THE ITV leaders' debate saw Scotland's first minister Nicola Sturgeon go head-to-head with UKIP's Paul Nuttall and Lib Dem leader Tim Farron this evening - without Theresa May or Jeremy Corbyn.

ITV Leaders’ debate: Farron argues AGAINST Brexit as leaders clash over single market

The British Prime Minister did not take part in the event – nor did the leader of the official opposition, Mr Corbyn.

Both were heavily criticised for their decision to duck out of the televised event ahead of the June 8 snap election.

Plaid Cymru and the Greens were represented by Leanne Wood and Caroline Lucas respectively.

Brexit formed a major part of the debate with Lib Dem leader Tim Farron insisting he would fight against Brexit.

Paul Nuttall for UKIP said the only way to get what Britain voted for would to be voting for his party, while Caroline Lucas said it is important for Britain to remain in the single market.

Immigration was another contentious issue for the leaders while Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood argued tens of thousands on Welsh jobs are in danger of being axed.

Each leader also outlined how they would pay for their policies and increased spending on the NHS, from scrapping HS2 to adding one penny on every pound of income tax.

Below are the best bits of the full two hour debate

Closing statements

9.55pm Mrs Sturgeon said the SNP can provide strong opposition to the Tory party.

She said: “There needs to be strong a effective oppositions.

“We have seen Labour isn’t strong enough to hold the Tories to account.

“SNP MPs will always work for jobs fairness and progressive values.

“Now more than ever it is vital we have strong SNP voices at Westminster.”

9.53pm Ms Wood said the next few years are “critical” as the Tory party are likely to get a landslide with “Ukip backing”.

She said Plaid Cymru will get a “good deal” for Britain in Brexit.

She said: “More than ever we need a strong team of Plaid Cymru MPs.

“You can rely on Plaid Cymru to defend Wales and promote Wales.

“A vote for Plaid Cymru is a vote to make Wales matter.”

9.50pm Tim Farron said: “I believe there is still a decent Britain worth fighting for.

He said Theresa May and Paul Nuttall’s direction for Britain is “not the only way”

He said: “You deserve a leader who cares about the things you care about.

“You need a leader who will stop Theresa May’s extreme version of Brexit.”

He said he will “change Britain’s future”.

9.45pm Paul Nuttall said others simply “don’t believe in Brexit”.

He said: “They don’t believe we are good enough. Unlike them I do. I believe this is a fantastic country.”

He said he wants more police on the streets, curbs on immigration and improved care for the elderly.

Ms Lucas said: “We face opportunities to be innovators and pioneers.

“Don’t just think about who you would vote for think about who yo want working with you and standing alongside you.”

9.44pm Mr Nuttall said: “We need to go back to a system of student grants.’

“But there are far too many people going to university. We need to reduce the number.”

9.40pm Mr Farron was questioned on rising tuition fees.

He said: “I made a promise in 2010 I would not vote to raise tuition fees, I have kept that promise.

“I want people to trust me I will give you the final say on the deal (Brexit) that it the best thing.”

9.37pm Ms Wood said there is “no point” in building social homes to sell them on.

9.35pm Caroline Lucas said the Greens will ensure councils can build new houses.

She said the money will come back in rent – rather than to private landlords.

She said such projects would “pay for themselves”.

9.30pm Mr Nuttall said: “We are committed to scrapping tuition fees, we would reinstate student grants for children from working class areas.”

9.30pm Leaders debate on education

9.25pm Nicola Sturgeon who was recently criticised over a failure to improve literacy and numeracy in Scotland admitted she has “challenges” in her nation.

She said the Government must make sure there are “equal opportunities” for people to go to university.

9.23pm Mr Farron said the average secondary school will lose six teachers under the May Government.

He said: “The argument for grammar schools is utterly and totally bogus.”

He said Theresa May is trying to “lock” social mobility.

Mr Nuttall said grammar schools need to be in working class areas.

Mr Farron attacked this idea.

He said spending on grammar schools and free schools is “wasting money”.

9.21pm Mrs Lucas said grammar schools do not work and create class divides.

Ms Wood argues against smaller class sizes, promoted in grammar schools.

She said: “My understanding is evidence shows the size of the class is less important than the quality of the teacher.”

Ms Lucas disagreed.

She said: “The Green party will reduce class sizes in schools.

“When so many class sizes are growing and growing it makes it very hard for teachers to do a good job.”

9.20pm Mrs Sturgeon said Theresa May will take food out of children’s mouths by taking free school meals from children, under her lan to increase school funding.

