THE Scottish Government has been slammed for failing to deliver on an election promise to provide all North Ayrshire schoolchildren with a free laptop or tablet, following the release of new statistics showing that very few have actually been distributed.

The recent figures reveal that of the 18,061 pupils in the region who were eligible for a free device, only 1,734 have received one – a rate of just nine per cent.

This is despite a pledge made during the 2021 Holyrood election period, in which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the-then education secretary John Swinney said every child in Scotland would get a free laptop or internet device.

West Scotland Conservative MSP, Jamie Greene, who previously served as the shadow education secretary, described the low distribution rate as a “sinister election ploy” saying pupils were being “let down” by the SNP’s false promise.

Mr Greene said: “If pupils were promised these devices, they should get them – the fact that so many are still waiting a year later just isn’t good enough and quite frankly they deserve better.”

The issue was also raised by Dalry and West Kilbride Conservative Councillor, Todd Ferguson, during a virtual North Ayrshire Council meeting last month.

Cllr Ferguson asked how many secondary school children in North Ayrshire have received a free laptop or a tablet, and a free internet connection.

Labour Councillor John Bell, cabinet member for education, replied: “To date no devices have been issued to learners in North Ayrshire as part of the Scottish Government election pledge in their most recent programme for government. However, we understand that plans are in development.

“Locally, in 2020/21 over 2,400 digital devices were distributed to children and young people in North Ayrshire. Over 950 of these were provided to secondary aged learners, along with internet connectivity.

“In session 2021-22 we have taken delivery of 1,000 Chromebooks which are currently being prepared for distribution. 469 of these are for secondary learners, targeted at S2 pupils.”

Responding to a question from Mr Greene at the Scottish Parliament, education secretary, Shirley-Anne Somerville, said: “The Scottish Government is committed to ensuring that all school-aged children and young people in Scotland have access to a digital device by the end of this parliament.”