A leading North Ayrshire councillor has hit out at the Scottish Government’s perceived failure to comply with manifesto pledges.

Tory councillor Todd Ferguson accused Scotland’s SNP-led administration of “catastrophic failure” to deliver on pledges and branded them “pretty big on words and pretty poor on delivery”.

He made the remarks at a meeting of North Ayrshire Council last week, as he asked the authority’s education supremo, Councillor John Bell, how many electronic devices to promote online learning had been handed out – in line with commitments made in the run up to the elections in May.

Councillor Ferguson told the meeting: “In the lead up to the Scottish parliamentary elections in 2021, the SNP manifesto noted that: ‘we will provide every child in Scotland with a device to get online, including a free internet connection and the support to use it’.

"Like most of the SNP promises, the devil really is in the detail and the fine print said that the first hundred days of that SNP promise began planning for the provision of tablets and laptops to all schoolchildren.

“Rather embarrassingly, Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Cabinet Secretary for Education, recently announced that they had honoured an election pledge because early discussions were under way with councils on exactly how they were going to deliver on their election promises.”

And he asked Labour’s Councillor Bell, Cabinet Member for Education in North Ayrshire: “So can I ask the Cabinet Member to advise the council how many primary and secondary school children in North Ayrshire have received a free laptop or tablet and a free internet connection as per the SNP election promises made in May 2021?”

Councillor Bell told how the question “Is actually more difficult to answer than you would expect” and revealed that no tablets, laptops or internet connectivity devices had yet been purchased under the 2021 pledge.

He said that the council had bought 1,000 devices “and related connectivity” during the initial coronavirus lockdown, in a bid to help keep children learning.

A further 1734 devices were handed out to young people in the area, alongside 509 “connectivity solutions” during the 2020/21 school term.

But Councillor Bell added: “These devices were funded by the Scottish Government digital inclusion grant funding and did not form part of the SNP election commitment from May 2021.”

He told how the council was still awaiting “further detail around the arrangements for session 21/22” and said that North Ayrshire had also invested in further devices for home use by pupils and had committed £250,000 to a Digital Families Fund to provide access to devices and internet connectivity for online learning.

Councillor Ferguson extended his congratulations to the council on relation to: “doing all they can for our young people”, but continued: ” Like most things, it appears as though the SNP are quite big on words and pretty poor on delivery when it comes to our young people” and said failed promises on technology destined for disadvantaged youngsters was testament to that.

He was told that: “education services staff will be working their utmost to make sure that the best equipment is provided to the young people”.

Councillor Ferguson, who represents Dalry and West Kilbride also drove home his point, asking how many bikes pledged by the SNP for school-age children who cannot afford their own, had been handed out.

Councillor Bell confirmed “the short answer is none” and said the first six pilot projects to issue bicycles had been confirmed but added that North Ayrshire is not on the list.

Fuming Councillor Ferguson told the meeting: “I’m harping on again about false promises and catastrophic failure to deliver upon  promises that have been made in manifestos, which have become cornerstones of government in Scotland.

“One of the major concerns I’ve got with the pilot programmes that have been rolled out is that they don’t include North Ayrshire, we’re consistently being told in terms of areas of deprivation that North Ayrshire is high up on the list and yet we are not considered to be one of the areas to roll out a pilot to provide bikes to disadvantaged young people.”

A spokeswoman for the Scottish Government defended their record on the rollout of technology for online learning, saying: “Since last summer, the Scottish Government has provided funding to councils for over 72,000 devices and over 14,000 connectivity packages, including over 1,700 devices and over 500 connectivity packages in North Ayrshire.

“Building on that progress, work to provide every school pupil in Scotland with a laptop or tablet has started and discussions with local government are underway to deliver the ambitious commitment, which will benefit every schoolchild in Scotland. We are also considering how to deliver consistent digital infrastructure across Scotland’s 2,500 school buildings.”

She added: “We have delivered on the 100 day commitment to establish pilot projects offering free bikes for school aged children unable to afford them. The new pilots are already testing delivery models with local partners in areas across Scotland and the projects will be fully evaluated over the next year to identify best practice for wider roll out.”