Scottish pupils will be able to appeal directly, and free of charge, against grades awarded under this year's alternative certification model (ACM).

Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville announced the service would be made available for the first time during a statement at Holyrood on Wednesday afternoon.

However, she also revealed the system would operate on the basis of a "symmetrical" model, meaning grades can go up or down depending on the evidence provided.

And newly published advice outlining grounds for appeal makes no mention of exceptional circumstances, whether Covid-related or connected to other factors such as bereavement, being a young carer and mental health.

READ MORE: Glasgow schools boss calls for grades overhaul

Ms Somerville defended the ACM's determination of results based on demonstrated attainment, insisting this would ensure that outcomes are fair and credible.

Her statement comes in the wake of growing fears over this year's alternative assessment arrangements, which have led to young people enduring a treadmill of stressful, high-stakes tests as teachers gather evidence for provisional grades.

Details about the system have also been published on the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) website.

HeraldScotland: This year's National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams were cancelled due to Covid-19.This year's National 5, Higher and Advanced Higher exams were cancelled due to Covid-19.

The advice says: "A key principle of the awarding of qualifications in any year is that a learner's grade is based on the evidence of their demonstrated attainment of the skills and knowledge of a course, and this is a central feature of this year's alternative certification model.

"Given this, an appeal of a result must also be based on the evidence of the learner's demonstrated attainment against the national standard.

"Therefore, the outcomes of an evidence-based appeal could be that a learner's grade could go up, go down, or stay the same."

READ MORE: Schools 'face chaos' due to results extension

But new Shadow Education Secretary Oliver Mundell said the SNP and the SQA had betrayed Scotland’s young people by putting them in an even worse position than pupils who were affected last year.

The Scottish Conservatives also claimed the SQA was not fit for purpose and should be replaced to restore trust.

Mr Mundell added that confirmation that SQA assessment papers and marking scripts had been accessed online was “alarming” and showed the total failure of SNP ministers to address pupils’ concerns before they sat exams in “all but name”.