Gauging the will of the people;Opinion;Leading Article

9th April 1999 at 01:00
WITH THE Scottish parliamentary elections now in full swing, The TES Scotland will look over the next four weeks at aspects of special interest to education. First must come the nature of the parliament itself.

In the referendum the majority in favour of devolution showed it was the "settled will" of the people. That does not mean the parliament is established in their affections. It will have to earn respect, and since the mother of parliaments at Westminster has clearly lost status in recent times, there is no guarantee that the Edinburgh assembly will command attention. In particular, it must be attractive to the young. Among the many fascinating aspects of next month's poll will be seeing whether more voters under 25 show up than in the election two years ago.

The parliament must go about its business in an open, accessible and practical way. Pupils encouraged to understand the world of work and themselves be enterprising will cock a snook at incomprehensible paraphernalia. In modern studies they should not have to face questions about a Scottish equivalent of Black Rod or learn that the first reading of a Bill is not a debate at all.

Schools will soon be awash with e-mail facilities. Pupils should be able to communicate easily with their MSPs. Distance from Edinburgh should be no obstacle to "owning" the parliament. School governance shows that when the reasons for a decision are in the open, it will be more readily accepted. Pupils will expect ministers and their officials to set a good example nationally.

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