A Conservative motion calling on the Scottish Government to drop its plans for an independence referendum bill has failed at Holyrood.
Tory MSP Jamie Greene put forward a motion saying the Government “should drop its plans for a further Referendum Bill and focus on closing the attainment gap”.
Following a debate in the Scottish Parliament, MSPs instead voted by 65 to 55 in favour of an amendment by Education Secretary John Swinney.
This said the educational attainment gap was caused by poverty, which was “exacerbated by the policy choices of the Conservative administration at Westminster”.
During the Programme for Government announced on September 1, Nicola Sturgeon said she would publish a draft Bill proposing terms and timing for an independence referendum.
Mr Greene said his motion asked the Scottish Parliament to “focus what time and attention we can on education and not on passing bills on referendums”.
He added: “The Government’s attempt to amend the motion speaks for itself.
“Because you know when the SNP shoves Brexit, Boris and ‘power grab’ into an amendment when debating something over which they have presided for over a decade, you know they have truly run out of arguments.”
He said: “Why would we as a parliament with less than six months’ sitting time think it wise to spend out committee time or civil service time or legislative time or chamber time on a referendum bill?”
Labour education spokesman Iain Gray also hit out at the SNP, saying: “All the evidence does show that they have consistently prioritised the pursuit of independence over education.
“After all, since 2007 we have not just had an actual referendum and white paper on independence, but also countless discussion documents, draft bills, bills, consultation papers, commissions, consultations on draft bills, more white papers.”
Mr Swinney responded, saying: “The Conservatives have linked this debate to the question of independence.
“That is ironic first and foremost because they are forever claiming that we are the ones who are the ones who always raise the issue of independence.”
He continued: “MSPs opposite sit here and support children being fed from food banks, mothers being sanctioned for their benefits and the most vulnerable abandoned by a UK Government as uncaring as it is unelected by the people of Scotland.”
He said the Scottish Government planned to publish a draft Referendum Bill before the end of the current parliament, which would set out “clearly and unambiguously” the terms for a future referendum.
Mr Swinney added: “The attainment gap is created by poverty, independence gives us the powers to tackle the issue of poverty and that’s why Scotland needs to be an independent country.”