Editorial: Consult the crystal ball

1st January 1999 at 00:00
This year will mark mid-term for the Government. Traditionally, that means things going wrong and bad by-elections. For the Blair administration it will show how far reality matches aspiration and promise.

Last year we heard of millions of pounds in the pipeline. There are now two tests. First, how much of the cash is indeed new money? Amid the plethora of announcements it was difficult to work out what was additional and what had been announced in another guise only a few weeks before. Second, teachers and lecturers will be looking to see resources available in the classroom. Otherwise, the disappointment now widespread about the thrust of much of Government policy will turn into real disillusionment with the party which a large percentage of teachers voted for.

Resources would stave off other problems, too. Higher Still would be more easily delivered. The Government is unlikely to make any more money available specifically for the programme, but the overall resourcing of secondaries will make or mar its introduction.

This is the season for divination as well as resolutions. To the question, "Will Higher Still get underway without too many more problems this summer?" we would guess yes. On another controversial issue, "Will this year see much progress on the conditions of service issues raised by the Millennium Review?", our guess must be no. The unions and education authorities, whose attention will initially be focused on May's local elections, are too far apart to move except under external pressures, and there is no immediate sign of these.

The major event, however, is the other elections in May. They will be unique in Scotland's story since the old Parliament was awa' long before democracy was born. The fascination is in the unknown: the shape of potential coalitions can be mooted but little more. Brand new relationships will have to be forged involving the education minister (if that is his or her title), the officials in what is now the Scottish Office, opposition and back-bench MSPs and whatever form of scrutinising education committee is set up.

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