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SNP gives a Pounds 774m pledge

The Scottish National Party would plough an extra Pounds 774 million into education and training in the first four years of an independent government.

The money would fund 700 new teachers and more than Pounds 80 million of school repairs and improvements, with Pounds 194 million spent on providing a nursery place for all three and four-year-olds.

Scottish Enterprise would be given Pounds 70 million to encourage employers to take on and train school-leavers. Some Pounds 360 million would be used to restore student grants and pay benefits for students and 16 and 17-year-olds.

The party has outlined its detailed spending proposals in an attempt to boost confidence in what it claims are "realistic" budget plans for schools. Janet Law, the SNP's education spokesman, says the proposals underline a commitment to comprehensive education and highlight major differences between SNP and Labour priorities.

A budget briefing yesterday (Thursday) comes before a special party conference in Dundee on April 26 and 27 to launch the SNP's general election campaign. "We are prepared to commit significant new resources," Mrs Law said. "Long-term underfunding will be difficult to redress, but we believe the resources are available in an independent Scotland." The party has produced a paper showing how each of the 32 education authorities would benefit.

Mrs Law said: "We are beginning to see quite concerning trends in what is happening in terms of Labour policies, which seem to be under pressure from what are largely English preoccupations with grant-maintained schools and selection.

"Labour reflects English concerns with bad schools and bad teachers when it could build on the strengths and successes in our comprehensive system. The 5-14 curriculum hardly gets a mention in their plans which are a series of gimmicks and quick fixes."

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