Fewer than one in five schoolchildren have received a free computer device despite an SNP pledge to deliver one to every Scots pupil, according to reports.

Papers released ahead of a meeting of Holyrood’s Education Committee on Wednesday revealed councils had given around 122,000 digital devices to children since the pandemic began. 

That amounts to around 17 per cent of Scotland’s 705,000 pupil population - despite a promise by Nicola Sturgeon to “provide every child in Scotland with a device to get online, including a free internet connection and the support to use it”. 

And ahead of the May 2021 election, the First Minister promised to get the policy kickstarted during her first 100 days back in office - but rivals have described progress so far as “pitiful”. 

Following the reports, which were first revealed in the Scottish Sun, Lib Dem education spokesman Willie Rennie said: “At this rate of progress thousands of pupils will have sat their exams and left school before there is any sign of a laptop.” 


In a briefing paper to MSPs, councils umbrella body COSLA said: “Local Government have distributed over 122,000 digital devices to children and young people. 

“This includes 72,000 devices provided to children and young people identified by their schools as being at risk of digital exclusion supported by £25 million of funding from the Scottish Government.” 

The Scottish Government’s digital exclusion scheme provided 72,000 schoolchildren with devices, mostly in the second half of the 2020/21 school year - during the second lockdown. 

Scots Tory shadow education secretary Oliver Mundell said: “Nicola Sturgeon made a huge song and dance about this pledge during the election but they have monumentally failed to deliver. 

“Far from education being the number one priority, it seems things are going at a snail’s pace.” 

Labour education spokesman Michael Marra said: “This is pitiful progress on this key pledge. 

“It’s been less than a year since the election and already pledges are being abandoned left, right and centre.” 


And Lib Dem MSP Mr Rennie added: “The SNP boasted and congratulated themselves about this pledge but, as usual, they are less good at delivering on their promises.” 

The Nats’ election manifesto promised “over the course of the next parliament” to “provide every pupil with their own laptop or device”. 

A Scottish Government spokesman told the newspaper: “By the end of this parliamentary term, the Scottish Government will provide funding to ensure that every school-aged child in Scotland has access to an appropriate digital device and connectivity to support their learning. 

“Discussions with local government are underway to deliver this ambitious and key commitment.”