Scotland needs a university system for the many

Scott Arthur says he had better educational opportunities under Thatcher in the 1980s than children growing up in the same street do today, and that can’t be right.

 

As parents, my wife and I are quietly relieved to be having a break from the stress of waiting for exam results this year.  We know the huge pressure on children to perform well if they want to go on to their dream job or place at university/college.

And as a dean of one of Scotland’s best universities, I know the huge benefits that come with gaining a place at college or university. It is something we often take for granted, but it is always humbling to hear the sacrifices people make to attend university.

As well as good news, however, the exam results texts and e-mails often contain bad news for some young Scots who hoped to attend university. For those who narrowly missed the entry criteria, rejection can be a bitter pill to swallow. It can be life changing. Traditionally, Scots in that position could enter the clearing system and find a place elsewhere. However, the SNP cap on university places means many Scottish universities will not enter clearing for Scots students. Those that do may only do so to find students from deprived backgrounds in order to meet Scottish Government targets.

That’s right, education is free in Scotland but bursaries have been cut and places are limited by the SNP. If you are English and want to study in Scotland, it is a different matter.  Scots students were told last week that our universities are full, but this week room will be found for English applicants entering clearing for a place in Scotland – phone lines will stay open all weekend for them. However, unlike students from the EU, the SNP force universities to charge English students fees.

This is important as the link between education and deprivation is clear. Kids from poor backgrounds tend to do less well at school. This key factor is part of why we see poverty being passed down from generation to generation in Scotland. We know that under the SNP this problem is getting worse. Their cuts and indifference are holding back a generation, and this can only result in worsening inequality in Scotland.

I grew up in one of the most deprived areas of the UK: a council estate in Kirkcaldy during the miner’s strike in the 1980s. I can remember the struggle my dad faced to provide me and my brothers with a school uniform, and the bigger challenge of feeding us over the summer when there were no free school meals.

My route out of that background was to work hard at school and go on to complete a degree and eventually a PhD. This solid educational base has led me to a career which has taken me around the world – from Australia to Brazil, and from Japan to Dubai. It breaks my heart to say that I had a better deal under Margaret Thatcher than kids growing up in my old street in Kirkcaldy have today. That’s utterly depressing.

My experience tells me that education is fundamental to reducing inequality in Scotland and elsewhere in the world. As a professor who manages one of the UK’s leading engineering programmes at a Scottish university, I continually come across students who must leave university because they simply cannot afford to support themselves.

When elected in 2007 the SNP abolished the “graduate endowment”, a £2,000 fee paid by students after graduation. Alex Salmond quickly claimed “The rocks will melt with the sun before I allow tuition fees to be imposed on Scottish students”. In a typically modest move, he even had his words literally carved in stone and unveiled in a university’s grounds.

The problem is that fees are only part of the cost of attending university. The second part of the equation is living costs.  If you come from a wealthy family there’s a good chance that the “bank of mum and dad” will help with living costs. Poorer students, however, must rely on a bursary from the Scottish Government. Currently the SNP offers the very poorest students a bursary of just £1875 per year. In a household where both parents earn only the minimum wage, this is cut by SNP means testing to £500. By comparison, ten years ago Labour offered the poorest students a bursary of £2,455 (worth around £3,000 today).

This means that while all students benefit from abolition of the £2,000 graduate endowment, the books have been balanced by cutting £4,500 from the bursary awarded to the poorest students on a typical 4 year degree programme. Poor students must fund their studies via debt and/or work.

To be clear, this movement of money from the richest to the poorest at a time of “austerity” is the action of a government that says its number one priority is cutting the attainment gap. There are letting Scotland’s poorest kids down.

A few years ago I came across a student from one of the most deprived areas in Edinburgh who, as well as studying full-time, managed a small supermarket full-time. He was one of the very best students I have encountered, and was evidence that while Scots growing up in poor communities may lack opportunity, they don’t lack commitment, intelligence or ambition. As a country, we must do more to support them. To do this, we need a university system for the many, not the few. It’s not good enough to simply target kids from poor backgrounds for entry to university, we need to fully support them once they get there.

