Scotland's ​PISA figures leaning towards failure - Ian Murray

​As devolution approaches its 25-year anniversary, the recent PISA report on international education is a damning indictment of the Scottish Government’s failure to make it work.

Our education system was once the envy of the world, but this week we have learned there has been a long-term decline in Scotland’s performance in reading, maths and science. Scotland’s decline was far steeper than the UK average.

Sixteen years after coming to power, the SNP’s defining mission has proven to be no more than lip service and yet another broken promise. It’s little wonder they pulled out of the official stats for so long.

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During a visit to my old secondary school, Wester Hailes Education Centre, at the beginning of her tenure, Nicola Sturgeon asked to be judged on her and her party’s record on closing the attainment gap. Well, the case is closed - the SNP has presided over falling standards and a stubbornly wide attainment gap.

Families are being forced to pay the highest taxes in 70 years towards public services, yet their children’s educational outcomes are falling through the floor.

Speaking to my constituents on the doorstep and at my Friday surgeries, parents and teachers are rightfully fed-up and frustrated that they’re paying more, for less in return.

Rather than closing the attainment gap, under the SNP, educational standards only seem to be worsening.

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And all we’ve had is excuse after excuse from a party determined not to take responsibility.

Teachers, parents and pupils are held back by ministerial dither and delay and all of us will pay the price for the missed opportunities of a generation. Education is the key to opening the door to a brighter future for individuals and the wider economy.

I personally know this and I know that when the power of education is diminished then it is young people, their families, our communities and the economy that suffers. A generation of young people have been let down because those in charge have talked a good game about education being their defining mission but they’ve failed to deliver.

Pupils go to school determined to make the most of their future. They deserve a government that is on the side of their ambitions and that of their families.

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One person who understood this mission was my dear friend, mentor and former colleague, Alistair Darling.

I will miss him, his friendship and his wisdom and my thoughts are with his wife Maggie, his two children, Calum and Anna and all those who knew and loved him.

From representing the people of Edinburgh from the Council to Parliament to steering our country out of one of the worst financial emergencies in our history, to championing the patriotism of a quiet majority and keeping the UK together, he served the people of the UK and Scotland with dignity, intelligence and compassion and as Gordon Brown rightly said he was a statesman of unimpeachable integrity.

He was everything that Scottish politics should be, and his memory should serve as an inspiration to those who govern and wish to govern.

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Labour in power with the wisdom of people like Alistair Darling understood the importance of education, both for social justice and economic growth, but these principles seem to be lost to those in charge at the moment.