September 18, 2018 Blog

Scottish Labour will fight the SNP’s power grab over Primary 1 tests

18 September, 2018

Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard.

The summer parliamentary recess affords elected representatives with a much needed period to reflect on what was another turbulent year in Scottish and British politics.

I spent the summer travelling round the country meeting with community groups, businesses and workers from the Western Isles to Clackmannanshire and down to the Borders. There is no better way find out what issues are impacting upon working people than to talk and listen with them on their own doorstep or factory floor.

No matter what part of Scotland I was in two things were at the forefront of people’s thoughts; the NHS and our children’s schools.

Devolved since the foundation of the Parliament in 1999, these vital public services have been under the democratic control of the Scottish people ever since.

Sadly, it appears that SNP education secretary John Swinney did not use the summer recess to reflect on his tenure in charge of Scotland’s schools.

Fresh from the embarrassing collapse of his Education Bill, Mr Swinney is now in a direct confrontation with both teachers and MSPs on standardised testing.

On Sunday, Mr Swinney issued a thinly veiled threat to ignore the will of the Scottish Parliament if democratically elected MSPs vote to suspend the standardised testing of Primary 1 pupils.

It is not within the gift of Nationalist ministers to erode the role of Scotland’s parliamentarians in our public life in a grotesque power grab that would make even the Tories blush.

If he was indeed to ignore Parliament’s settled will it would set a dangerous precedent were SNP Ministers can sit in St Andrew’s House issuing edicts to every school in the land with no democratic check on their power.

The people of Scotland did not vote for a devolution settlement in 1997 to end the practice of unelected bureaucrats in the Scottish Office and its respective quangos running our public services to replace them with similarly unaccountable SNP ministers in Edinburgh.

Teachers across the country are repeatedly telling Mr Swinney that these tests are unwanted yet he repeatedly chooses not to listen.

They are costing the taxpayer £4.6m yet no one outside the SNP government believe they have any educational value.

The beleaguered education secretary has now stooped to even getting his civil servants to demonstrate the tests to MSPs in a bid to prove their worth. Granted, politicians do behave like children on occasions but they are not four and five year-olds.You cannot possibly replicate the tests and the impact upon the child with this mock demonstration for adults.

Wednesday’s debate and vote gives Mr Swinney one last opportunity to take a step back and reflect.

I hope he does so before any more money is wasted and the morale of under resourced teachers is eroded even further.

This article first appeared in the Daily Record on 18 September, 2018.