JOHN Swinney has survived a Holyrood vote of no confidence over the Scottish exams fiasco after similar problems emerged with English school  results.

The Education Secretary was saved by the support of the Scottish Greens, with MSPs voting 67 to 58 against a Labour motion aimed at removing him.

HeraldScotland: Camley's Cartoon: Swinney survives no-confidence vote.Camley's Cartoon: Swinney survives no-confidence vote.

Nicola Sturgeon said she had full confidence in the Deputy First Minister, describing him as “one of the most decent and dedicated people in Scottish politics”. 

However she conspicuously failed to say if Mr Swinney had offered to resign when asked directly by Tory MSP Jamie Halcro Johnson.

Governnment sources later said Mr Swinney did not offer his resignation.

Labour MSP Iain Gray, who tabled the no confidence motion, said that the next time Mr Swinney failed, the Greens would "own that failure with him" after keeping him in post.

Ms Sturgeon was also criticised for failing to get rid of Mr Swinney, and accused of losing the principles she had in opposition when she demanded other ministers resign for their failures, notably a Labour education minister in 2000.

Mr Swinney endured a deeply uncomfortable hour in the Holyrood chamber, as opposition MSPs said he had been a serial failure at the education portfolio, and he knew it.

They listed past U-turns over Primary 1 tests, blended learning, and a withdrawn flagship Education Bill.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson suggested he had put saving his career ahead of what was best for pupils.

However his own side sang his praises as a man of integrity who had taken responsibility by trying to fix things.

The SNP was also able to turn the tables on Mr Swinney's Tory critics by highlighting the problems with the exam results south of the border.

On Tuesday, Mr Swinney ditched 124,000 downgrades by the Scotttish Qualifications Authority (SQA), and said more generous teacher estimates would apply instead.

The move affected 76,000 pupils and a quarter of all National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher results estimated after exams were cancelled because of the Covid lockdown.

It results in double-digit rises in the national pass rates compared to 2019, something Nicola Sturgeon had described as “not credible” only a week earlier.

The Scottish Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats all said Mr Swinney should resign, saying it was last in a long line of humiliating U-turns in his four years at education. However a potentially even greater problem emerged this morning over A-level results in England, with almost 40% of marks downgraded by the authorities.

Ms Davidson said: "John Swinney has been a huge contributor to this parliament – but he should have been removed today.

"For parliamentary responsibility to work, the sanction must fit the scale of the failure and this was the biggest exams failure in the history of devolution.

“When faced with the thousands of students whose dreams were dashed, he dug in and defended the system over the pupils.

“When presented with clear analysis showing children from the most deprived areas were hit hardest, he went on the nightly television news to deny it – saying the ‘data does not bear that out’ - when that’s exactly what the data did do.

“As high a regard as people cross this chamber may hold John Swinney, the timeline of a threat of no confidence and the total U-turn that transpired, opens the education secretary to accusations he cared more about his own job than our children’s futures.

“The scale of this failure is to such a degree that it prompts the question – if this isn’t a resignation matter, then what is?

“John Swinney survived today because of a last-minute pact with the Greens. But the principle of parliamentary responsibility is forever damaged by his clinging on.

"Scottish education desperately needs new leadership and damaged, discredited John Swinney simply isn't able to deliver it."

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said: “John Swinney refused to put his confidence in Scotland’s school students and teachers – but tonight the SNP and the Greens expressed confidence in John Swinney.  

“We moved this motion not out of retribution, but out of our duty, to the school students and teachers the Education Secretary disregarded and disrespected, to say we have no confidence in him to sort out the mess he created. 

“As the Education Secretary clings onto his job, he should remember that tonight’s vote is not an endorsement of his record of failure.

"It is an indictment of a governing party which prioritises looking after its own rather than standing up for education, and a so-called opposition party – the Greens – which could be mistaken for the SNP government’s back bench. 

“Scotland’s education system will face many more challenges over the coming weeks, months and years. It is the Scottish Government’s duty to ensure our children are never failed in this way again.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "When the policy direction is constantly changing in an erratic and uncontrolled fashion it has an debilitating impact on the organisation.

"That is when the organisation just does not know what to expect next and loses confidence in the leadership. 

“That has been happening to John Swinney for years now. The chopping and changing on the education bill, curriculum for excellence, testing, blended learning, the exams and the falling international standing of our education system are central to the reasons he should leave his post as Education Secretary.”