TEACHERS in Scotland are striking for the first time in more than 40 years.

This isn’t just because of the cost of living crisis or past pandemic pressures, but a result of chronic under-funding and lack of acceptance of the problems within the system over many years. The Government will say it has allocated so many millions to education but the reality of how this has been used tells a different story. Meanwhile, the growing needs within the classroom are screaming out for a full refresh and re-evaluation of the whole system.

Strikes are always a last resort. They happen when withdrawing labour is the only way left to highlight the importance of the workers upon whose goodwill the system has been running. Of course that causes disruption, that is the point. But the amount of time the media, commentators and even some parents spend on focusing on the disruption caused to children and young people baffles me.

How are they totally oblivious to the ongoing daily disruption that schools, teachers and pupils face on a continuous basis? Why are they oblivious? Is it because ministers avoid talking about the main issues?

The reality in many schools across the country is desperate, when it comes to disruption. When there aren’t enough basic supplies: pens, paper, paint or glue sticks, that teachers have been self-funding for decades and can no longer do so, causes disruption.

When shoddy technology, old computers, iPads that don’t connect, unreliable internet or just not enough devices are not available, despite all the promises made three years ago during the pandemic, this causes disruption.

When 80 per cent of newly-qualified teachers are not given permanent jobs and experienced teachers are languishing on zero hour contracts, they inevitably leave. Those who remain are passed from school to school unable to form strong bonds and positive relationships providing stability to children and young people, many of whom seek this at school in the absence of it at home, which also causes disruption.

When a child is throwing chairs around the room or abusing their teacher physically or verbally and there’s no other adult support in the room, it causes disruption. When schools are then unable to receive support from partner agencies to help that child – you guessed it, it causes disruption.

These are only some of the realities that schools are dealing with. It is vital that wider society know about these and understand that the workforce cannot be expected to deliver a first-class system with third-class funding.

A fair pay settlement as soon as possible is only one aspect of making improvements but it is a vital one. Support the teachers, support the children, support education.
Nuzhat Uthmani, Primary teacher and co-founder of Scottish Teachers for Positive Change and Wellbeing, Glasgow

Keeping SNP at arms' length

THE Scottish Government is up in arms about the UK Government gifting funds for a Fair Isle ferry replacement ("UK Government’s Levelling Up fund to pay for new lifeline Scottish ferry", The Herald, January 19), its gripe being that it wants to allocate spending in Scotland. Just what would it allocate the £27 million to? Court cases? CMAL/Calmac ferries? Potholes? Funding independence-related civil servants?

The current Fair Isle ferry is close to 50 years old, has loading issues, access issues (even for the able-bodied) and reliability issues because of its age and restricted weather capabilities. There has been no sign of the Scottish Government addressing this situation as it deteriorates. It seems that the Scottish Government learns very little from its everyday actions around the ferries that it is currently responsible for delivering with a less than successful record.

Call me old-fashioned, but I think the good burghers of Fair Isle shall be delighted that the Scottish Government, its agencies, quangos and companies are being kept at arms' length with the added bonus that the new ferry has a better than evens chance of being delivered on time and on budget.
Peter Wright, West Kilbride

Jack made the case for indy

SCOTLAND'S case for independence was made last week by none other than the Secretary of State for Scotland, Alister Jack. The SNP gave a manifesto commitment and unlike some other parties, has carried this commitment through, whether we like the legislation or not. Time and time again the Westminster Conservative Government, which Scotland did not vote for, ignores the wishes of the Scottish people – most notably with Brexit, which has massively damaged Scotland’s economy.

How can some of your correspondents be happy with the Conservatives at Westminster deciding and controlling 86% of welfare spend in Scotland and in the midst of the current cost of living crisis being in charge of energy policy?

Scotland can no longer afford to continue in this so-called Union of Equals.
Catriona C Clark, Falkirk

'Nasty party' shows its colours

IT is hardly surprising that unionists are celebrating the Tories placing obstacles in the way of progress: their credentials as "the nasty party" were bolstered by their antics during the Stage 3 debate on reforming gender recognition. While independence (whatever that means in a global capitalist world) will not answer every problem, it would be far better than rule from reactionary governments in Westminster.

If more of us had voted Yes in the referendum then the Tories' rape clause, benefits cap and Brexit fiasco would not have been imposed on women and children in Scotland. Unionists of all hues presumably think that these assaults on women and children (and men) are prices worth paying to preserve the Union – though of course they are only prices worth paying if it is other people who bear the brunt.

Brian Dempsey, School of Law, University of Dundee

Change of FM long overdue

I HAVE noticed over the past year or so that Nicola Sturgeon's favourite word is "democracy". She constantly uses it whenever she is talking about relations between the Westminster Government and the Scottish Government. She repeats time and time again that the "democratic" right of the Scottish people is not being recognised by Westminster.

Yet both she and Alex Salmond stated, following the 2014 referendum on independence, that they respected the result, and that the Scottish people had made a democratic decision. But as soon as she took over from Mr Salmond, she decided that the result was wrong, and we all know what she has been doing since then.

Her only policy is "independence at any cost". This has cost Scotland millions already, and her continued battle with Westminster will continue to do so.

This SNP administration has run out of ideas. It's time for a complete change of government in Scotland. If we can't have that, then a change of First Minister is definitely long overdue.
George Cowie, Buckie

A firm line on NI Protocol

I REFER to Struan Stevenson's article ("Last throw of the dice for Northern Ireland Protocol", The Herald, January 18).

The Belfast/Good Friday Agreement (GFA) makes no stipulations about the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. It mentions only cross border co-operation and security "normalisation". The assertion that the agreement bans a hard border was thrown out of Belfast High Court by Lord Justice Bernard McCloskey in 2019 along with assertions on EU membership, the EU single market and the EU customs union.

Every Unionist party in Northern Ireland is opposed to the current protocol and recent court cases have confirmed Unionists would be forced to implement the protocol if they took their Executive seats in a restored Assembly.

If the GFA institutions are to rescued then any deal on the protocol must be sellable to the Unionist electorate. The DUP lost significant numbers of votes to the anti-protocol Traditional Unionist Voice at the last Assembly election and will not move for much less than the UK command paper proposals.
Alan Day, Cookstown, County Tyrone

Convert the Trident subs

MICHAEL Sheridan (Letters, January 19) suggests Scotland should reverse its stance on Trident. I disagree. Russia is holding Nato at bay by the threat of using tactical nuclear weapons. Nato – endorsed at high military and political level in the US – has stated it will not respond in kind and start a nuclear war but will deliver massive conventional strikes such as would completely destroy the Russian military. This means Nato nuclear weapons are recognised as powerless against such aggressors as Vladimir Putin.

So how much better if UK Trident were to be converted to a conventional role (like USN Ohio class submarines) and armed with multiple conventional cruise missiles and/or even arm its USN-leased Trident missiles with the conventional Global Prompt Strike warheads the US has developed? In this way UK could realistically deliver massive conventional strikes as its contribution to Nato.
Robert Forsyth (former RN submarine captain), Deddington, Oxfordshire


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