Willie Rennie was called a “pathetic attention seeker” by the First Minister after he branded her a liar in Holyrood.
The Fife MSP and Nicola Sturgeon were rebuked by the presiding officer for firing off personal attacks during a volatile exchange at First Minister’s Questions.
Mr Rennie, who leads the Scottish Liberal Democrats, accused her of lying in a television debate in 2016, when she said there were no plans to close a children’s ward at a Paisley hospital.
The Scottish Government announced it would shut the ward at the Royal Alexandra earlier this month.
Mr Rennie claimed the FM is “hiding behind doctors” over the decision.
“Doctors may have advised her to close the children’s ward at Paisley,” he said.
“They did not force her to lie in an election television debate. Is she not ashamed of blaming the doctors for her broken promise?”
The SNP leader responded by calling the North East Fife MSP a “pathetic attention seeker”.
She added: “I am sorry if it upsets Willie Rennie but I am not prepared to apologise for listening to the doctors who know best about how to treat sick children in this country.
“There was at the time of that debate no proposal on the ward. There had been no clinical evidence presented. That changed in the months that followed.”
Chastising the pair, Ken Macintosh, the PO, said: “Mr Rennie, “lying” is a word that you have to be extremely careful about, although it does not help if the First Minister rebuts that by using personal accusation.”
There are strict rules against personal attacks. MSPs must “conduct themselves in a courteous and respectful manner” in the chamber.
Earlier, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard demanded Ms Sturgeon explain why care home closures campaigners were still waiting for a meeting with the health secretary despite assurances last week from the FM it would happen “as a matter urgency”.
Ms Sturgeon said campaigners against the Bield closures, with three sites shutting in Fife, would meet with Shona Robison on February 6, which was agreed after The Courier questioned the delay.