LABOUR HAS accused the Tories of a U-turn on local government and education and attempting to reintroduce selection by the back door.
Keith Geddes, Labour's education spokesman and leader of Edinburgh City Council, said plans to remove education from councils and set up more broadly based school boards would increase centralisation by the Scottish parliament.
Only last year, Mr Geddes pointed out, the Tories said the parliament should not diminish the functions and powers of councils. The revised plans contradict Tory evidence to the McIntosh commission on local government and the parliament, he claimed.
Mr Geddes said: "Their proposals are the antithesis of devolution and subsidiarity and would make control of key education decisions distant to all of Scotland's communities. Their plans are clearly a backdoor attempt to reintroduce selection. Local schools, under their plans, could decide to admit pupils on the basis of academic ability, thus creating a two-tier system of education.
"Michael Forsyth's previous attempt to bring back selection in the guise of the Self-Governing Schools (Scotland) Act was roundly rejected by parents throughout Scotland."
Brian Monteith, the Tories' education spokesman, replied that the party had "listened and learnt" over the past year. Decentralising education from local authorities would give headteachers and parents more influence in running schools.
On selection, Mr Monteith stated: "There is already a degree of selection in many Lothian schools and if parents believe even more is required then it is not for the Government to tell them they are wrong."