Editor's comment

21st May 2010 at 01:00

Defiance is in the air as Scottish teachers threaten to become revolting again after many strike-free years. They may feel they have their problems but, with new Chancellor George Osborne poised to take pound;6 billion out of the public sector, the nation certainly has its own problems on a mega scale. And if that nation is Scotland, Finance Secretary John Swinney reveals he is planning to pile all the agony into 2011-12 rather than "endanger the recovery" by cutting public spending this year in response to the Osborne budget.

This is the ominous background against which delegates to the annual conference of the Educational Institute of Scotland will be asked to ballot on industrial action over school budget cuts in three weeks' time. Before doing so, they might consider the experience south of the border last week. There, teachers and headteachers held a boycott of the key stage 2 tests for 11-year-olds - which was joined by only a quarter of schools at most. This is despite the fact that parents appeared supportive and the unions were protesting on a matter of principle.

It wasn't even front page news, which showed how important timing is on these occasions. The nation was more transfixed by the coalition talks and the threatened British Airways strike.

The EIS leadership will be hoping that this will not be the fate of any action it is forced to take. Now, of course, there are differences north and south of the border. The EIS is the dominant union in Scotland, so the factionalism among rivals which predominates in England is largely absent. The institute also has a fine track record of preparing the ground for any action, making sure the timing is right and getting parents on side. John Swinney has helpfully, if inadvertently, given the unions some guidance on timing: there will be "a very serious situation" facing public spending in 2011-12, he told the BBC.

Neil Munro editor of the year (business and professional magazine).

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