EDUCATION Secretary John Swinney has blamed a “series of issues” leading to the Scottish Government publishing contentious exam analysis late at night – rather than a bid to escape scrutiny.

The Scottish Government raised eyebrows last week when it published its detailed analysis of last year’s exam results at 8pm, after the week’s business at Holyrood had closed.

READ MORE: Scottish Government's education reputation 'in tatters' after exam analysis saga

In an official statement, John Swinney told MSPs that “it was never our intention” to release the findings so late in the day - but that officials were working to the incorrect deadline to respond to an FOI request for the data.

He said: "It was never our intention to release this as late in the day as ultimately took place.

"The necessary material for issue was approved at approximately 5.30pm. This is later than would have been ideal, but given the deadline I had been advised of, I proceeded with publication."

He added: "I have subsequently been advised that the statutory deadline was incorrect. It is therefore deeply unfortunate that a series of issues delayed the publication, including issuing a press release until later that same evening.

"I can assure Parliament, however, that we sought to be as timely and as informative as possible with this publication."

Mr Swinney also confirmed that a debate on education is set to take place at Holyrood on March 17.

Earlier at First Minister’s Questions, Nicola Sturgeon labelled the argument about the publication as “nonsense”.

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Mr Swinney stressed that “much of the this material is not new” after the actual exam results were published last August. But the publication of the analysis followed a six-month battle with lecturer James McEnaney, through Freedom of Information requests.

The Education Secretary said that he “remains committed to the changes we have instigated” and believes the Scottish Government’s direction of travel to improve school standards is still “the right thing to do”.

READ MORE: John Swinney: More time needed for exam improvements after pass rate drop

But Scottish Conservative education spokesperson said that Mr Sweeney’s “jargon and excuse-filled statement won’t wash with teachers”.

He called on the Education Secretary to have the “humility to accept that when something isn’t working, we have to get it right”.