Despite the wider constitutional maelstrom Scotland finds itself in, it was our failing education system that drove me to joining Labour in 2014. If I’m honest, however, I thought our policy then was good, but not bold enough.

By 2016, however, I was proud to see Scottish Labour make a commitment to protect education spending in real terms. Above all else though was a clear commitment to “keep university tuition fees free and reverse cuts to student grants”. For people leaving the care system even more support was offered – their grant would be boosted to almost £8,000. To end the system the SNP created whereby recent graduates on lower incomes are saddled with disproportionate loan payments, Labour said it would raise the repayment threshold from £17,775 to £22,000.

These were not policies designed to be carved on lumps of stone. This was about using the power of shared societal responsibility to melt the rock of inequality that holds Scotland back. This was about making sure that those who had the ability got a place at university and the support they need to see them through their studies. This was about designing an education system that met the needs of the many, not the few.

We have seen the impact having a clear policy on university access had on UK Labour’s election result in June 2017. The challenge Scottish Labour faces now is cutting through the SNP’s empty rhetoric on university funding and framing the debate on our terms – fairer access and support for all.

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42 thoughts on “Scotland needs a university system for the many

  1. It breaks my heart to say that I had a better deal under Margaret Thatcher than kids growing up in my old street in Kirkcaldy have today thanks to the Labour party under Tony Blair bringing the market into education & introducing tuition fees,
    Fixed that for you

    1. Tuition fees were charged to Scottish students studying in Scotland for precisely three years between 1998 and 2001. There have been no tuition fees since 2001, when kids from Kirkcaldy today contemplating university would have been 2 years old. Please explain to me how you have the brass neck to blame something that happened a decade and a half ago for SNP education policy today.

      1. Which party wanted to market education & charge for the privilege?
        Which party in power in Wales has just increased tuition fees?
        Which party in Scotland scrapped Labours tuition fees & has kept them free for Scottish students?
        BTW, whether you pay for them up front or delay payment till after students have left Uni, fees are fees.

        1. The answer to your third question is that Labour and the Lib Dems scrapped tuition fees in 2001. Which means there have been none for 16 years. And yet access to higher education for students from poorer backgrounds is WORSE today than it was then.

          Tuition fees are clearly not the driver for making the changes that are necessary. We should stop holding them up as such.

          1. No, Labour & the Lib Dems changed the name from Tuition Fees to Graduate Endowment fees & changed when they have to be paid.

            But as I said in my prev comment, it doesn’t matter when you pay for your education. If you have to pay it, it’s a fee.

            If I bought a couch with an option to pay nothing for a year does that mean it’s free because I don’t pay upfront?

          2. No they didn’t. Tuition fees were paid by the student to the institution per year, and these were abolished by the Labour/Lib Dem Scottish Government in 2001. No Scottish student has paid tuition fees since.

            That government introduced the Graduate Endowment, payable via the student loans system so protecting those on low incomes from ever having to pay it, to pay for improved bursaries and grants for students from poorer backgrounds. When the SNP came to power they scrapped the Graduate Endowment and since then we have seen bursaries and grants to poorer students drop dramatically. This has had a clear effect on the ability of such students to access higher education.

          3. I think you must have misread. I said that cutting grants and bursaries, which were previously funded by the graduate endowment which the SNP scrapped, has contributed to making access to higher education worse for poorer students. Do you disagree?

  2. More Scots going to university than ever before and more from deprived backgrounds. Those that do go face a fraction of the debt faced by those elsewhere in the UK. A reality that doesn’t really gel with the sadly predictable SNPbad picture you paint.

    1. Like I say, getting in university is only the start! Students from poor backgrounds deserve better support – I hope we can agree on that!

      1. That would be nice Doc. Unfortunately, the wish list you claim as Labour Party policy does not convince me. Its the complete non- existence of the necessary “magic money tree” (a now sadly hackneyed metaphor) to pay for all of Labour’s many, many promises that undermines the Party’s credibility here. That and their propensity for ripping up manifestos as soon as the polls close, with a “promise … what promise” attitude. 1999 and 2003 for instance.

