JOHN Swinney has been described as a “walking wounded” Education Secretary by SNP insiders. MSPs have been inundated with complaints over his handling of this year’s Higher grades.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday insisted she has full confidence in her number two when she was pressed on his future at the daily coronavirus media briefing.

But others in her party were less sure over how long Swinney can remain as Education Secretary and deputy First Minister.

He is due to give a statement today in Holyrood over a decision by the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to downgrade the grades of thousands of pupils living in poorer areas from those estimated by teachers. He is also facing a no-confidence vote.

One SNP insider pointed to Labour’s education minister Sam Galbraith and the SNP education secretary Fiona Hyslop having been reshuffled after they faced or were due to face no-confidence motions. Others speculated Swinney may offer his own resignation.

“I think there is no doubt, John is in trouble to say the least. The last time there was an SQA crisis on this scale was 20 years ago. Labour’s Sam Galbraith survived a no confidence vote, but he ended up getting reshuffled not long after.

“Fiona Hyslop also faced a no confidence vote as education secretary which would almost certainly have passed, but Alex Salmond pre-empted it by having a reshuffle and put Mike Russell into the job. I don’t know if Nicola will do something similar.

“But I don’t think she is particularly happy. She could have done without this crisis on top of everything else.”

The insider added: “I think the real sting in the tail has been that the people who were marked down by a mile were from the poorest communities.”

The insider went on: “I’ve been inundated, inundated with letters from pupils, parents, grandparents and teachers. It’s not been a good week.”

Another SNP insider said: “The DFM is on a shoogly peg. I can’t see how he can recover in the next 36 hours to such an extent that he can remain in high office. I can’t really see how he will rebound.

“I think it might be down to John. Is he really interested in carrying on as Education Secretary when his reputation has been damaged?

“Most people in the SNP are very angry. MSPs’ postbags are full of letters of pupils and parents complaining.”

The source added: “To me, John has been left walking wounded. Education is going to take a lot of nursing between now and the May election.”

However, SNP MSP Richard Lyle urged Swinney to remain: “I blame the SQA and have complete confidence in John Swinney. He has faced a number of problems over the last year or so – not of his making – which he has taken steps to correct.

“I will be giving him my vote of confidence and if he is thinking of resigning, I would say ‘do not’.”