Iain Gray MSP, Scottish Labour’s Opportunity Spokesperson, says we have a moral and economic duty to stop the damaging cuts to education and our children’s future, and we therefore choose to use our powers.
Nicola Sturgeon said that Scottish education would become the driving and defining responsibility of her government.
Nice rhetoric, so what about the record? Under the SNP government:
- there are 4,000 fewer teachers;
- 152,000 fewer students go to college;
- 6,000 children leave primary school in Scotland unable to read properly;
- children from richer families are twice as likely to go to university as those from poorer homes;
- student debt has doubled and grants have been slashed.
Information released this week shows that the average spend per primary pupil in Scotland is down £561 in real terms since the SNP were re-elected and formed a majority in 2011. And the Scottish budget Holyrood will debate this week plans to cut the Education and Lifelong Learning budget by more than £130 million (4.4%) in real terms next year.
Despite pledging to protect spending for the NHS and police budgets the SNP have never made that same commitment to education. And of course, the hundreds of millions of cuts planned for local councils will have a devastating impact on schools and other services on which our young people rely.
That’s some way to make education a priority.
Scottish education cannot take another round of SNP cuts. Nor should it. The best investment any government can make is in its people. We can’t cut the attainment gap whilst cutting the schools budget, and we won’t give our young people the skills they need for the jobs of tomorrow unless we give our schools the resources they need to deliver.
That is why, given the choice, Scottish Labour will choose to use our powers in the Scottish Parliament to invest in our children’s future and our nation’s future.
Scottish Labour would set the Scottish Rate of income tax at 11p, a penny higher than the rate set by George Osborne. That will deliver close to half a billion of extra revenue to protect our children and young people form these cuts.
We will ensure that the low paid will not lose out. Low paid workers won’t pay a penny more, thanks to a payment of £100, and we will provide an extra half a billion pounds more for public services, enabling us to avoid cuts to education. One in four workers will pay no more than today. One in five taxpayers will gain from this policy.
This is the single most important economic investment we can make in our country’s future. In twenty years’ time some of the children in our classrooms today will be working in industries we haven’t imagined yet. Don’t believe me? Think of trying to explain a career as an app developer to someone in 1996.
We have a moral and economic duty to stop these cuts. Given the choice between using our powers or making cuts to our children’s future – our nation’s future – we choose to use our powers. That’s our priority.
Over to you, First Minister.