  3. Ucas show a sharp decline in applications from both home based and EU students(as Brexit comes to fruition, a separatist policy backed by Labour) to the higher education sector. Universities are now advertising to attract fewer students, who are themselves becoming disaffected by high costs and poor tuition among the dreaming spires.
    Student debt in England/Wales is becoming a serious issue ( not helped by Corbyn’s jigery pokery promises) which threatens future educational aspirations down south. Yet not a mention of this from Mr Arthur, whose only interest is SNP-baddery (juxtaposed by the wonderousness of Scottish Labour). I dont buy it, I’m afraid. Labour has had decades in power since the end of the second world war to right an education system, free from wealth discrimination and class bias. Where is it?

    1. If we’re focused on comparisons between Scotland and the rest of the UK, perhaps it would be sensible to look at what is being discussed in this piece – access to higher education for those from poorer background. On that, I regret to say, the rest of the UK is doing better than Scotland. So it clearly isn’t about tuition fees.

      That said, what benefit is there from comparing Scotland with rUK in this or any other area? Success isn’t measured by how badly someone else is doing. We hear the same song sung every time problems are highlighted in Scotland. NHS waiting times crisis? Oh it’s worse in England. So what?

      1. Duncan, there has been a rise in acceptances of students from disadvantaged areas in Scotland of 13% in the last figures ( up 20% since 2015). In England the figure is 9% since 2007.
        The benefit in comparing Scotland with rUK(or anywhere else) is context. How can you say a thing is good, bad or whatever if you do not know the parameters the issue under consideration.
        I might be considered a genius if comparing me with myself—or equally I might be an idiot. I am neither, if compared with the great run of humanity—but you need context to state that.
        Odd or not so odd, but Unionists use comparative figures to bad mouth Scotland, usually with England/rUK: as you have tried to do with access to higher education for those from poorer backgrounds. You cannot have it both ways, but as I point out, Scotland seems to be improving faster than down south in this regard.
        But you have ignored my point about burgeoning student debt down south and the problems created by the fees system introduced by Labour. When Brexit occurs, then the rUK system of funding will have a knock-on affect on Scotland’s higher education sector in ways no one has yet grappled with.

        1. Aye, but it’s not “or anyone else” for Scottish nationalists, is it. It’s *always* England.

          No question that rising student debt is a problem. One thing we mostly get wrong when discussing it, though, is treating student loans as if they are ordinary debt. They are not. They are entirely underwritten by government, become repayable only when income is sufficient to afford repayment, and are written off after a fixed period whether repaid in full or not. For these reasons the financial services industry does not, and cannot by law, count them as debt when calculating credit ratings.

          1. Watching the BBC network news, the stats provided as news are always for *England*. I somehow suspect they are not forwarded by “Scottish nationalists”.
            Same as when British nationalists like yourself compares Scotland with England, rUK or Britain. You do so for nationalist reasons, not to illuminate our lives!
            As for student debt, you can wrap it up it in all the waffle you want, it will still leave southern students with the highest monetary drag on learning, for students in any country, anywhere in the world.
            All thanks to Labour.

          2. Translation: “I’m not going to address any of the complexities you raise. Labour baad.”

          3. What “complexities” have you raised that have not been addressed?
            All you seem concerned about is limiting and narrowing any discussion, and painting this purely as an SNP-bad issue.
            Grow up, why dont you? Education in these islands are to some extent interlinked and what affects one country in the Union has a degree of leverage on the others.

          4. You are determined to ignore what student loans actually are. You came up with a phrase “monetary drag on learning” to avoid acknowledging how they actually work.

            I’m not limiting any discussion, though it would be nice if anyone wanted to discuss the issues raised in the article.

