JOHN Swinney has told the SNP conference he will not back down in the debate over P1 assessments, accusing Labour, LibDem and Tory MSPs of opposing the tests out of pure “tribal, SNP-bad politics”.

Speaking at the conference in Glasgow, Swinney said assessing children was about making sure their needs are being met.

Last month MSPS across party lines joined forces to pass a motion calling for a “halt” to the tests.

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The largely symbolic motion did not bind the government to any action, but Swinney said he would “reflect” on the defeat.

Yesterday, the Deputy First Minister said he would look to tweak the tests.

“I know there are voices who do not agree with the government on these assessments out a genuine pursuit out of what they believe is in the best interests of children. I respect that view. And I’m currently looking at ways to reassure their concerns.

“But I also know political opportunism when I see it.

“The sight of Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Tories – the Tories most of all – suddenly discovering that they vehemently oppose P1 assessments after decades of delivering these assessments themselves in councils across the land is jaw dropping.

“It is easily the worst example of the tribal, SNP-bad politics of the unionist parties I have seen in years.

“These parties have no right to play politics with the education of children and young people in Scotland.”

Earlier yesterday at a fringe event organised by teaching union the EIS, Swinney was also pushed on faltering pay negotiations between teachers and the government.

Last week, the EIS threatened industrial action after they dismissed a “derisory” offer of a 3% pay rise, insisting on a 10% hike.

Larry Flanagan, the general secretary of the EIS told delegates, that the union’s ask was a “modest” one.

“There is a direct correlation between those countries which pay their teachers well and those countries which perform well in PISA results. It’s not just about pay, but paying your teachers well is symptomatic of valuing your teachers, and valuing the profession.”

He added that the actual drop in teachers’ real time pay over the last 10 years was closer to 24%.

“The average OECD pay for primary teachers is the equivalent to £42,000, for secondary teachers it’s £45,000. In Scotland it’s £36,000.

“If you value education, value teachers.”

Swinney said the offer made needed to be seen within the “context of public sector pay policy and the constraints that have been made over the last 10 years.

“I took some difficult decisions as finance secretary to constrain public sector pay with the single objective of maintaining public sector employment. I didn’t think it was wise of me to take a step that would jeopardise public sector employment during the acute period of austerity and recession that we have faced.

“What the government has put on the table, in partnership with our local authority colleagues, is an offer, that for some teachers will increase their salary by 5%, by other teachers will increase their salary by 11%.”