John Swinney has been removed from his job as education secretary as Nicola Sturgeon begins a long-awaited Cabinet reshuffle.

The SNP veteran will remain as Deputy First Minister and will also take responsibility for cross-government action on Scotland's recovery from covid.

Swinney was appointed education secretary in 2016 but has endured a torrid last year in the role as lockdown upended the regular school timetable and led to the scrapping of the exams diet for the first time in history.

The replacement system for awarding grades to senior high school pupils was roundly criticised last August and was eventually scrapped in favour of teacher assessments.

The Deputy First Minister survived a motion of no confidence brought by opposition MSPs in the wake of the row.

Scottish Labour had earlier called for the long-serving minister to be removed from the education brief to allow someone else to try and "stop the rot".

The First Minister tonight paid tribute to her close colleague and friend, with a full cabinet reshuffle expected to be announced tomorrow.

“Our first priority as a government is to lead the country through the pandemic and into a recovery that supports our NHS, protects and creates jobs, backs our young people and contributes to our ambition to be a net zero nation," she said.

“Appointing John Swinney to drive cross government work on Covid Recovery is a key step in getting Scotland’s recovery off to the right start.

“How we begin our recovery is crucial to the kind of country we can become, and that means ensuring everyone, whether in government, the public sector, the business community or wider society is pulling in the same direction.”

Swinney said: “Recovery in our schools, our health service, our economy and across our wider society is this government’s immediate priority and I am honoured to have been asked to lead that mission.

“I am determined that government will bring the same urgency that we applied to the actions we took to protect public health, to the actions we need to take to secure a fair and just recovery.

“I will be bringing opposition parties together next week to hear their contributions and to set out how I believe we can all work together to secure a strong recovery."

Scottish Labour deputy leader Jackie Baillie said: “It is right that John Swinney has been moved on from his previous role.

“He has left a wake of damaging failures behind him that require urgent action to fix.

“Putting him in charge of our recovery is potentially gambling with the health and well-being of the nation.

“While we wish him well, he must demonstrate quickly that he is up to the job.”