Exclusive:SNP ministers delay laptop for every pupil policy again, saving £14m

The pledge around free laptops for pupils was a central part of the party’s 2021 Holyrood election manifesto.

SNP ministers have delayed their pledge to give every pupil in Scotland access to a laptop or tablet for at least another year.

The 2021 manifesto commitment has been repeatedly delayed, with deputy first minister Shona Robison now confirming another year’s delay.

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The decision is part of the £680 million in-year cuts to the Scottish Government budget announced by Ms Robison, who is also finance secretary, on Tuesday.

Delaying the pledge has saved the Government £14m, of which £13m is in capital costs and £1m in resource funding.

Ministers said they were considering a “range of delivery models” for the pledge. However, critics said it was evidence of “another hollow education promise made for the sake of headlines alone”.

The cut was announced to MSPs in a letter to the finance committee from Ms Robison on Tuesday, which outlined £14m of savings from “Technologies for Learning”.

The letter said there is “no spend required this year as we continue to review delivery models for this commitment to ensure maximum return on investment”.

SNP figures committed the Government to the pledge in their 2021 Holyrood manifesto.

The pledge stated the party would “continue to remove barriers to learning by providing every pupil with their own laptop or device and a free internet connection” over the course of the Parliament.

Liam Kerr, the Scottish Conservative education spokesperson, said the cuts exposed the “pitiful progress” in delivering the pledge.

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He said: “More than two years after the SNP made this manifesto commitment, the policy looks to have been delayed even further. This is all too typical of the SNP overpromising and underdelivering on key promises.

“Our young people are being let down at every turn by this SNP Government, and this appears to be yet another hollow education promise made for the sake of headlines alone.

“I have asked countless questions in Parliament about the issue of devices for pupils, but every time this Government goes out of their way to give meaningless and indirect answers, presumably to disguise their apparent lack of intention to deliver.”

Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson Pam Duncan-Glancy said the policy was nothing more than an “eye-catching pledge in the months before an election”.

She said: “This looks to be yet another broken promise from a government more interested in making promises just to get votes, with no idea how to deliver or fund them.

“It has now been two years since the SNP made this pledge, and now it looks like they’ll have to come clean and say they can’t pay for it. This is not the kind of responsible politics Scotland needs.”

Willie Rennie, the Scottish Liberal Democrat communities spokesperson, accused the Government of letting down a generation of young people.

“The young people this policy was designed to help will have left school by the time the SNP get round to delivering it,” he said.

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“This is a government that prioritises talk over futures. They love never-ending navel-gazing on independence, but they barely lift a finger when it comes to investing in children and young people.

The Scottish Government pointed at an expected fall in capital funding of 6.7 per cent over the next five years.

A spokesperson said: “In light of the unprecedented pressures on public finances, the budget allocated to the device commitment in 2023/24 will now be part of the £680m saving and prioritisation process.

“Ministers are actively considering all available options for the device commitment, including a range of delivery models.

“The Scottish Government has already provided £25m to local authorities and councils have also invested in their own rollout programmes, meaning a total of 280,000 devices have been distributed to young people across Scotland.”



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