Scottish education can 'do better' with English reforms

Constitutional expert says Scottish education policies are 'regressive' and that greater devolution is 'last thing' needed

Tes Reporter

Scottish education can 'do better' with English reforms

A constitutional expert has said that more devolution is the “last thing Scotland needs” and claimed that education and health reforms have failed north of the border, The Times has reported.

Vernon Bogdanor, a professor of government at King’s College London, called on Boris Johnson to prevent “regressive” health and education policies in Scotland from damaging the UK economy.

The SNP dismissed his remarks as the “greatest hits of the No [independence referendum] campaign in 2014” and said that they did not stand up to scrutiny.

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Professor Bogdanor, who was David Cameron’s politics tutor at Oxford but has no party affiliation, told The Times: “There has been so much focus on the constitutional debate on independence that the substantive issues that are of much more concern to the people of Scotland, like education and health, are being neglected. Scotland would do better if the SNP adopted the reforms in education and health pursued by both Labour and Conservative governments in England.”

Professor Bogdanor praised Tony Blair’s comprehensive school reforms, designed to offer pupils more choice, and Michael Gove’s pursuit of free schools and academies under Mr Cameron.

Scotland had slipped down the international rankings in science, reading and maths in recent years, he said, adding: “The SNP’s policies are more akin to old Labour with a state monopoly, and their priorities like free university education are misguided. They have cut 150,000 places in further education. The places that have been cut are desperately needed for skills.

“It should concern the whole of the UK if the outcomes [in Scotland] are poor.”

Professor Bogdanor said that Westminster had a duty to intervene because “Scotland’s fiscal deficit is financed by the British taxpayer”.

In a letter to the Financial Times yesterday, he said that “the last thing Scotland needs is the devolution of more powers”.

Professor Bogdanor said: “I’m not calling for a rollback in devolution but it is a matter of concern that the outcomes in Scotland are much worse than the rest of the country.”

He said that “sensible Scots might well try to remedy these matters at the ballot box in 2021” but that he was not advocating any party.

George Adam, an SNP MSP, said that people in Scotland “know that devolution has been a success”, want more powers for the Scottish Parliament and increasingly want independence.

A UK government spokesman said it had “committed more than £1.4 billion in city and growth deals working alongside the Scottish government to improve opportunities in every area of Scotland.

“The Scottish government must focus on health, education and jobs, not another unwanted referendum.”

The Scottish government said: “It is up to the people of Scotland to determine the form of government best suited to their needs. Scotland’s NHS A&E performance has been the best in the UK for over four years. Reading levels among children have risen sharply in the last three years with just five OECD countries, out of 36, higher than Scotland.”

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