Scotland politics

Sturgeon: Dugdale said she 'would not oppose indyref2' after Brexit

four leaders Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Willie Rennie, Ruth Davidson, Nicola Sturgeon and Kezia Dugdale clashed on issues including Brexit, independence and the so-called rape clause

Nicola Sturgeon has claimed Labour's leader in Scotland told her she would not oppose a second independence referendum after the Brexit vote.

The first minister made the accusation against Kezia Dugdale as the leaders of Scotland's four larger parties clashed during a live TV debate.

Ms Dugdale said the idea that she would not fight for the UK was "nonsense".

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson was asked repeatedly about the so-called rape clause during the STV debate.

Liberal Democrat Willie Rennie called on Ms Sturgeon to "cancel" another referendum, saying Scots were "sick" and "fed up" of the issue.

There were heated exchanges as the four leaders went head to head for the final time before Thursday's general election.

They clashed on issues such as independence, Brexit, health and education, as well as benefit cuts and policing.

The party leaders also answered questions from a studio audience on issues such as terrorism and security.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ms Dugdale later said the claims about indyref2 were "a categoric lie"

At times the exchanges became angry in a special segment when the four were allowed to cross-examine each other.

But it was the claim by Ms Sturgeon that the Scottish Labour leader had told her in a private conversation that Labour could no longer oppose Scottish independence after the Brexit vote almost a year ago that provoked the biggest political reaction.

Ruth Davidson asked the SNP leader: "Did you just tell people you had a private conversation with Kezia last June in which she had said she was going to drop Labour's opposition to independence?"

Ms Surgeon replied: "She said she thought Brexit changed everything and the Labour party could no longer go on opposing a second independence referendum."

But later in the debate Ms Dugdale said: "The idea that I would do anything other than protect the United Kingdom and fight to remain in the UK is an absolute nonsense."

However, Ms Sturgeon said: "Look, I know what was said, I'm not having a go at you Kezia - you are entitled to change your mind. What you are not entitled to do though is to be always having a go at me just for wanting to give the people of Scotland a choice."

Ms Dugdale later tweeted: "Any suggestion that I ever said to Sturgeon that I'd change Labour's position on #indyref2 is a categoric lie + shows how desperate she is".

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Ruth Davidson was challenged on the Conservatives' welfare policies

Willie Rennie attacked Ms Sturgeon over her Scottish government record in office for the last decade, particularly over health and education.

He told the first minister she should be "ashamed" of mental health service waiting times for young people.

Mr Rennie said: "For the last year, almost week in, week out, Nicola Sturgeon has taken the opportunity to put independence first - every single time.

"This time it happened to be Brexit was the excuse.

"And it's quite noticeable when, in this election campaign, she doesn't talk about it any more because she knows that people are sick, fed up of it, people want to turn their back on another divisive independence referendum."

But Ms Sturgeon claimed his position on opposing a second referendum on independence, yet supporting another one on the EU, was "ridiculous".

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson came under fire for her party's policies on cutting child tax credits, the so-called rape clause and over the "dementia tax" being imposed in England which will force elderly people to sell their homes to pay for care costs if they have assets above £100,000.

As part of UK welfare changes, women will no longer be able to claim tax credits for more than two children, with an exception to the rule being applied for women who conceived as a result of rape.

'Appalled by the policy'

Ms Sturgeon said many people had been "appalled" by the policy, which she said would save £300m from the benefits bill at the same time as the Conservatives spend £380m on a tax cut for the richest 15%.

"You could use that money that is going to the richest to get rid of that two-child tax cap and the rape clause," Ms Sturgeon said.

"Why don't you ask your bosses in Westminster to make that choice and remove the rape clause once and for all?"

Image caption Willie Rennie called on Ms Sturgeon to scrap any Scottish independence referendum plans

Ms Dugdale brandished the form that has to be filled in as she pressed the Scottish Tory leader on the policy.

She told Ms Davidson: "Your Tory party is just as callous and heartless as it has always been, is it not?"

But Ms Davidson said: "This is about ensuring that people who have had children in the very worst of circumstances get extra help.

"This is about limiting child tax credits to the first two children, but it means that for example people who have been raped aren't affected by that, it means they get to have that extra help."

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