Problems in the Programme for Government

jimtoggleJim O’Neill takes a look at the SNP’s big idea for education, and finds a surprising number of things not being mentioned.


Nicola Sturgeon has set out her ninority Ggovernment’s Programme for Government. It included some interesting projects and some notable omissions. Let’s look at some of them.

The “highlights” of the programme were the proposals on education. Recognising, although not admitting, the SNP’s failures on education over the past nine years, Nicola announced an international board of specialists to find out where they have gone wrong, and to recommend a way forward.

Indeed, John Swinney has recognised the mess that previous SNP Education Ministers have made by asking for “some time and space” to work out a new plan. Sorry John, our children’s futures are too important to afford you much of that. And what does this say about the performance of such “luminaries” as Mike Russell and Angela Constance, now in charge of communities including welfare issues? I trust she will make a better fist of that than she did of education, leaving, as she has, the sector in turmoil and teachers on the brink of national industrial action for the first time in a generation.

However, the most important announcement on education was not mentioned in Nicola’s speech. Some readers may remember my comments on the reshuffle when I noted that the person in charge of the money makes the policy. So it was not really a surprise when Derek McKay, the Finance Minister, and not John Swinney, announced a shake-up to local council control of education. He admitted that there were no problems in local authority delivery but he thought that there might be ways to do better.

This is enormously dangerous. Not only does it challenge local democratic control of schools, it could lead to the fragmentation of the sector, as has happened in England, with attacks on national terms and conditions for employees. If this happens watch for a wave of strikes which could damage children’s education.

So that was the highlight of what was in the speech. But what was missing. Well there was no mention of fracking. With the first licence to frack being awarded in England, despite the opposition of tens of thousands of local people, we still await a statement about its future in Scotland. We must be told soon.

It was also surprising, with bus services being cut all over Scotland, most recently by First Group in East Lothian and the Borders, and Stagecoach in North Ayrshire, there was no mention of bus re-regulation. Even the Tory government in England has recognised the value of re-regulation in some circumstances.

With the success of Transport for London (TfL) controlled and regulated by the Mayor’s office, this has been used as an incentive for areas across England to vote for elected Mayors. Now, in those areas which have elected a mayor, regulation and control of bus services will be devolved using the same model as TfL. Indeed we already have a model for successful local authority control of transport services in Edinburgh. I would hesitate to note that re-regulation is not in the interests of big SNP donor Brian Souter. Surely that has not influenced the Scottish Government transport policy.

Finally, on a different issue, and following my comments of Scottish Labour’s need for transparency, has anyone seen any reports of the meeting of Scottish Executive following the election? As CLP Secretary I have already received two reports of the most recent NEC meeting from constituency representatives, which I have circulated to members. Why can’t they hear what happened at Scottish Executive? We should be told.

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14 thoughts on “Problems in the Programme for Government

  1. Labour criticising education is beyond the pale, when Labour councils have systematically set about being obstructive since 2008.

    In 2008 COSLA negotiated a removal of the ringfencing of the education budget, on the promise that frontline budgets and staffing would be protected.

    Labour controlled councils (of which most are and more around 2008 than now) have year on ytear reduced the staffing and budget allocation to schools – a breaking of the promises made in 2008. When additional funds were made available a year ago to increase teacher numbers (£40million) COSLA screamed blue murder that the money was ringfenced and only able to be used for it’s intended purpose – was undemocratic.

    Coucils have direct control over the numbers of staff – if we have 4000 less teachers it is entirely down to Labour councils decisions. Labour councils also have direct authority on the implementation and moderation of the new qualifications – as you admit.
    Therefore if there has been poor implementation it has been directly the fault of Labour councils management – as you say there is “local democratic control of schools”

    As to fracking.

    Even in the Newspapers it has been pointed out that Labour’s “Ban” can be overturned in court leaving Scotland open to being fracked.
    The moratorium in place just now is the only way to ensure that fracking is stopped without the ability to challenge it in court – all labour has done his taken fracking several steps closer – this is crass stupidity.

    Your solution to reserved powers on transport is the election of Mayors? with all the extra expense? to get cheaper busses – got a clue for you – we’re in this mess because of better together – there is only one solution

    1. SNP controlled councils have also been forced to cut staffing and budget allocations to schools. Are you going to blame Labour for that too?

      1. “SNP controlled councils have also been forced to cut staffing and budget allocations to schools.”

        Which ones?

        In 2008 the budget was £137m
        in 2012 the budget was £193m an almost 50% increase
        in 2014 the budget was £177m a cut but still up from 2008

        the draft budget shows a planned increase back up to £191m

        So at the time Labour were in charge staffing was cut in the face of increasing Education budgets. The cuts happened immediately – when council budgets hadn’t.

        After 2012 when there were more SNP Authorities, Still less than a third of the overall and the rest amusingly contain several Labour – Conservative coalitions to keep out the larger SNP group

        The cuts happened immediately – when council budgets hadn’t.

          1. I’m guessing the point is pretty obvious – you’re trying to claim education cuts are the fault of “Labour councils” and you ignore the fact that SNP councils were forced to make them too. By SNP cuts.

          2. “I’m guessing the point is pretty obvious – you’re trying to claim education cuts are the fault of “Labour councils” and you ignore the fact that SNP councils were forced to make them too. By SNP cuts.”

            try guessing again…

            the Labour cuts from 2008 – 2012 happened in the face of an increasing budget..

            do keep up

          3. “See page 18 of this Joseph Rowntree Foundation report ”

            I’ll see your report by university authors “analysis” of government documents….and raise you the actual documents – which have to be verified correct.

            2008-2009 Draft budget – showing actual spend spend for 2008- 2009 pg 61

            Learning Budget = £133m

            2012-2013 Spending review Pg 109
            Learning budget = £177m

            2105-2106 Draft Budget – Showing actual spend for 2014-2015 pg 62 Learning budget = £177m.

            Official figures by the Scottish government that have to be certified and submitted to WM.

            all your report shows is the figure spent by Local Authorities went down, not how much money they were supplied with….since the Local Authorities are in complete control – it shows some “creativity” on their part

          4. What the “analysis” you so scornfully put in scare quotes shows is that while the Scottish Government was trumpeting so-called increases in learning spending in their budget, they were slashing the overall money being supplied to councils. And thanks to the mobster’s offer of the council tax freeze councils have practically no way of significantly increasing revenues.

            As for your ludicrous claim that local authorities are somehow choosing not to spend spare money they have – it’s offensive as well as being idiotic.

            The SNP government has cut council budgets, and useful idiots like you stand up again and again to defend them because of your pathological need to blame everything bad on Labour.

            You are wrong here. A decent human being would admit it.

          5. No The Rowntree table you quoted Trends in Local Government spending – nowhere does it specify the funding received, and this site has repeatedly cited Local Authority autonomy.

            There have been cuts to Local Authority Budgets. But nowhere near the level that the Scottish Government has received from Westminster.

            You all campaigned for Better Together and assisted the Austerity Politics that Ed Balls etc said would continue under Labour….

            Take some responsibility for your Good Work Defending the Union – Ruth Davidson does

          6. That is another flat out lie. The cut to the Scottish block grant last year was less than 1%, while the cuts the Scottish Government made to local authorities on the back of it amounted to more than 3.5%.

            Don’t come here to spread lies.

          7. Trotting out your usual garbage Duncan….this was thouroughly debunked the cut in the blockl grant included an increased expenditure by westminster on reserved matters. the cut to the DEL was higher than that.

            Not like you to be accurate….and as usual…your not

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