A Manifesto for Excellence

To serve Scotland, Labour must serve our children, writes CRAIG CARSON


Well, this is my first posting for LabourHame or any Labour website for that matter so go easy on me! I’ve really been spurred on to contribute by the high quality posts and debate already taking place on the site. So here it goes…

The results in May hurt for Labour and hurt badly. However, I can see that this is now a great opportunity to really have a fresh, determined look at ourselves and ask some far-reaching questions. Only by going through a process of real reflection can we hope to come out the other side in a better, stronger state. Now I appreciate that this view I’m purporting is not new but this message needs to be hammered home to the party leadership.

There will be many reviews and inquests over the coming months and I genuinely hope they will be all-inclusive and critical on the party when merited. If we go for ‘safe options’ or if all our reviews set out to not annoy anyone then what will we have achieved? If that is going to be the case then we can say goodbye to the Labour party and actually, we would only have ourselves to blame.

The recent election campaign and actions of the Scottish Labour Party have been criticised by the media and party members alike. I feel that the one thing which is crucial and was severely lacking was credible, thought through policies and a positive vision for the future of Scotland. This was of our own making as the public could hardly see the difference between the SNP and us. We complained before the election that the SNP was going to make this a presidential election based around Salmond and ‘his team’. What did we do to counter that looming argument? Nothing. Instead weeks before the election was called we preceded to pick off SNP avenues of attack by ‘copying’ certain policies such as the council tax freeze (which Glasgow was doing before 2007) and tuition fees. Even saying we weren’t going to close hospitals in Lanarkshire which wasn’t even on the radar! That just proceeded to remind voters near Monklands General why they voted SNP in 2007 in the first place! Therefore, I would argue the key task between now and the next Scottish election is summed up in two ways – devising credible policies and a positive vision.

Let me deal with the position vision aspect first. I’m not so naïve to believe that just standing up and saying that Scotland can do better and is a great place is going to win over voters or give them any understanding about our party. However, we need a ‘big picture’ in which we should be working towards. Basically, what kind of Scotland does the Labour party want to see? Until we define that fundamental vision then we are at risk of creating policies that aren’t coherent or planned. Voters should be in no doubt about what we stand for and we should be in no doubt about what we stand for!

A very current example of vision (whether you agree with it or not) is the Curriculum for Excellence which is currently being implemented throughout Scotland’s schools. The Curriculum has four main ‘capacitors’ (guiding principles) which the curriculum hopes to develop in our young people: successful learners, responsible citizens, effective contributors and confident individuals. I feel that such a model should be applied to our vision and subsequently our policy making. We would need to add flesh to the bones of the broad values but these would be the basic values/principles in which we stand for and hope to see replicated in a modern Scotland. I appreciate that this idea is not entirely new but I would be interested to know if such principles have been explicit to the party and country as a whole.

Every new policy would need to be set against these values/principles and if a new policy doesn’t fit in with our vision then perhaps that policy isn’t right for the Scotland we want to see. I believe that to have a set of explicit values we aspire to would be helpful to the party and the public.

After we have clearly defined our vision for Scotland then our policies will flow based on those principles. In particular, I believe that we should have a much stronger policy focus on eradicating child poverty and, in particular, improving the current policies towards Early Years. Recently, Professor Susan Deacon produced an excellent report which looked into our current Early Years provision and the ways in which it is failing many of our youngest children. A large portion of her report is based on conversations with people directly involved in early years, either parents or those working with children. Her report should be seen as a wake up call to all of us interested in a better Scotland. Every day in my job (primary teacher) I see the effects of poverty upon our young people; the cycle of poverty that they now find themselves in and the reduced chances of ‘breaking out’ compared to their parents. By making fundamental mistakes and having poor leadership in our Early Years policy, we are currently stifling the great potential of our young people.

“The period before birth and in the early months and years of life has a profound impact on a child’s life, on their physical, mental and emotional development and, in turn, their life chances.” (Joining the Dots – A better start for Scotland’s Children, Pg 9)

The Labour Party still has a positive contribution to make to our society. It may have been a bumpy few months and there will be uncomfortable times ahead as we search deep within ourselves. However, I firmly believe that with the right vision and policies we can move this country, we all care about deeply, further forward into the 21st century stronger and more fairer than when we see today.

Craig Carson is a Labour activist in Glasgow South and a primary teacher.


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6 thoughts on “A Manifesto for Excellence

  1. Craig your points about educating the next generation and how this is achieved is central to Labour’s belief in the improvement of life chances for all. During the 18 years of Tory rule the education estate in Scotland deteriorated to such an extent that the schools were no longer fit to educate young people and it was only when Labour came to power in 1997 and the Scottish Parliament took on the responsibility of funding for education to the unitary authorities was there a siginificant improvement in the standard of schools throughout Scotland. Parents don’t particularly care how it is funded as long as their children are in wind and watertight classrooms, that was the lesson from those days. This also applies to early years establishments too.

    What is now happening is the further deterioration of education today through the lack of funding for education from Scottish Future Trust and we seem to be going back to the days of Tory underfunding of education but now by the SNP. So much for “we will match brick for brick” Labours school rebuilding program. There are still many schools still to be rebuilt for future generations in Scotland but these are now going to be even worse as they missed out on the years that Labour funded these projects. Maybe it is time to raise this issue again, it is our children who are going to suffer in the long run

    1. I very much agree with you Raymond. There does seem a real need to bring this back up the political agenda again. I do believe that during the election campaign the SNP claimed that the Futures Trust had invested millions of pounds. Do we know what that was on? It did seem that many SNP candidates during the campaign were seen in their literature to be standing infront of new schools which weren’t helped one bit by the SNP. The school building programme since devolution was a great investment in our young people as learning in a pleasant environment is far better than one where the building is falling around you!

      I fear the SNP since 2007 have tried to be all things to all people in an attempt to annoy as few people as possible. As a result, they ‘dropped the ball’ on many issues but child poverty in particular has suffered. They have targeted certain areas with free school meals for the youngest primary children (where most parents don’t want it and the wasted food is staggerring) and smaller class sizes in certain areas (again to pay for that classes after Primary 3 are reaching the legal maximum in many schools). It’s seems like there’s no clear vision. We need to fill that gap.

  2. Hmm! who was it that said if it isn’t Hurting it isn’t working?

    ‘as the public could hardly see the difference between the SNP and us’

    yeah they could one they were willing to vote for and the other they were not..Big difference

    1. Well if you asked people about what they thought were the biggest differences between the parties they were unable to say any clear dividing lines.

      However, it is interesting that you have missed the main point of the piece and produce no comment on that.

  3. Yet another ‘Where did it all go wrong’ article.

    You are right that the SNP based their main thrust around the competancies of their team and as such were highly successful in highlighting the constant sniping attacks made by Labour in a compliant media.

    However, just saying you’re wrong and I’m right without credible evidence left Labour wide open to accusations of taking the electorate for granted.

    Your party needs to cut the umbilical with London, start fighting for specific Scottish causes and, for goodness sake, formalise the name ‘Scottish Labour’

    1. Well I think another “Where did it all go wrong” article as you put it, can do the debate no harm. This website has not only been reflective and critical on the election campaign but it has also given way to good ideas about the way forward.

      I agree the name change would do no harm but to cut the link with London completely, I would suggest for a party that believes in the Union, wouldn’t be the best idea.

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