SNP ministers and the country’s exams body have been urged to apologise for causing school pupils needless stress and anxiety as they receive their official grades today.

The Scottish Greens blamed the Government and the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) for exacerbating problems being caused by the Covid pandemic.

For the second year in a row, teacher assessments are being used to determine grades for National 5, Higher and Advanced Highers after exams were cancelled in lockdown.

Following a sift for administrative errors, today’s final results are expected to reflect provisional results given to pupils in June.

Opposition parties said pupils were owed an apology for the way the alternative certification model (ACM) had been implemented, with a plethora of exam-like tests.

Green MSP Ross Greer said: “The Scottish Government and SQA should start this year’s results day with an apology to Scotland’s young people for the entirely avoidable levels of stress and anxiety they were put through. The onslaught of de-facto exams after Easter wasn’t a necessary requirement, it was the result of a near-total failure to plan for the effects of Covid disruption earlier in the school year.

“The decision to cancel exams was taken far too late, the alternative grading system was based on evidence that didn’t yet exist and the only way to produce it on time was through tests which in every meaningful way mirrored the exams they had cancelled.

“On top of all of this, pupils and teachers have no ability to appeal a grade on compassionate grounds or other exceptional circumstances.

“It is scandalous that the SQA has refused to take this into account despite hearing the stories of young people having to undertake these de-facto exams just days after losing a family member or when they themselves had been seriously ill.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Beatrice Wishart accused ministers of “plotting to spin themselves out of another exams debacle”.

She said: “The fact that the head of the SQA didn’t see fit to apologise for last year’s results shambles suggests that few lessons have been learned.

“Pupils were forced into exams in all but name, sitting as many as 40 assessments in eight weeks, crammed in with little notice. The SQA shifted workloads onto teachers and gave them precious little leeway to recognise that some of their students had missed months of education due to repeated stints in isolation or disruption at home.”

The Scottish Tories cited Higher results from five councils to claim pupils were being “marked more harshly” than last year, as pass rates were noticeably lower.

However this year’s grades are based on a different system to 2020, when both demonstrated and inferred attainment were used.

Inferred attainment has been banned in the ACM for 2021.

Tory MSP Oliver Mundell said the reduction in pass rates suggested this year’s system was “just as unfair and flawed as last year”.

A spokesperson for Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said: “It’s disappointing to see opposition parties attacking results before they are even out and trying to play politics with Scotland’s school pupils, rather than engaging constructively to celebrate the achievements of our young people under extraordinary circumstances. I congratulate learners and teachers – the opposition should do likewise.

“This year’s more flexible approach will deliver fair, credible and consistent results based on teacher judgment of the evidence of each pupil’s attainment. There are no algorithms; no historic results defining awards, no SQA veto on results, and the most comprehensive appeal process ever as a safeguard.

“Scotland’s industry leaders and employers have also made it clear that they recognise and value the qualifications achieved by young people this year as much as any other year.”

SQA chief executive Fiona Robertson added: “On results day our focus is on paying tribute to the tremendous efforts and achievements of Scotland’s young people in what has been a very difficult and challenging time for many. Their hard work and dedication speak volumes about their resilience and flexibility.”