SNP spin on education and Tories' attacks on workers' rights won't build a better, fairer society – Ian Murray

Scotland’s education system was once the envy of the world, and if we stand any chance of restoring that position, we must start with a fair settlement for those at the coalface: our teachers.

Some of the world's best scientists, doctors, engineers, artists and writers were products of Scotland’s education system, underpinned by the tireless work of teachers. I got on in life in large part because of my teachers. They changed my life. That’s what they do.

But we’re now in 2023 and the SNP are refusing to heed the calls of teachers’ unions and pay them what they deserve. This comes after a year of bleak headlines in education, in which it became clear the SNP has dropped their pledge to close educational attainment gaps by 2026.

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Funnily enough, Nicola Sturgeon made this pledge at Wester Hailes Education Centre, my old school with inspirational teachers, and asked to be judged on her efforts to improve standards. Statistics from the Scottish Government itself have shown that last year, the gap between the proportion of S3 pupils from the most and least deprived areas who achieved third level or better, in both literacy and numeracy, widened to its largest for six years.

Well, the jury’s in, and she has completely and utterly failed. Teachers worked unremittingly throughout the pandemic, in challenging circumstances to ensure our young people were staying on track to reach their potential, and what a job they did.

Only now to be faced with real-terms pay cuts. The Scottish Government acknowledges they are key workers and lauds their contributions to our nation’s children and young people loudly. But it’s nothing more than crass virtue-signalling and a striking example of SNP spin.

Teachers have said themselves that they don’t want to be out on strike, and we all know that, but it’s now eight weeks since the last pay offer. With 22 more days of strike action announced, there is no sign of the Scottish Government or Cosla relenting.

This comes alongside the Tory attack on workers’ rights that is not only immoral but unworkable. It’s a tactic taken straight out of the Tories’ deflection playbook; they know they’re plummeting in the opinion polls and have chosen ordinary working people to be their latest scapegoat in another ill-fated struggle to regain ground. Dedicated frontline staff have been treated to over a decade of wage freezes and cuts by this government that has forced them into strike action.

There's no sign of the Scottish Government relenting over teachers' pay despite strikes (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

The PM clapped the nurses but rather than paying them a fair wage increase, he would rather sack them. It’s contemptible. Instead of ending strikes by negotiating in good faith and delivering a fair deal, the government would rather erode workers’ ability to defend themselves.

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This failed approach has led to the worst strikes in decades and, at every stage, they’ve sought to collapse talks and thrown in last-minute spanners. Only a Labour government can put a stop to these damaging plans and strengthen workers’ rights in Scotland and across the UK with our New Deal for Working People.

Prioritising the keyworkers who make our country run is the first step in setting the foundation for Scotland to finally make the serious progress that’s so badly needed to build a fairer, brighter future.

Ian Murray is Labour MP for Edinburgh South