JOHN Swinney has cancelled Scotland's National 5 exams for 2021 as they are "too big a risk to take" amid the Covid-19 crisis.

But Higher and Advanced Highers exams will go ahead if possible - although "continguency plans" will be drawn up to enable teacher estimates to be used in the event they are not able to be held.

Conservatives have claimed "the towel has been thrown in already" by the Scottish Government.

READ MORE: What parents and pupils need to know as National 5s cancelled

This year's exams were axed in their entirety due to the pandemic before a row emerged over the method used to determine grades - forcing the Scottish Government into a u-turn after thousands of pupils had their marks downgraded from initial teacher estimates by the SQA.

Mr Swinney confirmed to Holyrood that National 5 exams next year will not go ahead in 2021.

He said: "A full exam diet is simply too big a risk to take - it simply would not be fair."

Mr Swinney said that in place of the exams would be qualifications awarded based on "centre estimates".

READ MORE: Coronavirus Scotland: John Swinney 'told officials to spin exams row'

Highers and Advanced Highers will go ahead as planned but the assessment could revert back to teacher estimates "if necessary". The Highers and Advanced Highers will be pushed back by two weeks in 2021 until May 13.

Conservative education spokesperon, Jamie Green, said that "a full exam diet could and should take place".

He added that "the towel has been thrown in already", warning that he was "not convinced that full justification has been offered" for the decision.

The EIS union has welcomed the "overdue" decision.

EIS general secretary, Larry Flanagan, added: "It is wholly sensible and appropriate to plan on the assumption of some level of disruption, given the current rising level of infection and the prospect of a difficult winter period ahead.

"The most important consideration is the need to ensure that all students receive appropriate recognition for their achievements, and the EIS is confident that a system based on teacher professional judgement provides a sound basis for the awarding of qualifications.

"It is possible that the collective response to the current challenging circumstances may actually help to pave the way for a better system of senior phase assessment in the future.”