HUMZA Yousaf was repeatedly ordered to apologise during a fiery First Minister’s Questions after accusing Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross of lying.

The First Minister said the Conservative Party were in their “conspiracy phase” and said Douglas Ross had been peddling “lies” during an exchange on funding for Police Scotland.

Ross had argued that police numbers were unacceptably low, citing a warning from the head of the police union, who claimed earlier this week that police numbers were so low as to cause a risk to people’s lives.

It is generally considered unparliamentary language to accuse another member of parliament of lying and Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone (below) repeatedly ordered Yousaf to apologise for the comments.

The National: Alison Johnstone

Yousaf said the number of police officers in Scotland was higher per head than in England or Wales and that crime was declining under SNP rule north of the Border.

Murders fell to their lowest-ever level on record in 2022-23 and overall levels of crime reached their lowest levels since 1974 last year.  

'Sly and sleekit'

In his closing question, Ross said the First Minister was being “sly” and “sleekit” about the financial pressures facing Police Scotland, saying that Yousaf was a “criminal’s dream”.

He said: “Well the First Minister flipped through his folder a lot there but couldn’t find an answer, which seems to be the only thing constant in this session because Humza Yousaf is forcing Police Scotland to close dozens of stations, but he won’t say where.

“He’s leaving them with no option but to stop investigating every crime, but he won’t say which crimes.

READ MORE: Crime figures at lowest recorded levels since 1974, new statistics show

“And he’s forcing the police to cut officer numbers to the lowest level on record, but he won’t say how low.

“Now for a First Minister that loves the sound of his own voice, it seems quite bizarre that he is silent when it really matters. Silent on all of these questions.

“Let’s just be very clear; Humza Yousaf is a criminal’s dream. He doesn’t want them stopped, he doesn’t want them caught and he doesn’t want them in jail.

“Why is he being so sly and sleekit and secretive about the consequences of the SNP’s cuts on Police Scotland?”

'Ross is a liar'

Yousaf retorted that Scotland had better levels of policing than in England or Wales and went on to say the Scottish Tory leader’s “lies about the police service simply will not wash”.

The National: Douglas Ross

He said: “I think Douglas Ross is just jealous because nobody likes the sound of his voice, I’ll tell you Presiding Officer.

“I know the Conservatives are in their post-truth stage. A UK Government that is out of ideas and, I hope, out of time very, very shortly.

“But let’s stick to the facts, because the facts tell us this, that there are more officers per head in Scotland than in Conservative-led England and Labour-led Wales. Crime is down under this Government.

“Officers are paid more fairly and in fact, are the best-paid in the entire UK.

“So I know Douglas Ross, despite having three or four or five jobs – I’ve lost count Presiding Officer – was down at the Conservative Party conference this week, or as others have rightly dubbed it, the conspiracy party conference.

“His post-truth, his lies about the police service simply will not wash here in Scotland, Presiding Officer.”

His comments drew the ire of the Presiding Officer who called on the First Minister to apologise three times.

She said: “First Minister, as all members are aware it is wholly inappropriate to suggest that another member of this parliament has lied and I would be grateful First Minister, if you might apologise.”

Yousaf doubled down, saying: “I’m happy to call it a deliberate inaccuracy, Presiding Officer, because that’s clearly what it is.”

The Presiding Office again asked the First Minister to apologise, to which he replied: “Happy to apologise to anybody who’s been offended by the post-truths that have come from the Conservative Party and anyone that has been offended by my remarks, Presiding Officer.”

She reiterated her demand, saying: “I would ask that you apologise to myself and to this chamber.”

Yousaf finally relented, saying: “I’m happy to apologise to the chamber for any offence caused, Presiding Officer.”

Police officer numbers have tended to decline slightly since the creation of Police Scotland in 2013 but took an enormous fall during the pandemic.

There are 16,600 full-time equivalent (FTE) police officers in Scotland, according to statistics published in August, down from 16,644 FTE police officers in figures published in February.