Page last updated at 22:41 GMT, Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Salmond's class size claim probed

class sizes
Mr Salmond pledged to cut class sizes in early primary

Two former Holyrood presiding officers are to investigate opposition claims that First Minister Alex Salmond misled parliament over class sizes.

Mr Salmond told parliament in autumn 2007 that a pledge to cut class sizes to 18 in early primary would be met.

It emerged last week that this was two months after a civil servant warned it could not be done.

Mr Salmond himself has now referred the issue to a panel, comprising George Reid and Lord Steel, for scrutiny.

Scale of task

In the run-up to the Holyrood elections in 2007, the SNP said it would cap pupil numbers at 18 in the first three years of primary education.

Last week, a civil service memo from 2007 emerged, suggesting reducing class sizes would not be possible in the lifetime of the current parliament.

A spokesman insisted Mr Salmond was not made aware of the advice when he addressed MSPs in the autumn of that year.

A spokesman for the first minister said he was "entirely confident" of being vindicated .

He added: "The issue is so old its growing whiskers.

"We're more than happy to do this from a position of strength and because we're confident about the issue."

Mr Salmond's aides said the first minister had not been made aware of the advice which was intended for the then Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop.

They said that the Scottish Government concordat deal with councils made clear the ambition to make "year-on-year" progress towards the class size reduction pledge.

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