Letters: Playing politics with children’s education

Wester Coates  Nursery School.  Pic Ian Rutherford
Wester Coates Nursery School. Pic Ian Rutherford
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It is good to hear the Scottish Government propose to invest more resources in providing quality childcare services.

Statements about making Scotland the best place to grow up, where no child is disadvantaged by poverty are, of course, laudable and irrefutable. However, the proposals for expansion of childcare provision will not meet any of these aspirations.

Scottish Government insist that if Scotland gains independence they will be able to provide a “high quality universal childcare system that is sustainable, affordable, flexible and provides choice”.

The route to achieving this utopia has been reduced to a set of figures proposing 1140 hours of childcare for all children aged 1-4. A figure of £100 million has been floated.

It is not clear what ‘quality’ looks like other than the workforce being ‘highly qualified’. The current degree qualification that will soon become a requirement for all lead practitioners in childcare takes years to complete.

Until this year these BA Childhood Practice students, who are completing a 3-year programme part-time while working, which takes a minimum of six years, have not been eligible for SAAS funding. Achieving the degree does not bring any extra pay.

The actual education and care of very young children is mostly left to young (16-19) women with little or no qualification. They are very poorly paid.

To expand childcare provision as proposed will require at least another 35,000 in the workforce. The Government tells us this expansion will be paid for from taxing all the mothers who can then go out to work.

The bulk of the workforce now are not highly qualified and we have barely started to up-skill them, so it seems unlikely that another 35,000, even ‘simply’ qualified, as opposed to ‘highly’ qualified, staff can be found any time soon.

The Government’s proposal is more about aspirational statements to achieve a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum than about achieving better social outcomes.

If we shift to a system that requires all mothers to return to work, where is the ‘choice’?

Surely the education and care of Scotland’s children is too important to be tied to and dependent upon a ‘Yes’ vote in any referendum or election. This has to be a plan for the long term and not at the mercy of party politics.

It is simply not possible to cost the model suggested or, indeed any such proposal, and therefore impossible to state it is sustainable or affordable.

The delivery of this expanded service appears to be landing with local authorities, which allows plenty of room for the blame for failure to land elsewhere – as usual. I am currently ambivalent about independence and increasingly jaded by party politics, but I am passionate about the education and care of young children.

Sheila Nutkins, Broomhill Road, Aberdeen

Unintended result of capital punishment

I have no sympathy for the American murderer Clayton Lockett whose execution was botched by the state of Oklahoma and resulted in his agonising death. After all, he had tortured, shot and buried alive teenager Stephanie Neiman.

Executions are normally carried out using three drugs, one after the other, but they are now no longer available because Reprieve UK, which campaigns worldwide for the abolition of capital punishment, has been lobbying the EU, governments and pharmaceutical companies to stop supplying the US Departments of Corrections with these drugs.

The result is that tried and tested drugs used since 1980 are no longer available to the US resulting in this botched lethal injection execution.

Far from abandoning the death penalty as Reprieve want, some US states are now considering resorting to the use of the electric chair and firing squads.

It is ironic that Reprieve UK were unintentionally instrumental in the agonising death of Clayton Lockett.

Clark Cross, Springfield Road, Linlithgow

Anti-smoking campaign is missing the point

There was never any valid evidence that cigarette packaging encouraged children too young to buy tobacco products to take up smoking; campaign groups such as Ash Scotland just declared it to be so, yet that was good enough for the Scottish government to have all cigarettes hidden behind screens to protect youngsters from supposed temptation.

Now, despite similar lack of evidence, the government intends to legislate for the introduction of plain packaging on the grounds that this will actively discourage them from taking up smoking; a natural corollary to the supposed effectiveness of hiding packets from view.

That being so, it would surely be equally natural to return to open cigarette packet displays, especially since that would also restore to view the most effective - and currently hidden - disincentive to start smoking; the bold logo SMOKING KILLS.

Robert Dow, Ormiston Road, Tranent

Referendum is none of postal union’s business

POSTAL workers in Scotland have been told by their union at their Bournemouth conference to vote against independence. What’s it got to do with them?

Postmen and women have seen 40,000 jobs lost, depots closed and deliveries cut. The Royal Mail was also sold on the cheap, costing the nation a billion poubds, giving the workforce a few shares they must keep, while the fat cats made a killing.

You can’t bully the Scottish people.

Harry Bain, Granton Square, Edinburgh