Page last updated at 13:21 GMT, Thursday, 20 December 2012

Scottish Parliament

Alex Salmond insisted free higher education would be part of the Scottish tradition "not just for Christmas but for all time" in the last first minister's questions of the year.

Mr Salmond hit out at Labour leader Johann Lamont after she called for a debate to take place over whether students should pay a contribution towards their education, on 20 December 2012.

The SNP leader attacked her stance as he pointed out that Scottish Labour's website still contained the commitment that there should be "no up-front or back-end tuition fees for Scottish students".

He was responding to Scottish Labour Johann Lamont who had said: "The price that the First Minister denies of his education choices is cuts in college places and our schools with a growing gap between the rich and the poor.

"He knows that and perhaps in the New Year he might want to confront the reality of it."

Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson told the first minister out of £350m pledged by Finance Secretary John Swinney to be spent on Non-Profit Distributing (NPD) projects in this financial year, only £20m had actually been spent and in the preceding year £150m had been pledged on NPD projects but nothing was spent.

Ms Davidson said that meant £480m pledged to build schools and hospitals was never delivered.

The first minister hit back saying if the Conservative coalition government had not cut 26% of the capital budget for Scotland, those funds would have been spent directly over the last two years.

Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, called on the first minister to extend nursery education for two year olds, citing England where 40% of two year olds get 15 hrs a week nursery education.

Mr Salmond highlighted the commitment of the Scottish government to provide 600 hours of nursery education for 3-4 year olds, which he said was much greater than England, and the investment in family centres and family nurse partnerships.

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