EDUCATION Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville has insisted the exam season will not be affected by teacher strikes and accused the Tories of “scaremongering”.

Tory MSP Stephen Kerr claimed Somerville did “not have an ounce of energy” to resolve the dispute with teachers with industrial action now set to take place in the run up to pupils’ exams throughout March and April including in the constituencies of key decision makers such as Nicola Sturgeon and John Swinney.

During topical questions in the Holyrood chamber, Kerr added there was a “clear threat” to the exam timetable.

But Somerville hit back and said she was “confident” discussions between the Scottish Government, councils and the Scottish Qualifications Authority will ensure exams preparations are not disturbed.

Somerville told the chamber: “We remain in talks with unions and recent dialogue has focused on potential areas of compromise.

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“Only COSLA as the employer can make a formal offer to the teaching unions. I met with the EIS general secretary on Friday and had discussions with the other teaching unions on the same day.

“I’m confident that discussions that are being had between SG, councils and SQA will ensure exam diet will not be threatened even if teaching unions choose to take industrial action during that time.

“It does no one - but particularly Scotland’s young people - any use whatsoever to continue with this scaremongering around the exams.

“There is a shared endeavour to support our children. I’m confident we will have contingencies in place.”

Teachers rejected a deal which would see most classroom staff receive a 5% pay increase, although the lowest earners would get a 6.85% pay hike.

The EIS is demanding a 10% increase but the Scottish Government says this is unaffordable and unsustainable.

Somerville has said she is “absolutely” doing everything she could to end the dispute.