Mr Farron fought for free schools meals.

He said: “To get rid of them (free school meals) after schools have put so much money and effort.. is hideous.

“To add on the issue of class sizes – it does make a difference.”

9.19pm Speaking about teacher pay Ms Wood said in Wales they want to pay teachers a premium to get to Masters level.

Mr Nuttall said “teachers deserve a pay rise”.

Tim Farron said he would lift a pay freeze on public sector pay.

He said: “That freeze has gone on too long.”

He said one in four are leaving the system.

9.17pm Ms Lucas said: “I couldn’t agree more – we would lift the pay freeze.

“Another reason why is every time we have a new education secretary they come up with a new harebrained scheme and impose them on teachers.

“We need to trust teachers.”

Whoops! Farron claims the EU is the ‘world’s largest economy’ – only true if you INCLUDE the UK economy. USA bigger than EU27. #itvdebate

— Jonathan Arnott MEP (@JonathanArnott) May 18, 2017

9.14pm The leaders give their positions on the economy

9.14pm Mr Nuttall said: “We would scrap HS2 which is nothing but a white elephant, that will save us £50bn.

“Let’s not forget the opportunities Brexit will give us.”

9.10pm Ms Wood jumped in and criticised Mr Nuttall’s comments on trade deals.

She shouted: “Yeah, we could sell our NHS.”

She also mocked a UK trade deal with President Donald Trump in the US.

9.10pm Nicola Sturgeon said: “ I don’t support a headline cutting corporation tax.

“Supporting some key sectors is partly about making sure we don’t pull the rug from under them.

“Some will be really hurt by coming from the single market.”

9.08pm Mrs Caroline said Britain needs a “Green” economy.

She said: “We need things like green investment bank to incest in new green technologies.

“We want to see a green new deal. It will get hundreds of thousands back to work and get out fuel bills down.”

9.07pm Mrs Sturgeon said inflation is rising because the “value of the pound has plummeted”.

She blamed this on Brexit.

She said: “I have already spoken about the real living wage.

“We must address wages in the public sector. This issue about social security is an important one.

“What is despicable is treating everyone relying on social security as scroungers. So many are working, and working hard.

“The government is taking hundreds and hundreds of pounds of support away from them.

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    9pm The third question was over the rising cost of living in the UK.

    9pm Mr Nuttall said: “We want to put more money in people’s pockets.”

    He said VAT would be scrapped on VAT bills, increase the personal allowance to earnings of £13,000 before tax.

    He said UKIP will also fight any rise in National Insurance payments.

    8.55pm Tim Farron said: “I have a long term economic plan – it’s called stay in the single market.

    “This is where we sell half of our goods to. Since June last year let;s not pretend things have not got worse.

    “The average family is £500 worse off now and we haven’t left yet.”

    He said Britons should have the final say on the Brexit deal.

    8.55pm Green Party leader Ms Lucas said people are distraught over the cost of living in the UK.

    She said: “We can afford to look after everyday in society if we choose to do so.

    “Who would have predicted we would have 4m children living in poverty in the UK?

    “Who would have though nurses would be going to food banks.”

    She said the rich and corporations needs higher taxation. Caroline Lucas also said her party would bring in rent controls.

    8.50pm Nicola Sturgeon said inequality is rising faster than it did under Thatcher.

    She said: “Tim is right we make sure we don’t damage the economy by leaving the single market.”

    She said she would end the freeze on working age benefits.

    8.50pm Leanne Wood said: “The UK’s debt has increased by £555bn since the Tories took office.

    “The UK is the only advanced economy in which wages have declined.

    She said a “real” living wage needs to be introduced and a strategy for employment needs to be drawn up.

    She said teachers, nurses ad doctors are struggling financially.

    8.45pm Leanne Wood said Brexit will affect the NHS.

    She said: “There are unlimited billions to spend on foreign wars – yet we can’t put people and social care services first.

    “Plaid Cymru has a plan to increase the number of doctors and 5,000 extra nurses.

    “That money is available in the assembly budget.”

    However, she said “it will be very hard to attract doctors and nurses” if freedom of movement is scrapped in Britain.

    8.40pm The leaders also clashed over NHS and how it should be funded.

    8.40pm Mr Nutall said his party would scrap hospital parking charges which are a “tax on the sick”.

    He said he could also fund thousands of nurses by taking money from the foreign aid budget.

    He said: “We are a growing population, immigration plays a large part in that.

    “My party is committed to putting 6bn extra every year in to the NHS.”

    8.35pm Caroline Lucas said the NHS is “in crisis”.

