Labour in Scotland does not have to pause for the outcome of the general election. Its sights are fixed on the next round of Scottish elections in 2003. It knows, of course, that a continuingly buoyant UK economy is necessary for investment in education here, and in time the rapturous reception for this year's Budget may appear misplaced if misfortunes in the American and Japanese economies undermine Gordon Brown's calculations. But detailed education policy in Scotland is now a matter for the Executive and the Parliament. Within financial constraints it can and often should differ from policies south of the border. Addressing the future needs of learners and teachers is therefore a matter for all parties seeking power and influence.
Labour is determined not to rest on its laurels just because money has belatedly been released into the education system and some problems, like teachers' pay and conditions, have been addrssed. The raft of policy statements floating about last weekend's conference in Inverness (page six) were not all or primarily about education but if social inclusion and wider opportunities are to be more than rhetorical aspirations, issues from health to technology have implications for learners of all ages. Obsessive control of the minutiae of school or college life is not the role of government. Teachers and managers are fed up with audits and dictates.
Much of the most fruitful innovation has been at school or council level - witness the maths programme (page four) successfully introduced in Clackmannan from Switzerland by way of England. Government has the job of getting agencies to work together - teachers and social workers, education and enterprise. Translating policy-making across departments into benefit for pupils and students will be a challenge for even the most farsighted of manifesto writers.