Following the Tories, say SNP and Lib Dems

22nd August 1997 at 01:00
As schools return for the new session, we review Brian Wilson's first three months as Education Minister and the impact on schools. Donald Gorrie, Liberal Democrat education spokesman.

Brian Wilson's greatest plus and greatest minus are both outwith his personal control. His greatest plus is that he isn't a Tory. After such a long Tory regime, widely seen as hostile to Scottish education, a change of party and person in charge and more sympathetic manner give him a flying start. His greatest minus is the commitment by Labour, apart from a little tinkering, to keep to the Tories' spending plans.

This means harmful cuts continuing to bite this year and even worse cuts next year. This self-imposed Labour hair shirt makes his rhetoric just a "sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal".

Mr Wilson may be in charge of Scottish education for almost 1,000 days until the Scottish parliament takes over. He should be judged over that period. There are no medals for leading a 1,000-metre race after 100 metres. It would be tactful if, like his Scottish Office colleagues, he showed up at least some of the time for Scottish debates on the Referendum Bill or the White Paper.

He has built a better relationship with teachers and is not rushing about looking terribly active and decisive. However, the performance over nursery vouchers and student fees did give an impression of hesitancy. David Blunkett charges on with his own English agenda, leaving Mr Wilson wrong-footed.

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