FIRST Minister Nicola Sturgeon has challenged Labour to “emulate” Scottish Government policies like the Child Payment amid a row over establishing a nationalised energy company.

In 2017, the SNP pledged to set up a publicly owned energy firm to sell gas and electricity to consumers at as close to cost price as possible. Instead of an energy generation company, which the FM says would require further borrowing powers and control of the energy market, the Government is pursuing a retail-based firm instead.

At the end of its party conference at the weekend, Labour announced plans for Great British Energy, which would be state-owned and provide clean energy provided by renewables.

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Touting the policy during FMQs, Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar asked Sturgeon if she would back Labour’s plan.

She replied: “Yes, I'm happy to give support to policies of that nature. Perhaps Anas Sarwar would want to back a situation where of course Scotland had the full powers we would need over the energy market and access to borrowing that are necessary for us to establish an energy generation company of that nature.

“I'm happy to support things I agree with but since we're on this ground today here's some other policies that the SNP Scottish government have introduced that perhaps Labour would now like to back.”

The National: The FM challenged Labour to emulate a number of SNP policiesThe FM challenged Labour to emulate a number of SNP policies (Image: Scottish Parliament TV)

The FM then pointed to the £25 per week Scottish Child Payment, free prescriptions, free personal care, free tuition fees, “higher health spending per head of population” and the incoming rent freeze.

“If we want a swap of good ideas I'm happy to accept them when they come from Labour, perhaps Labour needs to look at Scotland and start emulating some of what we're doing here,” she added.

Sarwar replied: “I'm pleased to hear the First Minister backs Labour's plans and how times change, from telling Scotland you're never getting a Labour government again, to now giving proposals to the next Labour government.“

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The Scottish Labour leader then pointed to the 2017 pledge which didn’t come to fruition, before criticising the ScotWind project, adding: “A Labour government will establish the public energy company in year one, and after 15 years of SNP government we're told we still have to wait and this matters.”

Sturgeon accused Sarwar of “talking down” the ScotWind programme, adding: “That will just count as one of many reasons why whatever might or might not happen in the rest of the UK, Scotland will not be getting another Labour government anytime soon.”

The FM said that the Covid-19 pandemic impacted on the national energy company plans and that details on the incoming retail energy company, the National Energy Agency, will be set out shortly.

She said: “If Anas Sarwar is going to come here and ask me these questions, surely he must know that to set up a public owned generating company that would mean powers for this parliament over the energy market and access to borrowing that we don't have.

“So if Anas Sarwar wants this government to do that, when is Anas Sarwar going to back independence and full powers for this parliament so that we can?”

In his reply, Sarwar accused the FM of using the “talking down Scotland” slogan since he was in school, adding: “Time to change the record First Minister.”

The Scottish Labour leader then accused the Scottish Government of selling off assets “on the cheap”.

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He continued: “This week the people of Scotland saw a change is coming with Labour, change with an ambitious plan to freeze energy bills, change to invest in energy security, change to create tens of thousands of highly skilled, well-paid jobs here in Scotland, and change to get rid of this economically illiterate and morally bankrupt Tory government.

“Even the First Minister must surely see that this is a change that Scotland needs?”

The FM fired back: “Look in the interest of trying to find a bit of consensus today, I want to see the back of this rotten, corrupt failing Tory government just as much as anybody does.

“But if it is going to be replaced at UK level by a Labour government then surely everybody has a right to hope that a Labour government will actually be a big difference to what it is replacing.”

She then called on Labour to commit to reversing Brexit, adding: “Labour, just like the Tories, is now a pro-Brexit party regardless of the economic damage that is doing. The fact is on Brexit as on so many other issues, the only way for Scotland to reach its full potential is independence.

“And aren't we really seeing the benefits of independence right now? The sooner the better.”