NICOLA Sturgeon has dismissed suggestions from Willie Rennie that the Scottish Government has conspired with a research organisation to delay the release of a key education report.

The Scottish LibDem leader raised concerns about a review by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) into Scotland’s secondary education system.

The results were initially expected to be published in February but the Scottish Government delayed the process due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

At First Minister’s Questions, Rennie accused the Scottish Government of "meddling" in the process, claiming the findings are at risk of being tainted by bias.

He said: “How can the people of Scotland judge the First Minister on her number one priority of education, if the OECD report that was supposed to get to the bottom of problems isn’t published until after the election?”

He added: “Is the First Minister seriously expecting us to believe that of all the months of the year that the OECD could have picked they just happened to insist on the one immediately following the election?

“The First Minister has the report already, she should publish it now. The Scottish Government and its quangos have timetabled in months to ‘provide comments’ on multiple drafts of the OECD report … How can anyone have confidence in the independence of this report if the government has the opportunity to meddle in this way?”

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Sturgeon branded Rennie’s accusations "completely outrageous", insisting the OECD is an independent organisation.

She added that the preliminary report has been sent to the Scottish Government "purely for accuracy checking" and explained the delay was caused by the pandemic, which restricted the movement of OECD officials. 

The SNP leader responded: “The idea that the OECD would allow to happen what [Rennie] has just suggested is happening is completely outrageous.

“The OECD is a respected organisation. It is carrying out this review for the Scottish Government independently. It has set its timetable. The preliminary report the Scottish Government has received is purely for accuracy checking.

“It is not an opportunity to influence the content or rewrite the accuracy of the report and I don’t think the OECD would allow that, were the Scottish Government to attempt it, which it is not doing.”

An OECD spokesperson told The National: "The OECD is assessing the implementation of Curriculum for Excellence based on standard OECD methodology for country education policy and implementation reviews.

"Taking into account the current stage of the process and past experience conducting such reviews, the report will be finalised and is expected to be ready for publication in June 2021."

The Scottish Government was later defeated in a non-binding vote on a motion brought by Rennie which called for the OECD report to be published immediately.