The leader of Scottish Labour, Iain Gray, has called for a "break with the past" to deal with deteriorating attainment levels in Scotland relative to England, Wales and Northern Ireland at a time when school spending is higher in Scotland than anywhere else in the UK.
Mr Gray made his unexpected statement in response to the latest report from the Centre for Public Policy for Regions, and has taken the unusual step of inviting its authors to meet him to discuss its findings.
The report, from a think-tank formed by Glasgow and Strathclyde universities, shows that spending per pupil in Scotland is well above those in the three other home countries: #163;6,326 per secondary pupil compared with #163;3,923 in Northern Ireland, #163;3,865 in Wales and #163;4,620 in England.
And using the measure of the number of pupils getting A-C results at GCSE and Standard grade, the performance in English, maths and science rose between 1998-99 and 2006-07 everywhere except Scotland, where attainment actually declined. There are also considerable variations in spending and performance among the Scottish education authorities.
Mr Gray said: "It would be an unforgiveable mistake to stick our heads in the sand and ignore this report." Since the statistics relate to a period when his party and the Liberal Democrats shared power at Holyrood, his comments will be interpreted as a rebuke to Labour's record.
But one senior Labour figure described the report as making a "direct and somewhat simplistic connection between bald costs and bald results, leading to an erroneous conclusion". nm.