The Educational Institute of Scotland described the cuts as "a damning indictment of the Government's attitude to publicly funded education in Scotland". But Raymond Robertson, the Education Minister, issued an immediate riposte that local authorities were not giving the same priority to education as the Scottish Office did in devising the local government financial settlement.
Most councils, Mr Robertson said, had scope to increase their spending by 4 per cent this year.
Ronnie Smith, the EIS's general secretary, says the union will demand evidence from the political parties of their commitment to education in the run-up to the general election. This prompted Mr Robertson to suggest that parents and teachers should instead ask "searching questions" of councillors about where the Scottish Office increases intended for education had been spent.
This week's phase of the union's "All Our Futures" campaign takes the form of a survey by local associations of cuts made in each of the 32 education authorities (TESS, March 8). In Glasgow, according to Willie Hart, the local EIS secretary, "at the present rate of attrition all secondary schools wil be closed by the year 2003".
Eric Baillie, EIS negotiating secretary in Dundee, commented: "The cuts mean that there will have to be a serious review of what is achievable in terms of development planning. Schools are going to be doing well just to stand still."
The EIS predicts even tougher budgets in 1997-98, affecting all councils and all areas of education expenditure. In the meantime the union is commissioning an opinion poll on public attitudes to education as part of its campaign.
It intends to hold a conference in June on education under a Scottish parliament.