BBC bosses have slapped down Andrew Neil for calling Scottish school children “illiterate”.

During an interview with former First Minister Alex Salmond on the BBC’s Sunday Politics show, Neil attacked the SNP’s record on education.

The host, who has since quit the programme, asked Salmond why, after a decade of SNP government, one in five Scots pupils leave primary school "functionally illiterate".

One viewer complained to the BBC saying there was no basis for the claim. After an investigation, the BBC’s complaint unit agreed, and said Neil had taken the figure, unchecked, from the Tories.

On the BBC’s complaints website, the corporation said: “The figure had originally been put forward by a spokesperson for the Scottish Conservatives, as being based on the 2009 Scottish Survey for Literacy and Numeracy.

“That survey, however, contained no reference to “functional illiteracy”, and no data which would have justified the claim in question.”

They added that the Sunday Politics team “has been reminded of the need to establish the evidential basis of claims that are quoted in its questions.”

Recent statistics have shown a fall in the literacy skills of Scottish school pupils in the past four years.

Results from the Scottish Survey of Literacy and Numeracy, published in May, found that less than half of Scotland's 13 and 14-year-olds are now performing well in writing.

While the reading ability of P4, P7 and S2 pupils remains high and broadly similar to 2014 - but lower than 2012.

Scottish Education Secretary John Swinney acknowledged at the time that the figures were "simply not good enough" and showed that education reforms were now "imperative".