Published On: Sat, Aug 15th, 2020

SNP appoints supporter of own party to lead independent probe into Scottish exams fiasco | Politics | News

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The Scottish Conservatives said that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon should consider removing Professor Mark Priestley over tweets he had sent in the past expressing support for the party. 


 

During the 2019 election, Priestley took to Twitter to say he was “voting today to stop Boris Johnson.

He added: “That means voting tactically. In my constituency, that means a vote for the SNP.

“Today, please vote in the interests of the country, putting aside party loyalties.”

The University of Stirling education professor also said the clear message in many constituencies was “vote SNP or get a Tory” when responding to an election news story.

Nicola Sturgeon

Professor Mark Priestly was appointed to led an independent review (Image: Getty)

Glasgow protest

Students protested following the exam chaos (Image: PA)

Jamie Greene MSP, Scottish Conservative education spokesman, said: “The much-heralded SNP plans for a so-called ‘independent review’ into the SQA exams fiasco have unravelled already.

“Less than 24 hours after the Greens saved Mr Swinney from the sack, after his second humiliating U-turn in just a few months, it looks like another scandal has engulfed the Education Secretary.

“Scottish parents and pupils demand a truly neutral and fully independent review into the exams fiasco. They will not put up with a whitewash.

“While Mr Priestley is a respected academic, people will rightly question the views of someone who judges that a candidate suspended by the SNP for anti-Semitism is ‘the lesser of two evils’.

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Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon has defended the appointment (Image: Getty)

“If the SNP are serious about righting their wrongs over this fiasco, and if the public are to have any faith in this review, they must consider removing Mr Priestley.

Asked about the professor at the daily coronavirus briefing on Thursday, Ms Sturgeon said her job is not to “interrogate” the political views of people appointed for such roles.

She said: “Mark Priestley is a respected academic and I don’t think anybody could credibly or reasonably doubt his credentials for this job, his experience, skills and aptitude.

“So yes, I do think he’s the right person.

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John Swinney.

John Swinney apologised this week for the mistakes (Image: Getty)

“This is the bit that will sound party political so I apologise and I don’t intend it to sound boastful about my party’s position.

“But on the basis of current opinion polls, more than half of all the Scottish population intend to vote SNP so there would obviously be an issue if we started to exclude people who have qualifications to do things from doing these things because they might vote SNP.

“I wouldn’t exclude somebody who was qualified because they voted for another party.”

Earlier this week, Prof Priestley was asked to conduct a review into the situation around exam results being downgraded by a controversial moderation process instead of using teacher estimated grades.

 

John Swinney.

A new exam grades system was applied this year (Image: Getty)

The Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) released higher qualification results last Tuesday, equivalent to A levels in England.

But the exams authority has been faced with backlash from distraught teenagers after the system was branded “fundamentally unfair”.

SQA figures showed that it downgraded 124,564 pupils’ results despite no exams being sat – 93.1 percent of all the moderated grades.

After SQA moderation, the National 5 pass rate was 81.1 percent, the Higher pass rate was 78.9 percent and the Advanced Higher pass rate was 84.9 percent.

Jamie Greene.

Jamie Greene has slammed the appointment (Image: Getty)

Consequently, Education Secretary John Swinney apologised and scrapped the moderation saying that teacher predictions would stand.

Professor Priestly’s initial report is due in five weeks.

The Government U-turn also led to a vote of no confidence in Education Secretary John Swinney in the Scottish Parliament, which was defeated with the support of the Scottish Greens.

Professor Mark Priestly has also been approached for comment.

 



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