          5. Well, Lord Adonis seems to be with me on this. As the Labour architect of tuition fees/loans (down south) he now moans that it is an out of control “Frankestein monster” and a “ponzi scheme”, loading crippling debts onto the backs of graduates of £50,000 or more. With interest of 6.1% from this autumn.
            Grants turning to loans: loans turning to life time ball and chains.
            You must be very pleased with Labour and its tuition fee scheme, Duncan.
            The largest education costs in the western world—-all thanks to Labour! You dont like my phrase “monetary drag on learning”; is that because your university education was free, like all of the last Labour Cabinet, who introduced this debacle?

          6. I explained why I didn’t like your phrasing. It’s because of how the student loans system works. It’s not actually a loan, it’s a government-underwritten debt which is only payable by those who can afford to repay, and is written off after a fixed period whether it is repaid or not.

            It suits you and others to use imagery like “crippling debts” and “lifetime ball and chains” but it’s not honest.

            It also, it seems, suits you to throw around sums like £50,000, which clearly includes some living costs as well as tuition, despite you being entirely unwilling to acknowledge how the Scottish Government has cut grants and bursaries that are meant to help with living costs.

            How about you acknowledge even one of these valid points, Gavin?

          7. “It’s not actually a loan”. Wow! That’s a beaut Dunc! Except it IS a loan, because the recipients have to repay the money they receive, plus interest at 6.1%.
            You object to a figure of £50,000. That was the low end of the scale used by Lord Adonis, when he was rubbishing the concept he was the architect of.
            Adonis is one of yours? Yes?
            Give it up, Duncan. You are ripping off students to an extent no other education system does. A privatisation too far, even for New Labour.

          8. Labour hasn’t been in power since 2010 in the UK and 2007 in Scotland. What a ludicrous person you are to keep blaming them when others have even responsible for a decade.

          9. Labour set the damned tuition fee/loan system in train, when they WERE in power(and it wasn’t a decade ago!).
            Man up and take the “plaudits” your conduct has earned the party. Labours grubby fingerprints are all over it, Duncan.

  4. @Duncan, system won’t let me add another reply to your comment so continuing here:

    The name doesn’t matter, you can call it what you want Tuition Fee or Graduate Endowment, or when it has to be paid, what’s important is who picks up the tab, the student of the state. Can you honestly claim Labours Graduate Endowment offered free education for all?

    1. Well first of all I’d say it’s important to call it what it is and not try to falsely claim different things are the same.

      But your point is fair – the system of funding introduced by Labour and the Lib Dems in 2001, while it eliminated tuition fees, did introduce a cost of around £2000 for every student. Students who did not go on to earn a reasonable salary as a result of their studies were not liable to repay it, but those who did were liable. So it was not “free for all” but rather “small fee payable by those able to afford it”. A situation entirely in accord with the sentiment that socialism is the language of priorities, and those who need should be helped before those who do not.

      But this whole conversation is an example of how tuition fees, graduate endowments and big lumps of rock at Heriot-Watt are serving to obscure the debate over access to education, not to help it. Even if you count 2007 as the moment higher education became “truly free” (and of course it didn’t because living costs were still payable and grants and bursaries which used to help pay for them were cut) then we are still looking at a decade of “free education” during which access to education for those from poorest backgrounds *got worse*. We have to be able to debate that without it being obscured by the issue of tuition fees.

      1. “Access to education….poorest backgrounds *got worse*”
        As I have already pointed out, acceptances for students from the poorest backgrounds in Scotland have risen by 20% since 2015.

        1. And your cherry-picked and very specific statistic is straight from the SNP press release. It doesn’t contradict my point, which remains valid and a lot more relevant.

          1. I am not a member of the SNP ( I have previously told you this. Only ever was a member of Labour), and this stat does not come from them. For your information the rise has been from 3,470 to 4,150.
            These are UCAS figures; hardly an SNP front organisation! They also confirm a record number of Scottish students getting a place at a Scottish University at 27,830. Terrible, eh?
            Perhaps you could chisel it on your “Edstone”. Under your “valid and more relevant” stuff, though that wont take up much space.

