Opposition parties failed in their bid to remove John Swinney as Education Secretary after the SQA downgrading fiasco.

Labour, the Conservatives and LibDems backed a motion of no confidence in Mr Swinney after the SQA moderation of results led to pupil protests in George Square and outrage among parents and teachers.

However, following the U-turn which saw all downgraded results replaced with teacher estimates, and a commitment to review the system of assessment and qualifications, the Scottish Greens backed the SNP in defeating the motion in the Scottish Parliament.

The motion, tabled by Iain Gray, Labour’s education spokesmanwas defeated by 67 votes to 58.

Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard, said it was not about personalities or just the SQA issue.

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Instead, he said: “It was about a time of reckoning for a long line of failures.

“We reviewed the SQA fiasco after calls from angry parents and pupils.”

He said the U-turn was a “victory for fairness” but was not a “victory for the Education Secretary” who, he said, only acted “when his own job was on the line.”

He said there were warnings for months previously about the system of moderation.

Mr Leonard listed other examples of what he termed “catastrophes”.

The Labour leader said Mr Swinney had failed on expansion of childcare, did a U-turn on schools going back full time, said he had narrowed subject choices and refused to scrap P1 testing.

Nicola Sturgeon strongly defended Mr Swinney and said the motion was “hypocritical” and “opportunistic”.

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She said: “John Swinney is one of the most decent and dedicated people in Scottish politics. John Swinney is someone who works hard to fulfil his responsibilities each and every day.

“The last few days have been more difficult for many young people for that I’m sorry and so is John Swinney.”

She added: “We took decisions we considered on balance were the right ones.

“For Scottish Labour and the Conservatives this is not about principle this is simply about politics.

“We own our mistakes so should they.”

She said the Scottish Government has not hid from the fact it got it wrong and said the government listened to young people.

Ms Sturgeon added: “This government made the wrong judgement but we listed to the concerns and we acted.”

Ms Sturgeon said Mr Swinney is: “Probably the most honourable individual I have known.”

Ruth Davidson Conservative Holyrood group leader, said the SNP only acted because they were forced to by the threat of a no confidence motion.

She said: “If this isn’t a resignation matter then what is?”

Ms Davidson said Mr Swinney had to take “ultimate responsibility for “failing in his brief”.

She said the sanction “must fit the scale of the failure”.

She added: “This failure is so great it demands a resignation.”

Ross Greer of the Greens, said: “The Greens will oppose this motion.”

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He said their only motivation was to restore the grades of 75,000 young people.

He said he and others, including Iain Gray, had spent months warning of the failings in the system.

However, Mr Greer said: “The First Minister and Education Secretary have held up their hands and apologised.”