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The dawning of an independent society

WHAT sort of society is shaping and in turn being shaped by Scottish education in this UK election year? An interesting set of perspectives is revealed in the recent State of the Nation poll run by a national newspaper.

Attitudes to post-devolution Scotland are positive, though notable for its absence was any sort of question covering views on the Parliament's performance. But to the chagrin of those currently on the electoral hoof, only 28 per cent of Scots see politicians as contributing much - and 70 per cent consider them to be "for themselves".

Teachers fare better. The profession must surely feel cheered that it ranks in the public's view second only to nurses in "contributing a lot to society" (86 per cent and 81 per cent). Why, incidentally, isn't the Government's publicity machine trumpeting this to the world? The morale of the profession continues to bump stonily along; education faculties fail to hit intake targets and the new pound;800 million deal is so far not noticeably helping to attract the young. The McCrone committee recognised that respect for teachers can no longer go hand in hand with non-competitive remuneration and paltry prospects. Nevertheless teachers' morale may be in for a rather longer-haul recovery.

In third place in the public regard - rather a surprise in our communitarian country - come Scottish businessmen (and women?) at 61 per cent. Perhaps this return to Scotland's historical respect for entrepreneurism and wealth creation is not a little due to the willingness of teachers over the past 15 years to open up the curriculum and work with business to create opportunities in schools for enterprise education.

Perhaps, too, there is a sober and dawing realisation abroad that the state really can't do it all: the poll shows that we are becoming more middle class in our attitudes and less reliant on the state. Almost twice as many Scots now think that independent schools have an important contribution to make - as opposed to wanting to ban them. Some political parties might wish to note this.

We are proud of our country since devolution, and most of us feel more Scottish than British. Sixty-five per cent of us believe in a god, though surprisingly the figure for an afterlife is only 45 per cent, and 55 per cent of us never attend church.

Our ideal home is a detached house with large garden. As hobbies, gardening and DIY are popular, and as a nation we still use the local library. Most don't want to be the boss with many responsibilities, but rather a member of staff with fewer worries to keep us awake. (It's good that teachers still do aspire to the head's office.) Socialising with friends is the preferred way of spending an evening for the majority of Scots, though 42 per cent of us watch up to four hours' television a day. Surprisingly, only 15 per cent confess to wanting to be rich but 58 per cent do want to be "happy".

More than half of us know our neighbours well. Almost half see their parents at least once a week, and just under half of us don't take foreign holidays - yet. The overall picture is relaxed yet positive: the attitude to the coming election seems a little arm's-length.

The main campaign issue affecting Scotland's public services has been resolutely ignored by Tony Blair. That is the future of the Barnett formula for calculating Scottish spending, and it will return to haunt him. More anon.

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