NICOLA Sturgeon has defended the academic leading the probe into last week’s exam row after the Tories called for him to be removed.

Yesterday, it emerged that the Stirling University professor had previously urged people to vote for the SNP.

This, the Tories said, meant there would be no public faith in the review.

The First Minister said nobody could “credibly or reasonably doubt his credentials for this job” .

The review was announced on Tuesday, when the Education Secretary told MSPs that the 75,000 pupils who had their marks downgraded because of the SQA system of moderation would see those results reversed.

He said Professor Mark Priestley would “look at events following the cancellation of the examination diet” and come back with an “initial report with recommendations on how we should go forward within five weeks.”

On election day last December, Priestley took to Twitter to say he was “voting today to stop Boris Johnson. That means voting tactically. In my constituency that means a vote for the SNP. Today, please vote in the interests of the country, putting aside party loyalties.”

He also shared a tactical voting guide, saying “vote SNP or get a Tory”.

He also tweeted that supporting Neale Hanvey, who was suspended during the election over anti-Semitism, could “perhaps” be a “lesser of two evils”.

Tory education spokesperson, Jamie Greene, said: “The much-heralded SNP plans for a so-called “independent review” into the SQA exams fiasco have unravelled already.

“Less than 24 hours after the Greens saved Mr Swinney from the sack, after his second humiliating U-turn in just a few months, it looks like another scandal has engulfed the education secretary.”

READ MORE: Professor examining last week's SQA result fiasco is SNP supporter

He added: “If the SNP are serious about righting their wrongs over this fiasco, and if the public are to have any faith in this review, they must consider removing Mr Priestley.”

The First Minister was asked about the professor’s suitability at the coronavirus briefing, she said nobody could “credibly or reasonably doubt his credentials for this job”.

“The controversy appears to be because he has perhaps suggested at some point that he might have voted SNP. To the best of my knowledge he is not a member of the SNP. I can’t interrogate how people vote.”

She added: “On the basis of current opinion polls, more than half of the Scottish population intend to vote SNP, so there would obviously be an issue if we started to exclude people who have qualifications to do things, from doing these things, because they might vote SNP.”