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Pre-election First Minister's questions far from heated

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during First Minister's Questions Photo: PA

Reports of 'heated' exchanges at today's First Minister's questions were somewhat exaggerated.

Given there is just a week to go before the UK general election, one might have expected political fireworks.

Disappointingly, today's session where opposition party leaders quizzed the FM could best be described as tepid.

Why? It's hard to say exactly. Perhaps after several weeks on the campaign trail, the politicians are beginning to run out of rhetorical steam.

Or perhaps it was the way the opposition leaders framed their questions. The Tories Ruth Davidson raised what she said the lack of teachers being trained. Labour's Kezia Dugdale asked about missed targets in the health service.

Both are important issues, both are issues for which Ms Sturgeon and her Scottish government have direct responsibility.

Both are issues which, strictly speaking, have nothing to do with the Westminster elections. Health and education are fully devolved.

But the tactics of the opposition are clear. They want to expose what they see as the weakness of the SNP government, their alleged failures in domestic policy.

If they SNP can't run the NHS and schools properly, why should the voters trust them to 'stand up for Scotland' - as the Nationalist slogan has it - in Westminster.

Furthermore, the opposition argue, if the SNP can't use the powers they have under devolution effectively, what hope then for an independent Scotland?

Scottish Labour party leader Kezia Dugdale during First Minister's Questions Credit: PA

As you would expect, the First Minister was having none of it. Her government had acted to recruit more teachers, she told MSPs.And the waiting times in Scotland were the best in the UK, and for good measure much better than in Labour-controlled Wales, she added.

Ms Sturgeon also found the time to take a swipe at the Tories and warn of the dire consequences, in her view, for public spending if Theresa May is returned to 10 Downing Street.

Given that the election stakes are so high, at a UK level and in Scotland, today felt strangely like the politicians were rather going through the motions.

The only real spark came when the Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie raised the issue of the NHS services in the far north of Scotland.

Just back from election campaigning in the areas, he claimed patients were forced to travel dangerously long distances to the nearest hospital.

Ms Sturgeon chided Mr Rennie over his question saying she hoped he was not trying to make political capital out of the situation, a suggestion which angered the usually mild-mannered Lib Dem leader.

He told the First Minister he had every right to raise the issues. She in turn told him that in everything the Scottish government did, it put patient safety first.

And that was just about that. Well, in terms of the exchanges between the party leaders anyway.

Not long after they finished, all the leaders put the muted animosity to one side, briefly, posing for a charity photo-call.

And then they went off to campaign again, Ms Sturgeon to defend and proselytise her record, her opponents to attack and denigrate it.

Perhaps after a few more days trying to win over voters the leaders will get their second campaigning wind, returning for a final - and hopefully heated - pre-election question session next Wednesday