Scotland's renewed zeal can wake up Westminster

8th May 2015 at 01:00

If, as seemed likely, we are waking up today to a new reality - one that involves the SNP sending several dozen MPs to Westminster - then something has changed utterly. Scotland has sent out a powerful message, even if what exactly that message is remains unclear.

Opinion polls suggest that a small majority of people in Scotland still wish to remain in the UK, but an inchoate zeal for change has powered a surge of support for the SNP.

People want something better from their politicians - an escape from the torpor that has led to turnouts slumping at elections. Many believe a phalanx of SNP MPs in the House of Commons is a way of achieving that.

So what does the outcome mean for education? For all the hyperbole about this having been the most important general election in decades, the devolved matter of education doesn't come properly into play until the 2016 Holyrood elections. Yes, who governs at Westminster will have a bearing on how much money funnels through to Scottish schools and colleges, but all the shenanigans of the campaign trail seem remote from the work of teachers north of Berwick.

Education does not exist in a vacuum, though, and neither is it the sole preserve of formal institutions. A number of schools took advantage of the independence referendum to channel the newfound enthusiasm for politics among pupils, many of whom were given the right to vote last September. Schools have continued to harness that youthful passion for political debate, with one even hosting what was thought to be the country's first mock "electronic election" - more on that in a future issue of TESS.

Scotland must be one of the few places where a 20-year-old had a genuine chance of toppling one of the country's most senior politicians. We were among the first publications to interview Mhairi Black ("The young activists on an electoral roll", News focus, 20 March), and we'll know by now whether she has defeated shadow foreign secretary and Labour chair of general election strategy Douglas Alexander.

School - particularly an inspirational modern studies teacher - helped to switch Black on to current affairs and made her realise that politics was not purely for "a few destined people".

Her battle to become the youngest female MP in history is emblematic of the inspiring way that politics in Scotland has once again connected with young people.

Turnout is likely to have been higher than in the rest of the UK, too, if not up to referendum levels. The desire to make a difference has led to a huge influx of new members in some parties, and there is a plethora of new voices in the political blogosphere.

People in Scotland have decided to sit up and properly take notice of what our elected representatives do - and, in many cases, have concluded that they have better ideas themselves. What is that if not education on a grand scale?

henry.hepburn@tesglobal.com

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