Where have all the promises gone?

24th August 2007 at 01:00
Education is clearly not a priority for the SNP. What they have said in their first 100 days about education has been meagre and disappointing. Even some of their high profile promises seem to have been abandoned.

PPP will remain in place and student debt will not be written off as promised. They have said nothing about funding for universities, or how they will address the funding gap with universities in England. Their decision to abolish the graduate endowment will use money which would have been better used to employ probationary teachers who are having to look outside teaching for employment.

This is the big issue for Fiona Hyslop, who has been silent on it. Or to be fair, what she has said displays staggering complacency. In a letter to me dated July 8, she said: "As posts occur throughout the year, I am satisfied that this adjustment will be sufficient to restore the balance between supply and demand."

Her announcement of 300 extra jobs is modest compared to the 1,000 posts created during the last year by the previous Labour-led executive. She has inherited a record 53,000 teachers employed in Scottish education by the new academic year. The announcement on early years hours is a welcome but timid extension. And class size reductions go nowhere near doing anything to meet the SNP's promises. Everything done so far has little substance.

Labour had promised substantial extra investment in education. Jack McConnell had committed Labour to investing the extra money from the UK budget in education. He also promised during the campaign to invest extra money, even if meant squeezing other budgets.

We would have used this money to provide continuity of employment to teachers finishing their probationary year, as well as taking forward other manifesto promises.

With some minor tinkering, the SNP seems to be content to build on the work started by Labour, but is not prepared to deliver on the key issues which persuaded many to vote SNP (abolition of PPP, writing off student debt and effective early action on class size reduction).

We have had 100 days which has been long on presentation but short on substance. We are waiting to see how the SNP will respond to the issues facing Scottish education. And we are still waiting to see if the SNP will match the investment in education promised by Labour.

Hugh Henry is Labour's education spokesperson

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