DOUGLAS Ross was accused of "flip flopping" on Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) by the First Minister as the Scottish Tory leader blasted what he called "reckless proposals" by the Government.

Ross said plans to make 10% of Scotland's seas HPMAs would devastate coastal and rural communities, but Yousaf repeatedly highlighted the Tories' own commitment to piloting them in their 2021 manifesto.

In what turned out to be be fiery debate with plenty of heckling from the Tory benches, Yousaf was also accused of "losing grip" on his party following a rebellion by three SNP MSPs during Wednesday's vote on Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton's motion, which called on the Government to "reconsider" its plans on HPMAs

Ross said that the current HPMA proposals posed a threat to coastal communities and asked Humza Yousaf to define what he meant by promising not to impose HPMAs on communities "vehemently opposed to them". 

He called on Yousaf to listen to SNP MSP Karen Adam, who yesterday called for more clarity from the government on where HPMAs will be designated and within what timescale. 

But Yousaf hit back by reminding the Conservative of their own manifesto commitment and accused Ross of "flip flopping".

"Let me just remind him, of course, that it is a Scottish Conservative manifesto pledge to introduce Highly Protected Marine Areas," Yousaf said.

"In fact, Douglas Ross didn't just stand on one manifesto, he stood on two manifestos that wanted to introduce Highly Protected Marine Areas in some shape or form.

"We know Douglas Ross is known for flip flopping all over the place on any issue of the day. 

"Karen Adam was absolutely right. We will, of course, define communities, but we will define what consent or what opposition is." 

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Ross then accused Yousaf of being out of touch with his own party on the issue after Fergus Ewing, Alasdair Allan and Kate Forbes rebelled against the government during Wednesday's debate.

However, the First Minister hit back and called on Tory MSPs Jamie Greene and Liam Kerr to take over as leader of the Scottish Conservatives. 

He said: "For Douglas Ross to stand there and talk about losing grip of a party when he's been leader [of the] Conservatives [they have] have had the longest attempted coup in Scottish political history.

"Why doesn't Jamie Greene or Liam Kerr just stand up and put Douglas Ross out of his misery?" 

Yousaf also pointed out Ross had "spent Easter recess" asking supporters to vote for the Labour Party.

He was referring to a ploy by Ross to get Tory voters to switch allegiances if the Labour candidate was more likely to beat the SNP in a particular consituency.

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Elsewhere during FMQs, Yousaf was accused of failing to address misogyny within Police Scotland after former female officers spoke out against the force’s “boys' club” culture.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar grilled the First Minister on his promise, which he made while justice secretary, to resolve concerns over how complaints are handled by the force.

It comes as four women, including a former assistant chief constable (ACC), told BBC Newsnight about allegations of a “culture of misogyny” at all levels within the Scottish force.

Angela Wilson, former ACC of Tayside Police, said women currently working in the force are too afraid to speak out about their experiences.

Yousaf said “decisive action” is being taken on addressing misogyny within society generally.

He added: “In terms of some of the concerns that have been raised in relation to misogyny within the police force, I know from my engagement with the Chief Constable (Sir) Iain Livingstone how seriously he takes the issue of misogyny.

“We take as a Government, and I know the police do, extremely seriously any concern raised against police officers.”

Taking questions from other MSPs in the chamber, Yousaf voiced his support for Green MSP Gillian Mackay's Safe Access Zones Bill which would see buffer zones implemented around abortion clinics to prevent protesters from harassing women.

The Government came in for scrutiny yesterday as it axed a ministerial working group on the issue. The group was set up when the Government were exploring the possiblity of using local authority bye-laws to enforce buffer zones, an idea which is now off the table.

Yousaf agreed with Mackay that a final proposal of the bill should be published before summer recess and officials would drive it forward "at pace".