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Big stick sees off protests

Ministers have cleared their first parliamentary hurdle to win extra powers over schools and authorities that fail to follow up the recommendations of inspectors. MSPs on the education committee this week approved the use of extra clout to force "failing" schools and councils to meet improvement standards set by HMI.

In an unusual alliance, the Conservatives, Scottish Socialists and Scottish National Party opposed further powers because of the threat to local democracy.

Lord James Douglas-Hamilton, the Tory spokesman, said extra powers were unwanted and there were no examples of authorities or schools dragging their feet.

Rosemary Byrne, Scottish Socialist, said that in her 27 years of teaching she had never seen an HMI report taken lightly by a school or authority.

Euan Robson, Deputy Education Minister, admitted that the system worked well but ministers needed the powers as a stand-by.

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