EDUCATION Secretary John Swinney faces a vote of no confidence at Holyrood amid ongoing anger over Scotland's exam results "shambles".

Scottish Labour said Mr Swinney "has completely lost control" of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) and exam process and needs to go.

The party said a timeline published on the SQA's intranet indicated it would not release the results of some appeals until May 31.

However this was rejected by the SQA.

A spokesman said: “There is no nine month wait for grades. This was a meaningless date set as part of a technical requirement to allow the system to go live.

“The results of the priority appeals will be emailed to schools and colleges for learners by September 4.

“We are committed to processing all appeals as quickly as possible. We will provide a date for all other reviews shortly after August 21.”

Young people waiting for university or college places are considered to be in the "priority" category.

Scottish Labour said it will table a motion of no confidence  and seek support from other parties for the removal of Mr Swinney, who is also Deputy First Minister.

Scottish Conservative education spokesman Jamie Greene said his party will support the move.

He said public confidence in Mr Swinney "has hit rock bottom".

The Scottish Government has faced widespread criticism over the grading system that replaced exams, which were cancelled in Scotland for the first time ever due to coronavirus.

The system, produced by the SQA and approved by the Government, saw 26.2 per cent of grades changed during the moderation process based on criteria that included schools' historic performances - with a total of 124,564 pupils' results downgraded.

There was widespread outcry after it emerged the pass rate for pupils in the most deprived areas was reduced by 15.2% from teacher estimates after the exam board's moderation.

In contrast, the pass rate for pupils from the most affluent backgrounds dropped by just 6.9%.

Hundreds of pupils took to Glasgow's George Square on Friday morning to protest the results.

Responding to the possible vote of no confidence, a spokesman for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “Governments across the UK – and indeed across the world – have had to adapt to a near impossible situation imposed on exam systems by the global pandemic.

“The fact is, no alternative system to the exam diet would leave everybody satisfied, which is perhaps why Labour in Scotland have not even suggested one. Indeed, reports suggest that a similar process to that used by the SQA will lead to similar - or perhaps greater - proportions of pupils being downgraded in Labour-run Wales, when results are published shortly.  

“John Swinney is absolutely committed to listening to the concerns of those who feel let down by this week’s results. In the meantime, it is important that the appeals process is allowed to proceed.”

Ms Sturgeon previously said the controversial system was "effectively statistical moderation" and argued results would not have been "credible" if the pass rate of the most-deprived pupils had risen by the 19.8% estimated by teachers before moderation.

She stressed the appeals process would allow eligible pupils to challenge their results if they were downgraded from teachers' estimates.

Calling for Mr Swinney's resignation, Scottish Labour's education spokesman Iain Gray said: "The SQA created this mess and the SNP Government has entrusted them to sort it out - but all we have seen is shambles upon shambles upon shambles."

He added: "We cannot have confidence in John Swinney and the SQA to run a credible appeals system.

"The only way out of this mess now is for Scottish Government to return to trusting teachers' judgments."

Under Scottish Parliament rules, a motion of no confidence can be tabled, debated and voted on if it is backed by at least 25 MSPs.

Erin Bleakley, from the east end of Glasgow, is one of those affected by the changes and that prompted her to organise the protest yesterday morning in George Square.

The 17-year-old attends St Andrew's High School in Carntyne, which was earlier this year identified by the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation as the second most deprived area in the country.

She is part of a two-year Highers scheme - which meant she and other pupils bypassed the National 5 qualifications - and had four of her six expected results downgraded.

Recalling how she felt as she received her results, she said: "I crumbled, my legs just crumbled beneath me, I couldn't believe it - I was bawling, crying, I couldn't believe that the work we'd done for the past two years had went down the drain.

"Now that some people have failed they've got nothing behind them because of the downgrades.

"We want our voices to be heard, we will not stand back and take this. Our postcode does not define us as people."

The protesters were armed with placards reading "SQA - widening the attainment gap since 2020", "Judge my work not my postcode" and "Swinney quashing ambition".

Speaking at her Covid-19 briefing, Ms Sturgeon said: "If you're a young person sitting at home right now or in George Square in Glasgow and you have results that are below what your teacher thought you should get, you are going to - understandably - feel very aggrieved.

"And if you think that's because of the postcode you live in or the school you go to, that is going to be even more pronounced."

While urging eligible pupils to appeal against their grades, Ms Sturgeon said that students are "entitled to be angry and entitled to feel that this is not just".

She said: "The Government will listen carefully to that, but please don't lose sight of this next part of the process because this is the part of the process that's not a statistical model, this is the part of the process that looks at your individual circumstances."