THE Liberal Democrats are close to making higher taxes for education a sticking point in dealings with other parties after the elections for the Scottish parliament.
Jim Wallace, the party's leader, told delegates to its conference in Aberdeen last weekend that they should "be proud to be willing to put 1p on income tax". Chris Mason, a leading councillor from Glasgow, said that the party should stay in opposition if a government involving the Liberal Democrats could not be formed on the basis of ensuring more money for education.
Mr Mason said a recent poll had shown 85 per cent of voters ready to face higher taxes for education and health.
Debate on an education motion saw the Liberal Democrats firmly on the side of teachers against what they described as the Government's "teacher bashing" agenda, which Nicol Stephen, the party's education spokesman, said could only have been set by the spin-doctors. "The problem is not bad teachers but bad politicians."
Mr Stephen told the Education Minister to "stop reforming Scottish education and start improving it". Teachers were "reform drunk". A penny on income tax would generate pound;150 million a year for teachers, books and equipment and instil "new optimism and a new start".
Anne Howarth, of Strathkelvin and Bearsden, a former teacher in special education, said she had become "fair scunnered" with paperwork. Form-filling had taken between 15 and 50 per cent of her time in any week.
Joan Mitchell, deputy leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council, said that Government investment was through bids fitting the criteria of the Excellence Fund, from which her council might expect pound;2 million. There was no flexibility to address local priorities and invest in core education.
"We will still be struggling to fund teachers' wages this year and can do so only by cutting other areas of the budget," she said.