NICOLA Sturgeon has denounced the Scottish Tories as “shameless opportunists” for spearheading an attack on standardised school tests they previously supported.

The First Minister savaged the “breathtaking hypocrisy” of Ruth Davidson’s party for leading a Holyrood vote against tests in P1 which were included in its manifesto.

The Tories will use an opposition debate next Wednesday to force a vote on mandatory tests for P1 pupils, which have been slated by some parents and teachers.

With the other opposition parties also against the tests, the SNP government faces an embarrassing defeat on the issue, although the result will not be binding on ministers.

Ms Sturgeon has made closing the attainment gap between rich and poor pupils her top priority in government, and says standard tests are vital in measuring performance.

At First Minister’s Questions, the Scottish Tory leader attacked the lack of transparency on curriculums and performance, citing a new academic report that found only 7% of schools followed the 2012 regulations requiring them to publish “comprehensive information”.

Ms Sturgeon said the Tory position was incoherent - criticising a lack information one minute, then opposing tests designed to elicit information the next.

“Ruth Davidson’s hypocrisy on these matters is absolutely breathtaking,” she said.

She then read out a section of the Scottish Conservative manifesto for the 2016 Holyrood election in which the party welcomed standardised tests at P1, P4 and P7.

She said that, despite their manifesto position, the Tories now intended to bring forward a parliamentary motion advocating the abolition of the very same tests at P1.

She said: “The Conservatives are shameless opportunists. They care only about the short-term political opportunity; they care not a jot about schoolchildren or standards in our schools. Ruth Davidson has revealed that yet again.”

A Scottish Tory spokesman told The Herald “the manifesto could have been better worded”, but insisted the party had been against P1 tests for two years.

Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith later said next week’s vote was a chance for the opposition parties to end P1 tests “which have not only proved difficult to administer but which are not providing the most meaningful educational outcomes for five-year-olds”.

She said: “We firmly believe that there has to be a different approach in P1 compared to what happens further on in school.

“Standardised tests at P4, P7 and S3 should be a key part of educational development and the monitoring of schools’ overall progress.

“We believe all parties are united in their desire to see standards raised and that the standards must reflect the best educational interests of each pupil at every age in their school career.”

Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie said the main teaching union, the EIS, found the tests had created a “high stakes environment” and a “slippery path” to league tables.

Ms Sturgeon said testing P1 pupils was not new - 29 of Scotland’s 32 councils carried out their own assessments - but now standard tests would get better information.

She said: “The Scottish Government has standardised them so that all local authorities use the same assessment and has made them relevant to the curriculum for excellence levels.

“The assessments are not ‘high stakes’, and there is no pass or fail for them.

“It is, of course, up to teachers when pupils undertake them in the school year.

“If a teacher does not think that it is appropriate for any child to undertake them, that is entirely up to the teacher’s discretion.”

Mr Rennie added: “Teachers are very clear, they've said the tests should go, the union has said the tests should go. "When this parliament votes next week to scrap the P1 tests for pupils, will she respect the will of parliament and scrap the tests?"

Ms Sturgeon said ministers would make the case for the tests "rigorously and robustly", and said many teachers were positive about the assessments.

She said: “I want us to raise standards in Scottish education and that I want us to close the attainment gap. We need data to inform the action that we take to do that.

“I will continue to make what I think is the commonsense argument, and I look forward to the debate continuing.”