NICOLA Sturgeon has hit out at Scottish Labour leadership contender Anas Sarwar claiming there is a “gulf as wide as the Clyde” between what the party’s politicians say and their actions.

The First Minister mounted an attack on the Glasgow MSP yesterday following claims that a family firm fails to pay all its workers the Living Wage.

At a Labour leadership hustings in Glasgow on Wednesday night, Sarwar said he believed the living wage – currently set at £8.45 an hour in Scotland – should be compulsory. But he came under fire after reports that his family’s business, United Wholesale (Scotland) Ltd, in which he has a stake estimated to be worth around £4.8 million, was advertising positions at the rate of £7.50 an hour.

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As Labour’s interim Scottish leader Alex Rowley accused Sturgeon’s Government of siding with “the millionaires rather than the millions” on tax decisions, SNP MSPs in Holyrood pointed at Sarwar, sitting two rows behind Rowley on the Labour benches.

Sturgeon said: “I thought it was really unfair of Alex Rowley to personalise this debate by bringing Anas Sarwar into it. The problem here, as Anas Sarwar so clearly illustrates, is there is a massive gulf – a gulf as wide as the Clyde – between what Labour says and what Labour does.

“We have a Labour leadership candidate lecturing others about doing the right thing on pay and yet his own family firm won’t pay the Living Wage voluntarily.

“So Labour should get its own house in order.”

The comments prompted Presiding Officer Ken Macintosh to remind MSPs to “try to refrain from personal attacks in this chamber”.

Sturgeon spoke out after Rowley pressed the SNP leader during First Minister’s Questions on “unacceptable” levels of child poverty, calling on her to “finally accept that in order to help the poorest in this country you have to be prepared to look at taxing the richest in this country”.

Sturgeon said that when local authorities were given the power to raise council tax in their budgets this year, it was only Labour authorities that had decided against this.

She hit out: “Labour really needs to close that gulf between what they say and what they lecture others and what they actually do themselves.”

Sarwar, Labour’s Holyrood health spokesman, is up against former union official and Central Scotland MSP Richard Leonard in the contest to succeed Kezia Dugdale, who quit the top job last month.

At the Glasgow hustings on Wednesday, Leonard heaped further pressure on Sarwar when he spoke of a fifth of workers in Glasgow earning less than the real Living Wage.

Leonard has the support of a majority of Labour’s Scottish MPs, including Rowley’s daughter Danielle Rowley, who is chairing his campaign. Sarwar, on the other hand, is backed by most Labour MSPs. The results of the leadership contest will be announced on November 18.

Sarwar said afterwards that the First Minister’s remarks “clearly demonstrate who the SNP wants to win this contest”.

He said: “I can’t wait to go head-to-head with Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions. If she wants to start early, that is fine with me.

“I would relish a debate about fair taxation with her. This is the First Minister who this week shamelessly sat on her hands and abstained in a vote to make the richest pay their fair share.

“Unlike Nicola Sturgeon, I voted to increase taxes on millionaires.”