    She said the money to improve the NHS would come from nuclear weapons funds.

    She said: “It cannot be right big business is making money out of that mess.

    “The green party would take the private sector out of the NHS.”

    8.35pm Mr Farron said the Lib Dems would add 1p on income tax per pound to invest in the NHS

    He said his mother’s ovarian cancer seriously impacts his thoughts on the NHS.

    He said: “Are the people who working ur NHS the nest in the world? Absolutely.

    “It is time politicians were honest with the British people.”

    8.32pm Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP has increased the NHS budget by 40 percent.

    She said: “Our A&E are under pressure but they are the best performing in the UK.

    “We have a commitment by the end of parliament the budget will be £2bn higher than it is today.

    “We won’t open up to private competition.”

    8.30pm Leaders clash over immigration

    Lib Dem leader Tim Farron called Paul Nutall an “ambassador for Theresa May”.

    Mr Farron also said it is a “matter of democracy” to fight the Theresa May government.

    Caroline Lucas also laid into Mr Nuttall over UKIPs policy on migration.

    She said: “The idea we will be a better society by closing the door to immigrants is completely wrong.”

    8.25pm Mr Nutall said the problem is “too many people coming to the country.”

    He said : “We are adding a Birmingham every three years. It is unsustainable.

    “The problem we have, simply, is we are letting too many people come in.”

    8.25pm Mrs Sturgeon said migrants in Scotland are more likely to be educated and working than not.

    She said: “Public services are under pressure. That is not the fault of migrants. Thais the fault of the austerity agents pursued by the Tories.”

    “We can afford to look after everybody in our society if we choose to do so.” –

    — Green Party (@TheGreenParty) May 18, 2017

    8.20pm Tim Farron tore into Mr Nuttall when he said leaving the ingle market is a “political choice”

    He said the impact on living standards and job “depends” on Britain being in the single market.

    “It must be resisted,” he said.

    8.20pm Mr Nutall also said Britain must leave the single market.

    He said: “People voted to leave the single market, it was clear on the day.”

    8.20pm Leanne Wood said 200,000 jobs could be at risk in Wales if Theresa May walks away from talks with Brussels without a deal.

    She said: “We are going to leave the EU.

    “The question is how we are going to leave.”

    8.19pm Paul Nutall said in Theresa May’s hands Britain will get a “dodgy deal on Brexit”.

    8.17pm Tim Farron said the UK should be given the option to remain in the EU.

    8.17pm Paul Nuttall again insisted the current Government is not giving Britons the Brexit they voted for.

    He said: “The EU needs us far more than we need it.”

    “There are 6million jobs on the continent dependent on British trade.

    He urged Theresa May to be “bold” when it comes to negotiations.

    He said the only way a better deal could be made is if Theresa May has a “backbone”.

    8.15pm Caroline Lucas said Labour has failed to oppose the Tories.

    She openly criticised Jeremy Corbyn for refusing to attend the debate.

    8.13pm First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I still believe for all its faults we are better off in the European Union than out of it.

    “Theresa May is not just pursuing Brexit, she is pursuing an extreme Brexit.”

    She said Theresa May would cost Scotland 80,000 jobs if she walks away from the EU without a deal.

    8.11pm Tim Farron said the Britain he loves is “under threat”.

    He also hit out at “extreme Brexit.”

    8.11pm Paul Nuttall said the only way Britain can ensure it gets the Brexit voters opted for is to elect UKIP MPs.

    8.10pm Leanne Wood said her party has a “positive post Brexit plan”.

    “You may be too scared to come here tonight for your U-turns to be highlighted.

    “You want this election to only be about Brexit because then you avoid talking about real issues like NHS and the economy.

    “That’s weak leadership. Weak and unstable.”

    8.10pm Nicola Sturgeon followed suit by criticising the Conservative Government.

    She said an “extreme Brexit will hurt living standards and put jobs at risk”.

    Mrs Sturgeon said she wants to make sure “Scotland’s future is always in Scotland’s hands”.

    She said: “We need a strong opposition holding a Tory government to account, keeping them in check.

    “The more seats the SNP wins on June 8 the stronger Scotland’s voice will be.”

    8pm Caroline Lucas opened by insisting Britain needs to focus on pulling children out of poverty.

    She also called for an “open” relationship with Europe.

    8pm Julie Etchingham has introduced the leaders, revealing 7million people tuned into the 2015 leaders’ debate.

    She said both Theresa May and Jeremy Corbyn “declined” the invitation to the event.

    Each leader will begin with a one minute opening speech.

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