The very public spat between the Education Secretary, Michael Russell, and Kirk Ramsay, the former chair of the board at Stow College, has all of the characteristics of a school playground disagreement between eight-year-olds ("College official who quit hits back at 'bully' Russell", The Herald, November 15).
Both men have demonstrated a worrying lack of judgment. Whilst Mr Ramsay's recording of the Cabinet Secretary's speech on October 1 was not illegal, it was inadvisable and ill-mannered. In these circumstances Mr Russell's over-reaction in demanding Mr Ramsay's resignation is astonishing.
Nevertheless we have these two to thank for "enhancing" the much more important debate about the future of colleges in Scotland.
Mr Russell's claim that his cuts in college budgets of almost 25% in real terms has not had an adverse effect on the quality of college learning experiences and the availability of places (especially in part-time provision made for residents in poorer communities) is misleading.
These cuts seem to have been made to protect provision, some of which is of dubious value, in higher education institutions and to underwrite provision there which is free to students resident in Scotland. Yet there is a building body of opinion (supported by the former Auditor General) that this policy is unsustainable. In the meantime Scotland's colleges are being sacrificed for a short-term, partisan advantage. This is a reckless and foolish trade-off at a time when unemployment in Scotland continues to rise.
Mr Russell, and presumably his colleagues, are apparently unconcerned about the impact of these policies on poorer communities and the further education infrastructure which is essential for Scotland's future economic performance. There is currently a shortage in the Scottish workforce of technicians (the product of colleges) but not of graduates.
We have Mr Ramsay to thank for these facts and the concerns of the current Auditor General about the efficacy of these policies being reported at long last.
As a former senior manager in a college, I can confirm that Mr Russell has consistently claimed that colleges support his "reforms" and that their implementation is evidence of genuine partnership between the sector and himself. However, fear of more draconian measures underpins an apparent consensus. Mr Russell has not produced any evidence that his proposed reforms will bring about the savings he requires (indeed experience in England, which he seems to ignore, suggests that mergers of the type being proposed will make savings, if at all, only in the very long term).
It is now for Alex Salmond to consider the wider implications of this playground romp by two adults in senior and influential positions. He must also make plain immediately that such approaches to public policy development are not those which we should expect from any of his ministers – now or in the future.
Ian Graham OBE,
(Former principal, John Wheatley College, Glasgow),
6 Lachlan Crescent, Erskine.
ALEX Salmond, Michael Russell and a long line of SNP MSPs have claimed that Kirk Ramsay secretly taped private discussions and distributed this to an unknown list of people.
This was not a private discussion; it was a large meeting with 80 to 100 people present and the minutes are publicly available on the internet. Mr Ramsay was not doing anything illegal, so why such a vicious public attack on a college leader? The real question is what is it about Stow College that the SNP Government does not like?
It cannot be that Stow College has a long, successful history of providing many people, young and not so young, from some of the poorest communities in the UK, mostly in North Glasgow, with a chance of gaining skills, an education and a future.
Could it be that Stow College seems to believe that Government reforms, to cut college budgets by 24% (Audit Scotland's figure) and force through college mergers, will damage their ability to serve their communities?
Whether Stow College is right or wrong, this shows how this SNP Government behaves to people who have the temerity to disagree with them. We can only imagine what it will be like if it wins a referendum.
23 Herriet Street,
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