          2. Never said you were a member of the SNP.

            Why have you chosen “from 2015” though? What is the relevance of that date? Why not choose from 2007, when SNP came to power and abolished the Graduate Endowment. Or 2001 when the Lib/Lab coalition abolished tuition fees? Or 1998 when UK Labour introduced tuition fees? Or 1991, when the Tories set up the student loans system?

            Your choice of 2015 appears, to me, to be entirely about finding data to suit your argument. Please persuade me it isn’t, and you had another relevant reason to choose that date.

          3. Oh, Duncan. Why chose a date to suit my argument? Well why would I not? I suspect ANY date I choose would be rendered irrelevant to whatever gets up your nose, because I think you incapable of giving straight answers to any point I raise.
            My focus is on the present and the future, by and large as it will affect Scotland.
            But student debt is a burden that will need addressed, whether you like it or not. when it happenss it is for you and your Tory/Lib chums down south ( see; I avoided the “England” word) to worry about–but it is a real problem, not one for fancy footwork.
            So Scotland. The Universities are in for a rude awakening once Brexit separatism hits ( and given Labour as well as Tories want out, it WILL happen). Funding issues, students from abroad, students across UK borders. Staff going back home or being kicked out by Home Office petty officials; funding from the EU disappearing; cross border co-operation on science/nuclear/environment/space.
            Yes there are funding issues for students in Scotland to worry about, but that will pale into insignificance due to the distinct lack of jobs for graduates when this separatism happens.
            Read the Mail/Torygraph/Express headline—–

            ………”Brexit day: Joy as Continent cut off”.

            Dancing in the streets of……………..Moscow!

          4. Haha. So you cherry-picked data to suit your argument but now demand that we focus on the present and the future to avoid holding the SNP to any account. You’re not a member, but you know they appreciate your support nonetheless.

            Student debt, which the SNP promised to wipe out in their successful electoral campaign in 2007, is now the Scottish Government’s single largest asset.

            As for your comments about the effects of Brexit, I am sadly in agreement entirely. Separatists of all flavours are ready to throw away prosperity for a flag. It is sickening. I’m glad we defeated separatism in 2014; I’m utterly scunnered that we were unable to in 2016.

          5. You seem to have a hierarchy of “separatism” Mr Hothersall.

            Indies would, in the main, like Scotland to be a full, independent member state of the EU family (along with the UK). You, however, are unhappy at the UK leaving the EU but see Scotland being kept in its inferior position in the UK as a consolation.

            Better the certainty of being poor in a UK outside the EU than the opportunity to be prosperous as a full member state within it it would seem. Union with England good …. union with EU bad. The Union at any cost? Mr Farage would approve.

          6. Student debt–which Corbyn promises to eliminate, only to renege.
            As for me, I will be voting for self government next time around. I want the party running Scotland (whoever they are) to actually be able to fulfil the commitments they were elected on. Nothing to do with flags, which seem to proliferate like weeds, every time the streets of London are shown on TV.
            I expect you will still be in thrall to Westminster and its concept of “democracy”, wherein it controls ALL from its majority down south, without regard to the natural sovereign rights other national parliaments in these islands should possess.
            That’s without mentioning the corruption of the House of Lords, or the fact that Mundell has elevated to a peerage, two successive people in the Scottish office ( presumably the calibre of elected Tories were not high enough). One has quit the job after only two years but he will still be picking up large dollups of tax free pay and expenses till he dies. as will his new replacement.

          7. What a hypocrite you are, supporting the SNP when they ACTUALLY pledged to write off student debt only to renege on their first day in government, and criticising Labour when we said no such thing.

          8. Duncan, you have the defence of a scoundrel, sadly, trying to bind me to the SNP, a party I have repeatedly told you I have no connection with.

            But the Leader of Labour, Corbyn, DID state he would eliminate student debt.
            And Labour is YOUR party, is it not?
            A party which asserted the Tories didn’t go far enough in curbing “welfare”. A party which gave the bankers a free pass on their conduct, pumping billions in printed money into their vaults and paying for it by punishing the poorest.
            A knighthood for Darlings pal, Goodwin, and a poke in the eye for the rest.

