Fife-based SNP education chief criticised over U-turn on free school laptops

SNP education secretary Jenny Gilruth is facing criticism from Fife councillors over the Scottish Government’s U-turn on a pledge to provide every school pupil with a laptop.

Despite an election pledge to give every school pupil a tablet or laptop with an internet connection, the Glenrothes and Mid Fife MSP told parliament the scheme will actually be means tested.

It prompted criticism from Fife councillors, with the local authority now looking to see how it can fund the roll-out.

But on a visit to an outdoor nursery in the Kingdom, Ms Gilruth claimed the Scottish Government had set its budget in challenging circumstances.

She told The Courier: “We are working towards the roll-out of the device commitment, however there are challenges for the Scottish Government, not least because of decisions taken elsewhere.”

U-turn ‘another reason’ for independence, minister says

The cabinet secretary was visiting the facility in Letham to launch the government’s latest in a series of papers setting out its prospectus for an independent Scotland.

She said the decision taken on funding for devices was “another reason” independence was needed so choices that would benefit young people could be taken in Scotland.

Jenny Gilruth and independence minister Jamie Hepburn on a visit to an outdoor nursery in Letham. Image: Scottish Government

John Swinney, when he was education secretary, had made the commitment in 2021 during a speech to SNP members.

“If we are re-elected in May, the SNP will roll out a new programme to deliver into the hands of every school child in Scotland a laptop, Chromebook or tablet to use in school and at home,” he said at the time.

Graeme Downie, Scottish Labour candidate for Dunfermline and Dollar, said the U-turn was the latest “appalling failure” by the SNP and would “limit opportunity” for young people in Fife.

He said: “At the General Election this year, voters of all ages will have the choice of sticking with SNP failure, or choosing a UK Labour Government that will help young people meet their own aspirations for their future.”

‘Absolute disgrace’

Councillor Kathleen Leslie, who leads the Scottish Conservative group on Fife Council, was also critical.

Ms Leslie wrote to the education secretary last year, and was told the government remained committed to delivering the pledge by the end of the parliament in 2026.

She told The Courier the latest delay was “nothing short of an absolute disgrace”.

The councillor added: “Now we hear this commitment has been dropped and it will be a means tested roll-out.

“Predictably, with this disastrous SNP Government, they blame Westminster for the lack of funding.

“It is funny how they manage to find millions to pour into ferries that go nowhere, fake embassies overseas and one ridiculous independence paper launch after another.

“When it comes to properly funding education for Scotland’s children, then it is quite another story.”

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