The leader of the education authorities has come close to admitting for the first time that the management side tried to achieve too much in the negotiations with the teachers that led to 98 per cent ballot rejections by the two leading unions.
Danny McCafferty told the TESS after a meeting of the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities education committee last week: "Perhaps there was too much in it. A ballot is really like a referendum and, if you are asked to vote on 25 different things, there is going to be at least one which will offend everybody. If you put them all together, you get the result we got."
Mr McCafferty, who received a round of applause at the meeting for his efforts in the talks, also said he believed the emphatic union votes reflected "20 years of frustration" over teacher workload and innovation fatigue. The ballot result was not just a negative reaction to the outcome of the negotiations. But afterwards he quickly made it clear he accepted teachers had rejected the management's offer. "I would not insult them by pretending otherwise," he said.
Mr McCafferty also tried to clarify the claim and counter-claim over whether a deal had been struck between the respective negotiators. He said the belief within Government that EIS leaders in particular had signed up for a settlement, but then reneged, proved the crucial factor in the decision by ministers' to take control of events.
The management leader admitted: "No-one ever said 'we have a deal.'" But we had 12 months of not saying No, of the unions saying they were unhappy with certain aspects but not the principles. If you look at our proposals and the EIS counter-proposals, they're not that different. There was no great chasm between us, and that led us to believe we had a breakthrough."
The EIS insists the management was aware all along that its proposals were not acceptable, but that it had agreed to put them to the membership.