Queen’s Speech – no policies

Jim O’Neill takes on the Queen, Maybot’s incompetent government and the SNP’s latest failing education minister, John Swinney.


One of the few enjoyable bits of watching the Queen’s Speech this year was the sight of the Lords and Ladies all dressed up in their finery, while Liz and young Chuckie dressed down – as much as they ever dress down. And HRH read her speech, still printed on goat’s vellum, with as much enthusiasm as the proverbial dead goat on which it was written. For all the detail contained in it, they might as well have cancelled this year’s event as they have already cancelled next year’s. Liz might have got to Ascot in time to have a wee flutter on the first.

Then we had the Maybot channelling her inner Kaa – Trussssst in me! (For those philistines who do not know the Jungle Book, Kaa is the snake.) Well someone may not have told you yet, but the electorate was saying they don’t trust you when they removed your majority. And where were all those radical policies she touted in her manifesto? Probably in the recycling bin at the back of No.10. The Speech was so threadbare that Boris, stumbling through another car crash interview, found he had nothing to say on it.

Meanwhile, the great Brexit “negotiations” have started with David Davis losing the first round, on the Agenda, 3 – 0. Indeed, Philip Hammond got his retaliation in first by telling Andrew Marr it’s about the economy, stupid, thus signalling a direction of travel directly opposed to all those Brexit is Brexit speeches from the Maybot before the election.

The Tories seem to be so good at negotiations that they have even failed to stich up the simplest of deals with their fellow travellers, the DUP, before the Queen’s Speech debate has started. And, on the horns of a typically Irish dilemma, they have foregone their requirement to be impartial in the Assembly talks, probably ensuring that the talks will fail. All those years of delicate negotiations towards peace in the Province thrown away on the arrogance of the Prime Minister.

Now let’s see how long it takes for the Tories to fold in on themselves. Anyone for another election?

Meanwhile in Scotland, John Swinney has become the latest Education Minister to seek to redesign education in his own image. I wrote about this tendency of Education Ministers of all parties a few years ago. After ten years of continuous failure, which has seen attainment slip down the world leagues, he has come up with a cunning plan. Let’s get rid of all these interfering councillors and put everything in the hands of the headteachers.

As a former trade union official for teachers, this seems like a massive change in the terms and conditions of headteachers, to be imposed and not negotiated. Is that not illegal under labour law? And what about the training for these additional skills they will need? What about recompense for the increase in their workload and responsibilities? And where are the funds for the increase in support staff they will require, support staff already in existence at council level but now required separately for every school?

And, again, what about the democratic deficit it will create? Schools are under the control of councils for very good reasons. They are paid for by the taxpayers, and those taxpayers can hold the councils to account. Who will hold the headteachers to account?

This is not new. The SNP’s first failure as Education Minister, all those years ago, Mike Russell, also threatened to take schools away from council control if they did not do as he wanted. He so alienated the teaching profession that Alex Salmond had to sack him.

So, Swinney has missed a wide open goal. By seeking to change the systems rather than improve the resources available, he has been deaf to all the professionals who, once again, are on the verge of industrial action. Teachers, like nurses, don’t take industrial action lightly. The last great flare-up was as far back as the 1980s. That they are talking about it again shows how frustrated they have become with this Scottish Government.

Change your mind Mr Swinney. Look for new resources, not new systems. If you insist on continuing on your current path, only our children will suffer.

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8 thoughts on “Queen’s Speech – no policies

  1. “And, again, what about the democratic deficit it will create? Schools are under the control of councils for very good reasons”

    One of them seems to be to allow local authorities to sack teachers and blame it on the Scottish Government.

  2. I want all powers devolved to local councils. Local councillors are in many ways a lot more in touch with local peoples needs and are for me more accountable and accessible than an MSP will ever be.
    The people have moved on from 14 .The SNP Leadership are now trying to do the same. The FM is being forced by her own backbenchers and MPS to drop the Indy plan.
    The period of reflection on their plans is up this week . How convenient to do this before Holyrood brakes up for the holiday.
    Apparently taking Indy of the table at present is popular with the public SNP MSPS and MPS the problem seems to be the SNP membership wont allow it. They seem to think they joined a party that wants an independent state.
    Last week there was some talk of taking the independence campaign away from the political party.
    Remember their MSPS and MPS are very well paid why put that at risk by pursuing what they are supposed to believe in.
    3 things to win a ref they need to convince people like me to vote for it. The FM is a believer and to her credit she was before it became fashionable.
    I have been told SNP members are feeling very let down by all the so called senior members like Alec Neil who are now braking ranks on a daily basis. How long before the members force the FM to reign them in if she can .
    Sometimes I think they are testing the water for the leadership.
    And remember a lot of them made a very good living in the Labour Party. So ask Tommy Shepard and friends do you really believe in Independance

  3. OK, education has up till now been in the control of councils. Why then, is it the Scottish government getting pelters?
    Can you refer us Jim, to any Director of Education, at any council, who has been sacked for children’s poor results at the schools he controlled? No? Then can you point to any council Education Committee which has highlighted the success/failure of the schools in their jurisdictions, and the reasons for that outcome?
    How have schools in say, Glasgow ( Scotland’s highest council funding per capita) performed over a set period? Ten years, twenty years etc?

    There are, in my opinion, many reasons for poor educational results in international testing.
    Some countries( Finland is one ) are alleged to teach to the test.
    Some countries( China, Singapore, Japan etc) use “hothousing” methods which are alien to schools in the UK.
    Some countries( England) have big regional and ethnic variations.
    In England Northern children do, educationally, much poorer than in the South of that country. White boys are especially prone to poor results the longer they are in education ( starting at parity with other ethnic groups). I have no idea what drives this. It could be home life or some particular social issue ( poor job prospects, no parental support etc, peer group bad attitude to education) which will even out as better performing ethic/migrant communities are integrated ( they will then perform as poorly as white kids). The same issues might well be involved in Scotland’s results, given our ethic make-up is almost entirely white Scottish.
    O’Neil’s stance on this issue is both pathetic and ignorant, yet he was “in the system”: perhaps no surprise our education is in decline.

  4. Gavin you ruined a well thought out article. You did it with the personal attack at the end

    His blogs are always thought provoking , He is neither pathetic or ignorant . As a former teacher and union officer of some experience he knows his subject.
    I always enjoy reading your comments. But no personal stuff please thanks

    1. Do us a favour David, don’t take everyone as fools. Jim O’Neill’s articles are both pathetic and ignorant, he gets ripped apart every time for his one-way twisted outlook on it always being SNPBAD. The one thing you never get from Jim’s articles is any sense OR FAIRNESS.

    2. Thanks for your comments David. But…………always a “but”, isn’t there?
      If Mr O’Neil can indulge in personal attacks on Swinney and Russell, then he opens the door for a similar response on his own conduct.
      My concern is O’Neils claim that the “system” is fine, only more money is required. There are many positives in our education, but also flaws. Of course more money would help, but there are systemic, parental and societal reasons for children failing their educational chances. O’Neil blames it all on one political party over one time slot.
      One example– the SNP tried, as a minority government, to bring class sizes down to 15. That was voted down by Conservative, Labour and Lib Dems. For reasons of low politics, not education.

    3. I’m also a former teacher and union officer, and I think he’s talking rubbish. I should add that I was a member of the largest teaching union, c 80% of staff, Jim represented a very minor one.

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