Brian Monteith: Education and the SNP don’t add up

The Scottish Greens are only contesting three seats in next month's general election. Picture: John Devlin
The Scottish Greens are only contesting three seats in next month's general election. Picture: John Devlin
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If anyone has any doubts about the tragedy that has become of Scottish education then this week’s report on literacy standards is a wake-up call.

The facts are simple and uncontestable. The SNP has been in power at Holyrood since 2007. The only SNP education policy of any note was to introduce smaller class sizes.

Since 2007 those smaller class sizes have not been delivered, but we do know that some 4000 teachers have lost their jobs; that the SNP has introduced a host of ­controversial reforms to the curriculum; that Scottish schools have been withdrawn from international performance assessments and that parents no longer enjoy the right to school performance statistics given to them by the Tories in the 90s.

We also know that the alternating literacy and numeracy reports – that have shown a decline in standards – will be ended, meaning we shall not know if standards are improving or falling further.

While we know that SNP Education Secretary John Swinney is concerned about the appalling decline in educational standards – as well he should be – we also know that the children who started P1 in 2007 are now in S2 at high school and are the pupils that have provided the statistics that are so worrying – only 49 per cent of pupils in S2 perform well in writing ­compared with 64 per cent in 2012.

Truly we have a generation of ­children which has suffered at the hands of the SNP government.

Government is all about priorities – and this government has got its priorities wrong. It would rather spend £120 million on giving free university tuition to students from the European Union than supporting our own teachers and schools so that they can improve the prospects and opportunities of our children that are being raised here. And in case any reader thinks I am being unfair to EU citizens, let me point out that children of EU residents staying in Scotland would be the beneficiaries of improving our schools.

Education used to be seen as the ladder out of deprivation and ­poverty. If that is to become true again in Scotland then it is in our state-funded schools that we must focus help. We need to have robust standards of teaching teachers, rigorous standards of teaching in the classroom and reliable assessment of that teaching and what pupils have learnt.

Nicola Sturgeon said she would be judged on Scottish education standards.

If that were true it would be the First Minister who would be leaving politics – rather than so many teachers taking early retirement.

Greens show true colour – yellow

Whatever happened to the Green Party in Scotland? It was once an admirable political outfit that had its own identity and was scared of no one. Thanks to proportional representation, its relatively low level of support has meant that it could still make an impact with many councillors and MSPs elected over the last 20 years. Its growth meant it could stand 20 candidates in Scotland during the 2010 general election – and 32 in 2015, attracting a total of 39,205 votes.

Odd then, that it should now decide to contest only three seats, one each in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Falkirk. Stranger still is how it will not stand in the Highland seat of Moray, where the Findhorn community is located, a natural home for green living and thinking. Could this shyness have something to do with it not wishing to draw votes from the SNP? Does it fear it could help cause Moray’s SNP MP Angus Robertson to lose? Why deny Green voters the chance to express their support?

If the Greens cannot field candidates for fear of upsetting other parties, then there really is no point in them existing. They will truly have become a wing of the SNP and should be recognised as such. STV was right to deny them a place in its forthcoming leaders’ debate.

Labour’s city shenanigans to keep MP

I had hoped to be able to write about the new Edinburgh Council administration and what it might mean for the city – but so drawn-out have the negotiations been between the potential governing parties, that my analysis shall have to wait until next week, or even longer if the bosses in Labour Party HQ have anything to do with it.

The last thing they want is for Edinburgh’s Labour councillors to be seen getting into bed with the SNP and sending a signal to the voters of Edinburgh South to vote Tory instead of Labour in the general election. It would mean losing their only Scottish MP – Ian Murray – but waiting to agree a deal until after June 8 puts partisan politics before Edinburgh’s interests.

Local elections should be decided locally, not by national committees sitting in other cities. Nor should the party that came third, and saw its vote share collapse and councillors reduced, be telling everyone else how to run the city. The people voted for change but, not for the first time, are going to be denied it.

Let’s give Rebus some Sunshine

IT is good news for Scottish literature and drama that Rebus is to return to television after a gap of ten years.

Author Ian Rankin has struck a new production deal and acclaimed writer Gregory Burke will handle the scripts. What chances there could be a scene with a delirious Rebus returning home from the Hibees’ victorious Scottish Cup final and having to sober up to attend a murder scene? Or maybe celebrating this year’s Championship win and promotion? I’m sure actor Ken Stott, whose portrayal of Rebus has been on the money, could give a great rendition of Sunshine on Leith – even though he’s a Jambo in real life. I’m sure he’d find it funny.