Scotland politics

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon grilled by committee conveners

Nicola Sturgeon
Image caption First Minister Nicola Sturgeon answered questions over the hour-and-half session

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been quizzed by conveners of Holyrood committees on a range of topics from the NHS to education.

The Scottish Parliament's super committee, chaired by Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick, heard from Ms Sturgeon during the hour-and-half session.

She said it was important to improve attainment in schools and to equip the NHS with what it needed.

Ms Sturgeon added she was willing to go before the committee heads more often.

Before the meeting, the first minister said she was looking forward to explaining her government's legislative programme.

She also said the meeting would give her the valuable opportunity to hear the views of the conveners "about how things might be improved to ensure that our shared aims can be met".

Ahead of taking questions, Ms Sturgeon addressed the gathering about her government's objectives.

She said: "The programme for government is grouped around the three key priorities that the government has set.

"And these priorities are to build prosperity, because we all know and understand that a strong economy underpins the well being of every community across the country.

"Secondly, to promote fairness - we need to ensure that growth benefits all sections of our society and all parts of the country and we know that if we succeed in making Scotland more equal that in itself will help us with our first objective which is to make the country more prosperous and economically successful.

"And the third theme and strategic priority that the government has set is around participation - we want to empower and enable people to improve their own lives and those of others living in their communities."

Ms Sturgeon added that she wanted to see more powers devolved from the parliament to local communities and to make national institutions, "including this parliament", as open and as accountable as possible.

What was Nicola Sturgeon asked?

  • More powers - The first minister said the new joint ministerial group on welfare met for the first time in London last week. She said she wanted to remove the need for the Scottish government to have welfare proposals approved by Westminster.
  • Poverty adviser - Ms Sturgeon said she hoped she could announce the independent adviser on poverty and inequality by the end of March, stressing the independence of the role.
  • Parliamentary workload - The first minister said she sympathised with committee convener Christine Grahame who spoke about the workload of the Scottish Parliament's committees.
  • NHS statistics - Ms Sturgeon said she wanted as much information about the NHS to be made available and to be made public as frequently as possible, but "not all data could be published weekly". She added that the information made available needed to be meaningful.
  • Education - The first minister told the conveners that an attainment adviser in each local authority would help to close the attainment gap in schools.
  • Living wage - Ms Sturgeon said she was happy to consider all proposals to progress the living wage and stated that the government was well on the way to meeting its target of having 150 businesses accredited by the end of the year. She said 120 had signed up so far.
  • Land ownership - The first minister said there would be greater transparency regarding who owns land in Scotland when a land register is completed within the next decade.
  • Gender equality - Ms Sturgeon believes gender equality on public boards is still to be addressed. She told the conveners that progress on the issue was "too slow". The first minister added that quotas played a role, but "we must put as much effort into voluntary arrangements in the mean time".

Watch Nicola Sturgeon giving evidence to the committee by going to our Democracy Live page report.

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