          9. No, labour made no such promise. And I think you vote snp consistently so stop pretending otherwise.

          10. Duncan, I vote for Scotland to be a self governing country.
            If Labour went back to Keir Hardies policy ( Dominion Status or it’s modern equivalent) then I would be happy to rejoin the Scottish Labour party.
            Get off your constitutional knees, Duncan, and grow a pair!

  5. Guys never went to university . Not clever enough. But I do think brexit is going to scupper a lot of things. It will have a huge impact on education. I am in the Labour Party in the comments its my view you get.
    I try not to do always SNP bad. The SNP have been in power in Holyrood for years . For me its why I go after them . They are the Scottish Government. I went to ST Andrews on a day trip years ago . I walked the golf course because it is World Famous and I wanted to say I did it. BTW I hate golf spent the whole walk making sure I stayed away from golf balls.
    Then dear readers I saw a sign that said ST Andrews university. Prince William was studying there at the time.
    So I thought if its good enough for Wullie its good enough for me so in I went.
    Now I expected lots of security and me kicked out . But no Oor Wullie was on his hols that we were paying for.
    So with Wullie safely out of the way I discovered I was in the building where amongst other things they had the International reading library. Then it happened I spotted at the other end of the corridor a security officer sitting reading his paper
    Now fellow readers and Duncan who is not a reader but our editor . I hear you ask how did he know he was looking at a security officer reading his paper. Simple it said security on his uniform and he was reading his paper. So with bated breath I approached the said security officer and said I am just a visitor can I have a look around. No show me your papers. Just I suppose so the students are on holiday.
    So I went into the reading room and read the English language edition of the Jerusalem Post from the previous week .Now dear readers and Duncan who is not a reader but our editor. If I had been the type who would go into the bookies and put a bet on a middle east war starting which I am not I could have made a fortune.
    Now dear readers and Duncan who is not a reader but our editor I hear you ask how could this happen.
    Well and remember the paper was from the week before . The Israel had put its army on the border with Lebanon on full alert and called up the reserves for service. Now the article I read was about how much this was costing the state.
    2 days later the whole world was expressing all kinds of shock at Israels surprise invasion of Lebanon.
    Well dear readers and Duncan who is not a reader but our editor. This was not a surprise to me because I read it in a paper that was a week old. If only I had put a bet on.
    Dear readers and Duncan who is not a reader but our editor .Just think of the money I could have made out of reading the week old papers at the University every day. I still have not gotten over it
    Anyway dear readers and Duncan who is not a reader but our editor. Lets look at someone who does know how to make money David Davis Brexit Secretary now it turns out David in addition to his many duties like appearing at the fringe with his good pal Alec Salmond has been helping another good pal. Awe come on guys I had to get that bit in. It was eck that called him a good pal and the next and possibly last UK PM. There there everyone happy. Ok back to our Brexit Secretary turns out he has another good pal
    This other good pal is Ian Hannam a banker who donated to David Davises 2005 leadership campaign.
    This other good pal . Ian Hannam was fined 450thousand pounds and had to leave his job with JP Morgan after being found guilty by the financial services regulator of market abuse in 2012. Insider dealing to the rest of us. Mr Davis when a back bench MP wrote to the financial Times criticising the regulator and claimimg Mr Hannam was the victim of an injustice.
    It turns out David Davis was still trying to get his pals fine overturned even after he joined the Supervisory board of the German company Mansfelder Kupfer Und Messing in June 2013.
    Just before David Davis joined the company had been bought by Copper 1909 owned by yep Ian Hannam.
    David Davis was paid 30thousand pounds a year for 12 days work. Between 2013 and last year he received a total of 92 thousand pounds. According to the register of MPS financial interests .David Davis left the company when he became Brexit Secretary.
    Ian Hannam was found to have revealed inside information about discovery of oil in 2008. But not for personal gain.
    Ian Hannam and David Davis were both members of 21 SAS Reserve Regiment. He donated 2thousand 5 hundred pounds to David Davises leadership campaign and the same to Amber Rudds association in 2012.
    Now I know I am a way off what this blog is about. I started off having a laugh. But I started to read the paper as I went .30 grand for 12 days a year
    I had to go to Crosshouse Hospital out of hours doctors clinic yesterday . The Doctor who treated me and the other patients there and the GP and the chemist who dealt with me today all did more for me and the country in 12 mins than Mr Davis has done in his whole time in parliament. As has the respiratory nurse who will see me on Tuesday.
    During the time David Davis was earning from another job what about his constituents and did they know about it
    He had no comment to make to the paper I read this in . And I am against MPS and MSPS of all parties doing this

