DEPUTY First Minister John Swinney slammed Douglas Ross's demand that Humza Yousaf should be sacked as Health Secretary over incoming nurse strikes as a "laughable proposition". 

Ross used his spot at FMQs to again attack the Scottish Government's record on the National Health Service, amid news that nurses plan to strike for the first time in the Royal College of Nurses (RCN) 106-year history.

The union represents close to half a million nurses and announced on Wednesday that they will be taking industrial action over pay.

This will include all NHS employers in Scotland as well as Northern Ireland.

READ MORE: Health Secretary attacks Keir Starmer over foreign NHS staff comments

At FMQs, where Swinney was standing in for Nicola Sturgeon ahead of her meeting with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak, Ross noted the nurses strike and lengthy waiting times at A&E.

Ross, who earlier claimed that Yousaf had overseen 14 instances where A&E waiting times hit their worst levels, targeted the Health Secretary personally. 

He said: "Patients struggling to see GPs, nurses voting to strike for the first time ever, and the worst A&E statistics on record, Scotland's NHS is in crisis, and whoever the SNP try to blame, it's obvious that the man responsible is sitting right there next to the Deputy First Minister.

"Humza Yousaf has failed and all he can do is spin that the SNP is in recovery when really it's our breaking point. 

"Just how much worse does it have to get for patients and staff in Scotland before he takes responsibility?

"Deputy First Minister, Scotland's NHS deserves better than Humza Yousaf, when will this Health Secretary be sacked?"

Swinney fired back: "Given the absolutely totally chaotic turmoil of ministerial resignations and dismissals in the United Kingdom government, what a laughable proposition to put to me this morning.

"I’ve been active in politics for many years, a member of parliament for a quarter of a century, you know someone has run out of road when they attack the man not the issue which is what Douglas Ross is doing right now."

Swinney then told the Chamber that the Scottish Government had put a record pay deal on the table, an average of 7% with those on the lowest incomes offered 11%, said Scotland's A&E's are performing better than elsewhere in the UK, and that NHS Scotland has a record staffing level.

However, the Deputy FM said that what wasn't helping the health service was the "folly of Brexit" which reduced the number of staff available.

He added: "The United Kingdom government is not recognising the public spending pressures that exist because of inflation that they have fueled by their stupid economic decisions. 

READ MORE: Row after Scottish Tories blame SNP for UK-wide nurses' strike

“And, as a consequence, public budgets are under enormous pressure. 

“So if Douglas Ross wants to make himself useful he can ask the United Kingdom Government to increase the budget for the Scottish Government, so we can support the health service to a greater extent and start addressing the issues that face members of the public."

It comes as Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also focused on the NHS and current staffing levels, but clashed with Swinney over comments made by UK Labour leader Keir Starmer. 

Starmer told the BBC on Sunday that the UK is “recruiting too many people from overseas” to staff the NHS.

Swinney said: “I listened to those comments with incredulity because what is hampering us in the National Health Service is the Brexit that was inflicted on us by the Conservatives, ending free movement of individuals which has lost members of staff from our National Health Service.

"We need to reverse that, we need to have an approach that is open to migration so we can boost the recruitment into our National Health Service.

"The comments from Keir Starmer are a disastrous signal to give to hardworking members of staff.”

An infuriated Sarwar replied: “Let me address that final point, I have led a campaign in this parliament to address racial and religious prejudice, so no one should miscategorise my position or the position of my party so let me be …”

After pausing due to heckling from SNP benches and an interruption from the Presiding Officer for quiet, Sarwar continued: “Let me be clear, migrants play an invaluable part in our NHS and they always have done and they always would do.

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“I would also say people that come and work in our NHS are not migrants, they're equal Scots, just like the rest of us. But that should not stop us from having a credible workforce plan that means we train more doctors and nurses here.” 

Swinney joked that his comments on Starmer clearly “touched a nerve” with Sarwar, adding that the Labour leader, Brexit and the Tories approach to immigration “undermine” the Scottish Government’s ability to recruit. 

He added: “By his [Starmer] hostility to addressing any issues about migration is simply taking the same line as the Tories and that is an absolute disgrace.”

We previously told how Yousaf blasted Starmer's remarks as "inflammatory" and "despicable" as the comments could make NHS staff from overseas feel unwelcome.