CONSERVATIVE. MARGARET MITCHELL
I HAVE decided to stand as a candidate to have the opportunity to participate in a parliament dealing with crucial issues affecting all who live and work in Scotland. The parliament must be a success within a pragmatic Unionism which puts Scotland first within the United Kingdom.
As a supply teacher in North Lanarkshire who has taught in both the primary and special needs sectors, and as depute education spokesman for the Scottish Conservative Party, what is it in the party's education policy that most attracts me?
Teachers are the bricks and mortar of any education system. In order for those who work at the chalkface on a daily basis to do their job effectively and raise standards the growing and worrying problem of disruptive pupils must be addressed.
In schools the length and breadth of Scotland teachers and headteachers are having to spend a disproportionate amount of their time dealing with these pupils. Worse still, a growing number of parents are working against staff, sometimes becoming threatening and abusive. The Scottish Conservatives realise this and are committed to tackling the problem of discipline as a priority.
This will involve questioning the policy of purely positive discipline endorsed by local authorities and providing an effective alternative to exclusion by making sufficient resources available to remove the disruptive element from the classroom and ensuring that once removed life is no "picnic" and the pupil is made, with the compulsory co-operation of parents, to follow the normal curriculum with a view to being integrated back into the classroom.
Education is a lifelong learning process. To deliver the best for the individual at each stage of this process there must be flexibility and choice in nursery education and free and equal access to higher education, for all, regardless of means.
Vouchers equivalent in value to full-time nursery education for a four-year-old will be available to use flexibly when the child is three or four and a Saltire award will be introduced and issued to Scottish domiciled students who achieved the minimum standards of university entrance.
The Saltire award will not be means tested and will treat all students as equals irrespective of age. It allows flexibility, if the student chooses to take time out, for whatever reason, before redeeming it at a UK university or college, and it abolishes the discriminatory fourth-year fee for English, Welsh and Northern Ireland students.
* Margaret Mitchell is candidate for Hamilton South.
LABOUR. GILLIAN CARLIN-KULWICKI
I AM committed to the importance of early education and the head start it gives. I am an early education specialist, a nursery headteacher who has spent most of my career resisting any erosion to nursery education and fighting to retain a high-quality provision serviced by highly trained teachers and nursery nurses.
Teacher education in its entirety (nursery to tertiary) is very important to me. Further education was my saviour, having left school just prior to my 16th birthday This first-hand involvement accounts for my commitment and activity within the Educational Institute of Scotland over the past decade.
More crucially I believe in equality of access and opportunity for all, irrespective of socio-economic background, cultural diversity, gender or disability.
Education is my driving force. With a good education one is empowered, enlightened and enabled. It gives one choices and options, it gives one aspirations. Each and every one of us have a right to this. I see education as a basic entitlement - a birthright.
Happily I am a candidate for Scottish Labour in the Gordon constituency. We have a comprehensive education policy, and have already delivered many of the key pledges made for the 1997 general election. My own school has seen the reinstatement of a teaching post lost during the Conservative purge on local authorities. The per capita allowance has greatly increased in all schools and the classroom assistant scheme is proving effective.
I am looking forward to the extension of the early intervention scheme. In Glasgow this has been one of the most successful projects that I have experienced first hand, and its continuation will be greatly welcomed in schools. With the huge increase in computers for schools and a computer for every teacher, IT skills for both teachers and pupils are now being genuinely addressed.
With the investment of around pound;200 million in further education, this should start to redress the damage that has been inflicted on education over the past 10 years.
I want to be a part of making a difference, especially as far as education is concerned, as I can speak from a position of knowledge, experience and expertise.I am, however, also greatly interested in many of the other areas which will be under the remit of the Scottish parliament: the law, especially family law, and health.
The first democratic parliament in Scottish history will have the highest number of women ever elected. There will be a wide diversity of MSPs, bringing with them a variety of skills, knowledge, expertise - and some will even have youth. We have much to look forward to keeping control of our public services while remaining part of the Union.
* Gillian Carlin-Kulwicki is candidate for Gordon.
LIBERAL DEMOCRAT. IAN JENKINS
I BECAME interested in politics at school. An English teacher fed me a balanced diet of political commentary, encouraging me to read both the Spectator and the New Statesman. Later, I sat in the debating chamber of Glasgow University Union listening to the likes of John Smith, Donald Dewar, Menzies Campbell and Jimmy Gordon.
