Education is key battleground in the struggle for Glasgow

17th February 2012 at 00:00
New schools and youth unemployment now top the political agenda

When the dust settled on Glasgow's tempestuous budget last week, new schools and youth employment headed the education agenda. But uncertainty looms, with Labour and the SNP in a bitter fight for control of the city.

The Labour administration has promised to rebuild or refurbish every primary school in Glasgow.

"We are not talking about a lick of paint here, but creating brilliant new primary schools," said the city's council leader Gordon Matheson.

A pound;2 million fund for training 16 and 17-year-olds and tackling youth unemployment are among the plans passed last week for Scotland's largest authority.

The money will extend the existing Commonwealth Games jobs fund to include those aged 16 and 17 and provide a 50 per cent wage subsidy, as well as targeted training and support ranging from help with literacy and numeracy to driving lessons.

The budget also includes pound;800,000 for outdoor school play equipment and attainment initiatives.

But that is in the context of the SNP moving closer to control of Scottish Labour's biggest stronghold, as May's council elections approach, and a torrent of rancour as the two parties scramble for the moral high ground.

The SNP highlighted in its alternative budget that, if it ruled the city, an "attainment task force" of 15 teachers would be charged with raising attainment in secondary schools.

SNP education spokeswoman Jennifer Dunn said the group would be "dedicated to working directly with schools and pupils and not - as in past initiatives - a way to replace retiring teachers".

Mr Matheson stressed that the SNP amendment, backed by other opposition parties, meant cutting pound;1 million from city schools and that it was more about "political posturing and personal ambition than doing what is right for the city".

The budget vote, passed narrowly by 40 to 38 votes, was marred by controversy after some councillors, barred from standing in the upcoming elections, defected and voted in favour of the amendment. Allegations of bullying by Labour councillors were also raised.

Next week: full analysis of the council's education budgets


The picture emerging from budget announcements around the country is that the pain predicted may be less than many had anticipated.

A number of councils have invested more in education, although opponents complained of vote-catching ploys before May's council elections and predicted the pain would merely be deferred until 2013-14.

- East Renfrewshire's education revenue allocation has increased, from just over pound;112 million to about pound;113 million. The rise will fund an extra 30 teaching posts. A separate pound;2.9 million will go towards capital investments.

- Edinburgh's budget includes pound;4.1 million for school repairs, and a one- off pound;250,000 for the devolved schools budget.

- Falkirk has pledged pound;330,000 to restore free school meals, pound;850,000 to improve the job prospects of school leavers, and pound;690,000 for a youth employment programme.

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