The new brooms

3rd November 2000 at 00:00
HENRY McLEISH has not changed many of his team but he has changed them around. All four ministers with direct responsibility for education are new to their portfolios.

At enterprise and lifelong learning, Wendy Alexander, committed to social inclusion, will underline the role of lifelong learning in combating disadvantage, and further education colleges had better heed the warning last week by Robert Beattie, chairman of the funding council, that they must go out and find students in the community rather than wait for them to turn up at the door. The question mark over Ms Alexander concerns her interpretation of enterprise: will she go out and sell Scotland?

Judging by Sam Galbraith's lacklustre performance at the Edinburgh conference last week (page four), his move to the environment department was timeous. He will have to show more detailed interest in planning issues than he did latterly in schools. Jack McConell, his successor, has a career to make. If, following his strong performance in the leadership election, he retains the role of heir apparent, he will have to demonstrate skill in handling a department prone to controversy.

Curiously, in the Holyrood structure, unlike at Westminster, the finance portfolio, previously held by Mr McConnell, has not developed as the key job after the leader's. It will be easier for a new man to oversee the re-establishment of credibility at the Scottish Qualifications Authority. A greater test will be in finding and financing a McCrone package. At least Mr McConnell knows how far the budget can stretch.

Just as the First Minister has pledged to find closer accord between the Executive's priorities and those of voters, so the new Education Minister, a former teacher, will need to avoid irritating his former colleagues in the way Sam Galbraith did with medical analogies.

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