Liddell's new edge

31st July 1998 at 01:00
The second day of ministerial musical chairs this week was marked by a flurry of initiatives on Gaelic. The minister for minority languages was making sure nothing dear to his heart would be abandoned upon his translation to Trade and Industry south of the border. Perhaps the challenge from the SNP can be answered in more than one way. Putting a little bit of resource into Scottish culture at least complements what is promised from Helen Liddell by way of fire and brimstone.

Much invective will precede the first elections for the Holyrood parliament. But Governments are judged on deeds more than on skill at propaganda presentation or demolition of their opponents' case. The fate of Labour next May will be determined by how voters think that the promises resulting from the comprehensive spending review are being turned into action. If schools appear better equipped and if standards are on the rise, political reward should follow.

But the new minister for education had better not assume that cash available at national level is going to make an immediate difference in schools and colleges. In particular, the Government has made plain that beneficiaries of extra cash will not include teachers, at least not unless conditions of service are radically changed. Above all the Chancellor of the Exchequer fears public sector pay rises. Yet the apparent easing of restraint on education spending will bring renewed pressure from teachers for a share of the action. If they remain disgruntled, no one will much notice the effect of a little extra for resources and a handful of additional posts.

The Scottish Office team has gained new political edge. We are likely to hear more New Labour rhetoric on school standards and parental responsibilities. Through the Inspectorate, central government will seek to intervene ever more directly in how schools are run.

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