EDUCATION SECRETARY LOBBIES FOR PRIVATE SCHOOL TAX BREAKS


17 August 2018

Commenting on reports that Education Secretary John Swinney lobbied Finance Secretary Derek Mackay for tax breaks for private schools in his constituency, Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

"People across Scotland will be bemused that John Swinney, the Finance Secretary who hammered budgets for local schools, is now lobbying for tax breaks for private schools as Education Secretary.

"Local councils seen £1.5billion of cuts under the SNP government - they need help to fund local schools properly, not for the government to suggest they fund tax breaks for private schools.

"The hypocrisy of this will anger parents and teachers across the country.

"This looks like another error of judgment from John Swinney, who was supposed to be a safe pair of hands at education but has repeatedly dropped the ball."




CALLS FOR EDUCATION COMMITTEE TO PROBE FALLS IN ATTAINMENT


13 August 2018



Holyrood’s Education Committee must launch an investigation into exam results, Labour said today.

Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray makes the call in the Scotland on Sunday newspaper , urging Education Secretary John Swinney to ask the Committee to investigate.

Iain Gray also outlines the mounting failures in the education brief, supposedly the SNP's top priority, including:

- Huge cuts to school and college budgets

- The ongoing controversy around standardised testing in primary schools

- Questions over how the government handled concerns over the ‘Yammer’ social media app in schools

- Growing discontent from overworked and underpaid teachers, with the looming possibility of industrial action

- The mishandling of the Education Bill

- The 'fiasco' around the attempts to appoint Gillian Martin as Minister for Universities and Colleges

The full text of Iain Gray's article is below:

In the coming weeks school children begin returning to school, re-energised by six weeks or so of holiday, spent for the lucky ones, without a care in the world.

Not so John Swinney, the Education Secretary charged with improving those schools and raising the attainment of those pupils.

His summer “holidays” have been marked by one bad story after another.

The Parliamentary term had already ended on a humiliating note, with evidence of new tests reducing five year olds to tears, the curriculum narrowing, and finally, the shelving of the SNP’s “flagship” Education Bill, the very symbol of the Government’s “defining mission” to improve schools and raise attainment. Mr Swinney had spent two years on this Bill, but had failed to garner any support for measures which seemed designed more to undermine local authorities and centralise control of schools into his own hands than to empower schools as he claimed.

In a Parliament which he had realised would not vote for his Bill, the Education Secretary ditched it, claiming that this would speed up the reforms it contained. No-one was fooled.

It then emerged that the Government’s International Education Advisers had advised Mr Swinney not to legislate, in a report which went on to warn that his reforms could lead to more marketisation of education, as had happened in England.

The final week fiasco was not yet over, though, as Mr Swinney found himself without a Minister for Universities and Colleges when Gillian Martin was sacked before her appointment could even be formalised. With Parliament in recess, the vacancy has stretched to two months.

If Mr Swinney thought recess would bring relief, he was wrong, initially thanks to a series of Freedom of Information requests. The first of these revealed his department’s attempts to “doctor” the Education Advisers’ report to suggest great progress where none had been demonstrated.

Then, more damagingly, the revelation that the Cabinet Secretary had been told directly that a pilot of Yammer, Education Scotland’s social media platform for schools, had seen a pornographic image uploaded and possibly viewed by children, yet he allowed the project to go live nonetheless. It seems likely the intervening weeks will not stop Parliament wanting some answers on this astonishing decision as soon as we return.

Finally, the Government was forced to publish some 170 pages of a submission to them, from teachers, on their experience of those “standardised tests” in P1. The evidence of distress and upset for four and five-year-old children sitting tests which many teachers believed to be pointless was overwhelming. The Education Secretary’s response, that the tests should be “fun” was, in contrast, underwhelming.

If Mr Swinney was by now hankering for his halcyon days as Finance Secretary, he could find no solace there. This week Labour published independent research showing that spending in schools is now £400m less per year than it was in 2010. Meanwhile, colleges have seen their budgets slashed by 10% in 10 years.

Of course for most of those years of cuts to education, the purse strings were in the hands of, Mr Swinney. The Education Secretary’s attempt to dismiss cuts to schools as due to falling pupil numbers was not just weak, it was wrong. There are more pupils in our schools now than there were in 2010. The cuts are worse than they look, not better.

