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Autonomy and a Scots assembly

If Astrid Ritchie had bothered to attend the recent conference on education and a Scottish parliament which she criticises extravagantly (TESS, August 9), she would have found that most of the people there would have agreed with most of what she has to say about the importance of developing the autonomy of local government.

She would have seen, for example, that the new distribution of power that was proposed would involve only the transfer of powers away from the Scottish Office towards councils, schools, and communities.

She would have learnt, too, that the proposed committees of the parliament were - on the American model - to scrutinise the Scottish Office and Scottish ministers; they were emphatically not about supervising local government. And she would have found that there was widespread agreement that a parliament which spent less time frenetically legislating than Westminster would be more concerned with principles and even moral purpose, leaving local bodies a great deal more freedom than at present to translate these nationally agreed precepts into practice.

Above all, she would have discovered in the tone of the conference a tentativeness and lack of dogma that was a refreshing change from the kinds of education politics which current standards of political debate dismally enforce.

LINDSAY PATERSON Moray House Institute of Education Heriot-Watt University Edinburgh

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