OH dear – it’s difficult to know where to begin with Andy Maciver’s intemperate, inaccurate and ill-judged diatribe against Scottish education in general and “teacher unions” specifically ("New FM should show the teaching unions who’s boss", The Herald, March 10).

Our schools face significant challenges in delivering equitable educational outcomes in a society which seems willing to tolerate growing levels of economic inequality amongst its children, more plainly experienced as poverty by one in four pupils, and where teachers are required to undertake the mounting challenge of dealing with additional support needs and post-Covid behaviours with minimal targeted resources.

Notwithstanding the challenges, Scotland’s education system is not “failing”, as Mr Maciver asserts. Scotland ranked fourth in the most recent OECD survey of Global Competencies, a measure attested to by Andrea Schleicher, Director of Education at the OECD, as the critical metric for 21st century education systems.

Mr Maciver claims “to have no real issue” with the recently agreed pay rise for teachers but bizarrely rants against the teacher unions who negotiated said settlement, as if somehow teachers are different from teaching unions. Scotland’s largest teaching union, the EIS, of which I was General Secretary for 10 years, is a member-led organisation where elected teachers conduct discussions at all levels on behalf of members and where members themselves make critical decisions through the democratic process of balloting.

His claim that unions are “largely disinterested” in matters beyond pay is simply unsustainable – go online and read the detailed, researched and informed position papers the EIS has submitted on every issue under discussion in Scottish education, including the current reform agenda. The facts belie the assertion.

His reference to the 2018 Education Bill is simply inaccurate. It is true that John Swinney was persuaded by a range of voices, including the EIS and, critically, the Government’s own International Council of Education Advisors to take a collaborative partnership approach to achieving the aims of the Bill rather than going down a legislative pathway which would undoubtedly have led to the usual cul-de-sac created by the toxic binary discourse of Scottish politics.

But rather than “killing” the ambition of the Bill, said collaboration in fact delivered it through an “Empowerment Agenda”, including a Headteachers’ Charter, which was supported by all within the education system.

Rather than being a “malevolent” force in the above scenario, the EIS was a constructive partner in successful social dialogue construct – the hallmark of the European systems Mr Maciver lauds.

That social partnership was in play, also, during the pandemic. I represented the EIS on the Government’s Covid Education Recovery Group (CERG) and I struggle to understand how seeking effective mitigations around school reopening so that school staff, pupils and their families were as safe as possible can be described as “malevolent”.

I understand that Mr Maciver has some historical connection with the Conservative Party but when I have seen him on television panels he always struck me as quite balanced in his approach. Not on this occasion. His bitter, anti-teacher union rhetoric could have come straight out of No 10’s playbook.
Larry Flanagan, Former General Secretary of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS), Renfrew

Why we must vote for indy

I KNEW Brexit would cause shortages. Now we not only see empty food counters, ordinary medicines are running short. For the first time my husband's regular chemist was no longer able to supply the eyedrops that he needs to use regularly. They are made in Europe. Other chemists in the area were in the same condition.

Does this worry our UK Government? Apparently not – although it is considering raising the pension age to 68 which would ensure that many heavy manual workers are dead from cardiac-related conditions before they can claim it. Will the Tories trumpet this achievement as a success? The richer members of society will be unworried. They are mostly in sedentary jobs, so they will be able to continue to finance the Tory Party.

It is time for the rest of us to call a halt to what they are doing. The UK may not have much choice but in Scotland we can vote for the parties for independence.

Once we are free of Brexit and part of Europe again we will not have trading difficulties. Food and medical needs will again flow into Scotland and our exports will be more easily delivered. If it takes voting for the nationalist parties once so that you will be able to vote for the Scottish party of your choice it will be the time to do so at the next election whenever it is. It is time to show the UK that Scotland has a massive majority seeking independence and the possibility of living to collect their pension.
Elizabeth Scott, Edinburgh

Scotland needs an ambassador

A QUESTION for Victor Clements (Letters, March 10): why does he think Douglas Ross, Anas Sarwar and Alex Cole-Hamilton, whom he rates higher than the three SNP leadership candidates, are sitting on the opposition benches in Holyrood? The answer speaks for itself: it's because the voters in Scotland have returned the SNP to government since 2007.

Mr Clements says he is looking for a First Minister who can concentrate on the day job, something the SNP has demonstrated and proven with a clear track record.

He is also looking for a new First Minister who will accept that independence isn’t likely this decade. I beg to differ: just how long can the people of Scotland continue in a Union that is becoming more unequal by the day? Just look at the recent trading deal agreed for Northern Ireland, a place which like Scotland voted against Brexit. Scotland will now find herself even more disadvantaged, out of the single market and Customs Union with no trading agreement.

Scotland is the energy capital of Europe, yet look at the scandalous cost we are paying for our energy. It is Westminster which dictates energy policy.

What I am looking for in a new First Minister is someone who will be an ambassador for Scotland, someone with vision and commitment to take Scotland to self-determination, because Scotland simply cannot afford to remain in this unequal Union for another decade.
Catriona C Clark, Falkirk

Holyrood is an embarrassment

WATCHING the three contenders for leader of the SNP and First Minister, I am confused. Each of them has been criticising each other and various aspects of the performance of Nicola Sturgeon’s regime yet they each speak of her “phenomenal legacy”. The majority of Scots know what a woeful legacy that is, which started with the creation of Police Scotland, the nationalist police force, which now has a massive financial black hole and I don’t need to detail the rest. Scotland has been trashed on the altar of independence, the only priority for the SNP.

Alex Salmond failed to bring Scotland to independence, Nicola Sturgeon has also failed and despite independence being “just round the corner” has bolted. John Swinney didn’t want the job. Angus Robertson and Keith Brown didn’t want it and there is absolutely no way any of these three will succeed in destroying the United Kingdom. The SNP economic case for separation is: we have great resources, we have great people, we have food and drink production, we have tourism but none of them can put credible figures to support their case. And apart from Ash Regan, they want to destroy “Scotland’s oil” and the businesses supported by it.

Devolution has been been hijacked by the SNP socialists and the obscenely expensive comedy talking shop at the foot of the Royal Mile is nothing but an embarrassment.
Douglas Cowe, Newmachar

Winning elections is not enough

WHEN challenged in Holyrood by Douglas Ross with Kate Forbes' damning indictment of the SNP's record in office, Nicola Sturgeon response is to remind us how many elections she's won ("Old Testament Terminator has Douglas Ross and his party in state of rapture", The Herald, March 10). And she's correct: together with her husband, Peter Murrell, Ms Sturgeon made SNP a focused campaigning machine.

But does she seriously suggest that's enough? Ms Forbes is right – the SNP administration has failed in its management of the NHS, education, and transport. Why? What she doesn't acknowledge is that, for the SNP, as per its constitution, attempting to separate Scotland from England is always its overarching priority rather than effective government.
Martin Redfern, Melrose

Read more letters: Forbes is a breath of fresh air. It's a pity she chose the SNP


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