NICOLA Sturgeon has put education top of her priorities as she outlined the SNP’s plans for the next five years in government.
The First Minister promised a “draft delivery plan” before the summer holidays, setting out the next steps in closing the attainment gap.
And she announced a major summit on school reform within the next few months, bringing together teachers, parents, local government and trade unions.
She said: “We will work hard to build consensus and partnership. However, what we will not do is allow the search for consensus to result in inertia or in the lowest common denominator for action. We intend to be bold and move forward with purpose and with pace.”
She said discussions would begin on a “new, fair and transparent funding formula” for schools to ensure resources went where they are needed most.
The government’s attainment fund is to get an extra £750 million over the course of the parliament, with £100m a year of it going direct to headteachers.
And she said standardised assessments would allow an accurate measurement of the attainment gap and precise targets for closing it.
Ms Sturgeon also underlined the target of ensuring that, by 2030, 20 per cent of people going to university are from the 20 per cent most deprived communities.
And she hailed plans to expand childcare – doubling state-funded provision to 30 hours a week for all three- and four-year-olds and vulnerable two-year-olds – as “our most important infrastructure project of this parliament”.
Ms Sturgeon, now leading a minority SNP government, told MSPs there was a “clear progressive majority” in Holyrood.
And she said she would consider ideas from other parties – notably the Greens’ suggestion of a young carers’ allowance and Labour proposals to expand the minor ailments service – as well as going ahead with the Lib Dems’ proposal of a dedicated minister for mental health.
She also pledged to “continue to build the case for Scotland to become independent”. But she added: “Scotland will only become independent if and when a majority of the people are persuaded, and we also know that our job is to govern, at all times, for all the people of this country.”
And she pledged to build alliances to fight “unfair or regressive Westminster policies such as continued austerity, the renewal of Trident or attempts to undermine human and trade union rights”.
Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson said the government had “enough to be getting on with” without relaunching its independence campaign.
Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale accused the SNP of “cynicism” by attacking Tory austerity in Westminster when ministers could reverse it at Holyrood.
“Over recent years the education budget has been cut by ten per cent,” she said.