Then came the exam results. Attainment fell at both National and Higher level, for the third year, in what is now a trend. Worst of all, attainment in National exams is now 33.8% lower than it was in the Standard Grades they replaced. Some subjects, such as Modern Languages, have fallen even further off a cliff edge.

So, it has been a long hot summer in more ways than one for Mr Swinney, and the new school year is unlikely to bring relief.

Pupils return to schools which have 700 unfilled teacher vacancies, while the teachers we have are close now to strike action, tired of seeing their salaries eroded year on year – some 20% less than they were when the SNP came to power.

It is just over two years since Nicola Sturgeon declared that raising attainment was her government’s “defining mission”, and that there was “no better person” than John Swinney to deliver it. In fact, rather than proving to be a safe pair of hands, he has fumbled the ball on education time and again.

New school, and Parliamentary years are traditionally seen as a fresh start. If the Education Secretary wants that, he has to come to Parliament and explain his decision to allow Yammer to go ahead. He must drop, once and for all, that unloved, unnecessary Education Bill and its centralising reforms. He should end the testing of P1s, and go back to the drawing board on standardised tests generally.

He should ask the Education Committee to launch an investigation into those worrying trends in exam results, and if he will not, they should investigate anyway.

He should quickly agree a restorative pay rise with the teaching unions, to make the profession attractive again, and to avoid damaging industrial action no-one wants to see in our schools.

But above all he, and the First Minister, should commit to putting their money where their mouth is on education and restoring those cuts to schools and colleges in the next budget. Thousands of pupils did do very well in those exams, and that is testament to their hard work and their teachers, with the support of parents and carers.

They deserve a Government which backs them with the resources they need rather than warm words.




SWINNEY 'IN DENIAL' OVER STANDARDISED TESTING


13 August 2018



Commenting on reports in the Herald that sixty per cent of parents had a negative view of standardised testing, as the EIS calls for them to be scrapped for primary one pupils, Labour Education Spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“John Swinney is in complete denial about standardised testing, as he defends them in the face of opposition from parents, pupils, teachers and trade unions.

“These tests have been flawed from the very start. Delivered late, £2 million over budget and have led to weeks of valuable teaching time lost.

“They do nothing to help teachers close the attainment gap and are driving children to tears. It’s time to scrap these tests for primary one pupils. John Swinney would be making a grave mistake to press on the face of such mounting opposition.”




RICHARD LEONARD : REVIEW STUDENT CAP TO WIDEN ACCESS


10 August 2018



The Scottish government should review the cap on funded student places with a view to lifting the level to widen access to university, Richard Leonard will say today (Friday).

Places for Scottish and EU students’ are ‘capped’ by the Scottish government. Because their fees are covered by the public purse. This limits the amount of places available.

Mr Leonard's call follows Edinburgh University this week announcing that it would give all of its ‘clearing’ places to students from the poorest backgrounds.

The Scottish Labour leader will also seek assurances that the Scottish government will not seek to claw back funding as a result of EU students falling out of the cap after Brexit, saying the commitment would ensure greater continuity and stability for universities.

Speaking before a visit to Edinburgh University, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said:

“Edinburgh University is to be commended for its moves to attempt to widen access – now Scotland’s universities need support from the Scottish government around the student places cap.

“Education is critical to realise our full potential. When it fails, it isn’t just the individual that is held back, but all of us. A government that claims education is the priority should be raising the cap on student places.

“The SNP must also commit now to extend the cap post-Brexit.

“Investing in education is vital for our long term economy and society. Labour would make the richest pay their fair share to ensure that education is open to all, and that there are fewer barriers to university access.”




WOMEN AND GIRLS COMPLETING APPRENTICESHIPS FALLS BY 11 PERCENT


9 August 2018



The number of women and girls completing apprenticeships in Scotland has fallen in the last four years, new analysis from Scottish Labour reveals.

Just under 8,000 women completed apprenticeships in 2017/18. This was the lowest level since 2011/12 when the data series commenced.

Female apprentices completing their training has fallen by 11 per cent in the last four years.