When I came to Peebles in 1970 I soon recognised that I had found a place where I was at ease in personal and professional terms and, by a happy chance, I had also found a political home in David Steel's constituency.
For me, David Steel and the Liberals encapsulated what was good in political thinking and action. As the first Scottish director of Shelter, he had a powerful record of campaigning against social injustice; he had led courageous protests against apartheid, taking a stand against the Springboks tour; and he had piloted the Abortion Bill through Westminster.
He expressed views I agreed with in reasoned and rational language, free from hectoring dogmatic rhetoric. It was easy for me to sign up and start to help at elections, gradually becoming more involved, without ever having any personal political ambitions.
And here I am now standing for election to the first Scottish parliament in 300 years. I had not expected this. But when the chance came I felt I had every right to put myself forward as a committed local candidate.
I have lived and worked in this constituency for almost 30 years and I care about it deeply. Now I have a chance to serve in a parliament that will have time to debate Scottish issues more openly and more fully than ever before.
One of the special things about being a Liberal Democrat in Scotland is that the party is compact enough for members to feel a real sense of belonging: it is very easy to get access to the top people. It is genuinely possible to have an influence on Scottish party policy.
Scottish Liberal Democrats have a strong record on education: promoting the expansion of pre-school provision, opposing tuition fees and advocating investment in education at every level. One of our main aims must be to improve morale in schools by giving teachers the respect, encouragement and resources they deserve.
I am aware of the dangers of sound-bite politics, but I am proud that our election promise of better funding for education is deeply rooted in an understanding of what real teachers have been saying, and that we have consistently said that, if we believe it to be needed, we will not shy away from raising extra money through taxation to raise the standard of education in Scotland.
* Ian Jenkins is candidate for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale.
SNP. MAIRE WHITEHEAD
I HAVE been a proponent of Scottish independence since my student days. The route that took me there is probably familiar to many.
Brought up in a family that encouraged discussion and participation, I was aware of politics from a very young age. Surrounded by role models - a working mother, a family friendship with Alice Cullen MP, an aunt who was headteacher in St Francis' primary in the Gorbals (at that time reputedly the largest primary school in Europe) and a father who always gave me encouragement and support - I grew up able to question the status quo.
It is thanks to the teachers at Notre Dame High School in Glasgow that my interest in Scottish history was nurtured, and further personal reading and study convinced me that Scotland should be a Nation Once Again.
At school there were many girls from different nations - Indian, Polish, Italian, Lithuanian, Irish - all of whose families had settled here, many as refugees. They were proud of their native land, but also proudly Scots.
This was the independent nation I envisaged - one which welcomed and included others while being proud of the achievements of our forebears.
As vice-president of the Association of Head Teachers Scotland, I have been involved with heads from all parts of Scotland, and I see clearly what are our shared concerns - a lack of resources, confusion of child care with education and political attacks on teachers and schools.
The SNP recognises many of these concerns. The commitment of an additional pound;192 million from "Scotland's penny" to provide more resources, coupled with substantial extra spending on books, is attractive to all teachers. Books are the building blocks in every classroom, and without an adequate supply we cannot produce a literate population.
The SNP has also stated as policy that the balance of the 5-14 curriculum will be reviewed, particularly at the early years, to allow additional time for literacy and numeracy teaching. This is a helpful start to a full review.
Abolition of tuition fees for all students, and the instigation of a pound;500 grant for the poorest students, will return us, in part, to our tradition of free education for all.
These steps will be a move towards returning our Scottish education system to one of which we can be proud, and which will give our children a "kick-start" into the next millennium.
The opportunity to seek election to the Scottish parliament and make a contribution to the education debate is not one to refuse, and I hope to make a real difference to the quality of that debate.
I am proud to be part of this moment in history, when Scotland once more stands confidently on its own feet. It has been a faltering journey with many obstacles to overcome, but my confidence in my fellow countrymen and women leaves me in no doubt that the devolved parliament in which I hope to serve will be so successful that within a few years we will be sprinting to independence.
* Maire Whitehead is candidate for Glasgow Cathcart.