A FIFE councillor says she is "absolutely astounded" after a government u-turn on an initiative to provide a digital device to all pupils in Scotland.

Cabinet Secretary for Education, Jenny Gilruth MSP, this week admitted that support would be provided at household level with device investment being targeted at disadvantaged families with children.

Conservative councillor Kathleen Leslie has blasted the news saying that the Government has "a very strange way" of showing that education is their number one priority.

"At Holyrood last week the Cabinet Secretary for Education rowed back on a 2021 SNP manifesto commitment to provide a device to all learners," she said.

Central Fife Times: Councillor Kathleen LeslieCouncillor Kathleen Leslie (Image: Fife Council)

"Instead they claim to be in in the early stages of means testing to decide who would be eligible.

“This is nothing short of an absolute disgrace. In May last year, I wrote, on behalf of the Education Scrutiny Committee, to the Cabinet Secretary to enquire as to when Fife Council would receive detail on the timescale and funding allocation for these digital devices.

"A short reply was received stating that the Scottish Government had a commitment to ensure every child would now have a device by the end of the Parliament in 2026. A delay of five years from the original commitment.

“Now we hear this commitment has been dropped and now it will be a means tested roll-out. Predictably, with this disastrous SNP Government, they blame Westminster for the lack of funding."

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Cllr Lesley welcomed previous commitment from Fife Council to fund preparatory work which could see devices provided but said it was "shameful" that this was necessary.

"The funding should have been provided in the first place to all local authorities,” she added. "The suggestion of means testing a roll-out is simply ridiculous. This will lead to an ad-hoc approach where some children will just miss out because parents will not be able to purchase the device required.

"An online learning device in 2024 should be as standard as a jotter was for so many years. I will continue to scrutinise how this is done in Fife and will not accept any means-tested nonsense courtesy of this failed SNP Government. Our children and young people deserve better.”

Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Education minister Jenny Gilruth said that the decision to target disadvantaged families would maximise the impact of funding.

"That approach will improve equity of access to devices and connectivity for those who need it most, helping families to realise the broad range of benefits that are associated with digital inclusion and enabling access to digital tools and resources for learning," she said.

"Decisions that are taken by Governments in other parts of the United Kingdom - Governments that the people of this country did not vote for - mean that the Scottish Government has less money to go around for a commitment that was made some years ago.

"Capital funding is due to contract by almost 10 per cent in real terms over the next five years. That will have major impacts in Scotland, where we have one hand tied behind our back, when we want to make spending decisions that affect outcomes for our children and young people."