One union that's sure to stay;Diary

8th October 1999 at 01:00
IT WAS confession time at the Parliament last week. The main revelation from MSPs debating the current teachers' dispute (page five) was that a goodly number were members of the Educational Institute of Scotland.

We are happy to name and shame those who outed themselves - Dennis Canavan, Malcolm Chisholm, Robin Harper, Sylvia Jackson, Ian Jenkins and Maureen Macmillan.

There was just no stopping them: Murray Tosh, former head of history at Belmont Academy in Ayr, confessed his continuing membership of the Scottish Secondary Teachers' Association; and Mike Russell, the SNP's parliamentary business manager, went so far as to reveal he is a parent and married to a teacher.

The best the Tories' Mary Scanlon could manage was to deny she had ever been a teacher and she certainly did not own up to an EIS past. But - her coup de grace - she had been a further education lecturer.

Margo MacDonald of the SNP made no union declaration either. But she did reveal that "as a young teacher, more than 30 years ago, with my first pay packet I was able to buy my mother a three-piece suite".

Her point, of course, was that there was no such lucky mother around nowadays.

Canavan also recalled his first teaching job. "Such was the level of deprivation among the children that, at one stage, I had to give a pair of my wee sister's shoes to one of the pupils so that she could come to school."

The voice of children was, as ever, absent although many claimed to speak for them. The best generational touch came from Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP's education spokesperson, who was able to call on her vast experience "as someone who was still at school during the previous teachers' strike". Ouch!

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