  6. Well folks back again. In 1989 I decided to go to night school to get the o levels and highers I could have got.
    My niece asked me if this was because I was to ugly to go during the day
    That was the year the Berlin wall came down. I remember asking what do we do for the exams. The answer from our educational geniuses 2 weeks later. For the purposes of the exam the wall is still up.
    So Scott beat that haha .
    Then today I was out in Irvine I remembered the commemorative slabs near the shopping centre . I knew this was there but I double checked.
    In 1543 a Royal Grant was issued to the Town Council in the name of the infant Queen Mary to fight the plague.
    Great I thought . Then 2 Slabs up In 1645 Glasgow University evacuates to Irvine . The reason the plague was raging in Glasgow. Now Maggie gave us the poll tax first. But even she did not send Irvine a bunch of plague ridden university students especially after we appear to have got rid off it. Mind you I would not put anything past Maggie.
    So explain that Scott. See what happens when you have a university near your town.
    Back to that History class .We were told we were doing the Artic Convoys the next week. I knew we had an Artic Convoy veteran in the class . So after I had a word with our teacher and Donald he spoke to us.
    I still remember it When Donald spoke that night he was talking to a class that had a cop people who worked in banks unemployed people etc and we were enthralled. No books needed that night.
    Donald had never spoken about it before. You could literally have heard a pin drop.
    Donald was from Uist. He told us about the terrible conditions endured by the ships and men taking cargoes to Russia. He spoke of the constant need to keep the ships clear of ice to prevent the ships from capsizing .
    He told us of the nonstop fight against frostbite. He said he had seen crewmates lose fingers and suffer frostbite to their noses .
    He told us of the terrible site of seeing men in the water. After their ships were sunk. They knew they could not pick them up. It was a quick death.
    Donald told us of the terrible state Russian ports were in due to German bombing. The Russians got the ships turned in record time. Donald impressed on us the gratitude shown by ordinary Russians who knew the convoy crews were risking there lives for them.
    Donald finished the night by speaking of his anger at not getting the medal. He said that the Russians had always been willing to award it. But UK Governments of all colours would not for idealogical reasons would not. I am glad to say Donald lived long enough to get his medal.
    I have spoken to a few people since then who were in that class. We all remember that night.

  7. This is not an SNP bad comment. Prince Charles has been taking time out from his tax payer funded schedule.
    He has been lobbying the Scottish Government for years on behalf of Teach First a charity he is patron of.
    The Scottish Government are about to announce details of a teacher training scheme contract.
    It appears teach first are already involved in England and Wales. They have been trying for years to get the Scottish Government to change the rules to let them operate in Scotland.
    Charles has been lobbying to let Teach First introduce a scheme where high flying graduates are fast tracked into the classroom.
    Charles wants Holyrood to change the rules to allow this.
    Scottish Government ministers have refused to release documentation under freedom of information rules.
    They are quoting the exemption rules covering members of the Royal Family or their household.
    In 2012 Charles wrote to the Scottish Government on the same day Teach First sent a briefing to Michael Russell who was at that time the Scottish Education Secretary.
    The same rule has also been applied to correspondence and briefing papers from 2012 13 and 14.
    Not being released are a letter from Michael Russell to Teach First and a Scottish Government briefing pack.
    Charles has been at this kind of thing for years. The UK Government does not release his letters either. I believe we have a right to know who he is lobbying who for why and what the response is.

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