NICOLA Sturgeon has told Douglas Ross to take “guidance” from his predecessor Ruth Davidson on asking “gotcha” questions over whether a trans person is a man or a woman.

The Scottish Tory leader decided to focus on the transgender prisoner row and cases of Isla Bryson and Tiffany Scott for the third First Minister's Questions in a row.

Ross claimed that Sturgeon has been asked 12 times if Bryson was a man or a woman, before asking the question again.

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Sturgeon said Ross’s line of questioning showed he didn’t “understand the law” around the Equality Act and noted previous comments made by Davidson.

Ross repeatedly asked the FM if Bryson is a man or a woman, how they will be treated when they leave the prison estate, and urged her to publish an urgent review by the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) into the case.

During the exchange, the FM told Ross that the cases of Bryson and Scott demonstrate how the SPS deals with different cases on an individual basis, and that there are established processes in place for dealing with sex offenders when they leave the prison estate “based on an assessment on the nature of risk”.

The FM added: “These are important issues, they are sensitive issues, not least for the trans community.

“As I said last week, and I've said before, the overwhelming majority of whom only want to get on with living their lives and never commit any offences of any nature.

“But I don't think Douglas does any service to anybody in the way that he approaches this.

"I'm struck by something his predecessor Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson has said, ‘Trying to do gotcha questions about who is a woman who is a man, I'm not sure helps, particularly for people in the trans community, who are looking at the way this is reported’.

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“So perhaps Douglas Ross could take some guidance from his predecessor on this matter, and that might serve this whole debate better than the way he is doing.”

Ross responded by saying the FM had refused to give a “straight answer”.

The SPS review was ordered by Scottish Justice Secretary Keith Brown in the wake of public outcry after Bryson was initially housed in segregation at Cornton Vale prison near Stirling.

Bryson, who will be sentenced later this month for raping two women while she was a man, was then moved to the men’s estate.

The review was due to be completed by the SPS last Friday, and the FM confirmed on Thursday that Brown has now received the report.

“The findings of the report will be published,” she said.

“The Cabinet Secretary confirmed – I believe he confirmed in this chamber – that he will update the Criminal Justice Committee this week, Parliament rises today for this week and both the Cabinet Secretary and the chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service Teresa Medhurst will actually attend the Justice Committee on February 22.”

Ross continued to urge the FM to commit to publishing the full report, as opposed to just the “findings”. 

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The National understands the full report will not be published due to personal information which is contained in the document. 

Ross said: “The First Minister claims I’m clutching at straws on this – it seems she’s clutching on to this report, because she’s not willing to issue it in full today.

“The report findings, we’re told, will be published at some point, why not today? Why not publish the findings and the full report that your Justice Secretary has had for over 24 hours?”

Ross then asked the FM if Tiffany Scott, another transgender prisoner, is a man or a woman.

The National: Ross focused on the transgender prisoner row for the third week in a rowRoss focused on the transgender prisoner row for the third week in a row (Image: Gordon Terris / Newsquest)

The FM hit back at Ross and said his comments showed he didn't "understand the law", adding that rights for any individual identifying as a woman come from the UK Equality Act 2010, which has always been based on self-identification.

Elsewhere, the FM clashed with Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar over looming cuts to council budgets, amid reports that in Glasgow social care funding could be slashed and a row over teacher numbers deepens between national and local government. 

Sarwar urged the FM to concede that council budgets were being cut, during a heated exchange between the two party leaders. 

“The First Minister wants to deny reality,” he said.

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“The Fraser of Allander, the (Institute for Fiscal Studies), SPICE (the Scottish Parliament Information Centre), Scotland’s councils including her own, all say there is a real-terms cut to local government budgets, but that’s a truth the First Minister is not willing to accept.

“There is no way for councils to balance their books without further destroying local services.”

The FM told the Labour leader that all of the funding available to the Scottish Government had been allocated in the draft budget, and called on him to present options for spending cuts elsewhere that can then be given to councils.

The National: The FM said Sarwar's arguments had 'no substance'The FM said Sarwar's arguments had 'no substance' (Image: Getty)

Sarwar described the FM as “out of touch with reality”, pleading with her backbenchers to “get off your backs and stand up against this First Minister”.

Responding, Sturgeon said: “No matter how much Anas Sarwar raises his voice and shouts, it doesn’t cover up the fact that he has not brought forward a single proposal within a budget that is fully allocated for putting a single extra penny into local government budgets.

“That’s why he shouts, because there is absolutely zero substance in anything he’s saying."

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During constituency follow up questions, MSPs raised concerns over issues ranging from yesterday's announcement that meeting the 2025 target date for dualling the A9 is now "unachievable" after a failed procurement round, details around the ban on alcohol advertising and the impact on whisky tourism, as well as abortion buffer zones and the deposit return scheme. 

The issue of forced installment of pre-payment meters by energy companies was also raised by MSPs, as well as the higher prices consumers face. 

Tory MSP Murdo Fraser told the Parliament that whisky tourism brings in £84 million to the Scottish economy and asked if the FM agreed it would be "absurd" to ask distilleries to cover up their signage.

The National: Fraser claimed distillers would have to cover up their signageFraser claimed distillers would have to cover up their signage (Image: PA)

The FM said that this was "not in our current thinking" and noted the extreme importance of to Scotland's economy and reputation. 

SNP MSP Fergus Ewing asked the FM if she had concerns that the Bottle Deposit Return Scheme would impact businesses, urged for glass to be excluded from the plans and for the scheme to be halted.

"It is the case that there are strong environmental reasons for including glass but of course, on all these issues we will continue to listen," the FM responded.

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"And one of the issues I am particularly concerned to consider further, if there is yet more we can do to reduce any impact on small producers, because I think some of the concerns raised are not unreasonable."

The FM also committed to seeing legislation to bring in abortion clinic buffer zones to the Scottish Parliament "as soon as possible" following a summit on the issue earlier this week.

She added that the government is committed to "progressing abortion care" overall.