case that this SNP Government simply doesn’t understand or comprehend the depth of the economic crisis we’re about to go through?”

Sturgeon rejected the suggestion she doesn’t comprehend the depth of the health, crisis, economic crisis, or education crisis. “My ministerial colleagues have literally been working round the clock to steer Scotland through this crisis and we will do that for as long as it takes,” she told him.

The First Minister went on: “Despite the tone and tenor changes today, prompted by the tone of Jackson Carlaw’s question, I will continue to try to do that non party-politically as far as I can. But I do, Presiding Officer, I do really regret the constant tendency of Jackson Carlaw to try to politicise all of these issues.

“Scrutiny’s really important but if anybody doubts that just reflect on the fact that most of the things Jackson Carlaw criticises the Scottish Government for he supports when the UK Government are doing them.”

The SNP leader said there are “many many examples of that” but that the most “egregious”, if she could “put it that mildly”, is that: “Jackson Carlaw, who of course led the pack baying for the head of Cath Calderwood, lost his tongue over Dominic Cummings. That is the party-political inconsistency and the hypocrisy that has no place when you are dealing with a national crisis.

“This is tough. It is hard for individuals and businesses, it is tough and hard for governments all across the world. But my job is to focus on getting the country through that and regardless of Jackson Carlaw’s attempt to distract attention from that, which I suspect is more of a distraction of attention of the travails of a government somewhere else, I’m going to focus on that job at hand and get Scotland safely through this biggest crisis any of us have ever faced.”

Carlaw didn’t respond to the First Minister’s comment about the Prime Minister’s top adviser – the Scottish Tory leader waited days to address the scandal about Cummings’s trip from London to Durham during lockdown while sick with Covid-19.

Instead Carlaw hit back that Scotland needs a routemap back to recovery with imagination and innovation, adding: “A front bench team that deals in angry tweets rather than common-sense solutions doesn’t come over well.”

Sturgeon quickly replied: ”I think Jackson Carlaw should maybe deal with the Twitter trolls on his own benches before he starts to give anybody else lessons.”

She then said: “If Jackson Carlaw wants to continue just to snipe from the sidelines then I will leave him to do that because I’ve got hard work to do and I’m going to get on with the hard graft of getting this country through coronavirus, doing that safely and building the sustainable recovery we all want. So I’ll focus on that job and I’ll leave Jackson Carlaw to indulge in whatever makes him happy.”

Online, Carlaw’s performance was the focus of the exchange. Pete Wishart, the SNP’s longest serving MP, posted: “Jackson Carlaw now just totally embarrassing himself. Surely even the Scottish Tories must be wondering what they’ve done. He’s even now on tweets.”

SNP councillor Miche Campbell called on Carlaw to “read the room”. She wrote: “You are embarrassing your own members and support base with your insulting attempts of pathetic faux political bravado.”

Writer Michael Gray commented that the First Minister was “head and shoulders” above Carlaw during the exchange. He went on: “What a contrast. Difference between a stateswoman and an absolute state.”

Labour MSP Neil Findlay even stepped in to criticise Carlaw, calling his performance "utter garbage" and accusing him of being "more concerned about crap on twitter than the future of children and families, the elderly and all our citizens".

Meanwhile, stand-up comic Susie McCabe tweeted: “Jackson Carlaw is the old guy in your street that bursts your ball when it lands in his garden.”