THE pass rate for this year's Higher exams was "broadly stable", education secretary John Swinney has said.

Official figures show that attainment was slightly down across most of the Scottish qualifications when compared to last year.

Mr Swinney spoke as tens of thousands of pupils in Scotland found out how they had done in their National 5s, Highers and Advanced Highers.

Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) figures show there were 191,951 entries for Higher exams in 2018, with 147,419 attaining a pass grade of A-C.

The attainment rate of 76.8% is only sightly down on the 77% rate in 2017, when there were 194,813 entries.

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Figures from the SQA also show an attainment rate of 91.1% for the National 4 exams, with 96,613 passes, while pupils achieved 218,201 passes at National 5, with a success rate of 77.4%.

The figures are slightly down on 2017 when the attainment rate for National 4 was 92.8% and 79.5% for the National 5.

Advanced Higher passes rose to 19,585, with a pass rate of 80.5%.

But UCAS admissions figures showed a record a number of young people from the most deprived areas getting into university.

Opposition parties accused Nicola Sturgeon of failing to deliver on her vow to make education the defining mission of her premiership.

Mr Swinney said: “Results day is a time to celebrate the achievements and dedication of learners right across the country, especially in this the Year of Young People.

“Higher passes remain stable despite a continuing fall in the number of young people on the school roll while the number of Advanced Highers being taken continues to grow.

“It is important to remember that we will always see slight variations in pass rates and the results show that we have a robust, credible assessment system in place.”

Opposition parties congratulated pupils, but raised fears about falling attainment levels.

Liz Smith, for the Scottish Conservatives, said: “There has been no improvement in overall attainment across the board and these statistics confirm there are still major issues about the mix between National 4 and National 5 qualifications.

“That’s down to decisions this SNP government has taken, and exposes the complacency it has shown towards education.”

Labour’s Iain Gray said: “The real concern is that these falls in attainment are now clear trends over a number of years.

“It would appear that years of cuts to school budgets and teacher numbers, along with the narrowing of the curriculum and reduced course choice, are now having an impact on exam results.”

UCAS data showed that 29,830 students from Scotland have had their university applications confirmed as exam results went out across the country - a four per cent increase in acceptances despite an overall fall in the population of 18-year olds.

The Commission on Widening Access set a target to have students from the 20%t most deprived backgrounds representing 20% of entrants to Higher Education by 2030.

This year, for Scottish applicants of all ages, 4,340 students from the most deprived areas (SIMD20) were placed – 14.6 per cent of all Scottish applicants. This compares with, 14.4 per cent last year (4,150 of all students).