In 2013-14 just under 9,000 women and girls completed an apprenticeship in Scotland. The figures for the last financial year, 2017-18, show there has been a fall of over 1,000 to just under 8,000.

On top of the overall figure for Scotland, 20 of Scotland’s 32 local authorities have seen a fall in female apprenticeship achievements in the last year.

Labour Shadow Education Minister Mary Fee said:

“These figures should be a real cause for concern, we should be taking every step possible to ensure opportunities for women, instead we have seen a drop of 1,000 completions in the last four years.

“We need to know why there has been a fall and invest more in getting women into STEM apprenticeships in particular.

“One factor might be the rising cost of living, with some apprentices simply not being able to afford to finish their scheme.

"The government should launch an investigation into this as a matter of priority.”




STAGGERING FALL IN ATTAINMENT UNDER THE SNP


7 August 2018



Attainment in level 3, 4 and 5 exams has dropped a ‘staggering’ 34 per cent since the SNP government introduced the new National exams.

Writing in the Herald this morning, Professor Jim Scott of Dundee University revealed the figures following this year’s exam results.

In 2014 the National exams replaced the well-established Standard Grades, at the same levels on Scotland’s qualifications framework.

The result has been an astonishing fall in attainment.

In 2013 pupils passed 60,000 Standard Grades at level 3, compared to 16,138 'National 3' passes in 2018.

Overall attainment at standard grade equivalent level was down by 33.8 per cent.

Labour said the analysis was a damning indictment of the SNP government’s implementation of the new curriculum and their general management of education

Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

"This is a simply staggering fall in attainment that should blow away any sense of complacency in the SNP government, and finally get ministers to wake up and realise that botched reforms and years of cuts have harmed our schools.

"This drop seems to be driven by a narrowing of our curriculum - fewer young people studying fewer subjects, and that is simply down to course availability and a lack of teachers in the first place.

"It highlights the complete mess the SNP has made of the supposed ‘top priority’ in education.

"Reversing this mess will take time and energy but it can be done - starting with finally ending the cuts to schools and delivering a fair deal for our teachers."




SCOTLAND’S SCHOOLS HAMMERED BY TORY AUSTERITY


6 August 2018



The SNP has failed to protect Scotland’s schools from Tory austerity, Labour said today, as new analysis reveals an over £400million cut to Scotland’s schools since 2010.

Independent analysis commissioned by Scottish Labour has revealed that spending on schools has been cut by 7.5 per cent in real terms since 2010.

The research, conducted by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) shows that local authority education spending has fallen from £5.3 billion in 2009/10 to £4.9 billion in 2017/18.

Crucially, the figures for 2017/18 include the Government’s Pupil Equity Funding, which isn’t supposed to be used to replace existing provision.

Labour said the figures showed the SNP failed to protect key public services from Tory austerity, and that only a Labour government willing to make the richest pay their fair share would deliver the investment education needs.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Iain Gray said:

“Education is what empowers us all to realise our full potential. When it fails, it isn’t just the individual that is held back, but all of us. Protecting education spending should have been a priority for the SNP when the Tories came to power – instead there has been more than £400million worth of cuts since 2010.

“No wonder we are seeing soaring class sizes, overworked teachers and a stubborn attainment gap between the richest and poorest pupils.

"No amount of sloganeering from the Nationalists can hide the fact that they have not stood up for Scotland’s schools.

“Labour would take a different path, making the richest pay their fair share so we can invest in our schools and deliver a better deal for teachers, parents and pupils.”




TEN PER CENT CUT TO COLLEGE FUNDING UNDER THE SNP


5 August 2018



The SNP has cut college budgets by almost £75million in real terms since taking power in 2007, new analysis from the Scottish Parliament Information Centre has revealed.

The figures reveal a £74.7 million cut to combined capital and resource budgets for Scotland’s colleges, a 10.1 per cent cut in funding.

Since 2007 the capital budget for Scotland’s colleges has fallen by £29.1 million, meanwhile resource funding - the day to day spending – has fallen by £45.6million.

Labour said the failure to fund further education properly was closing off opportunities for a range of people – from working class school leavers to people seeking to build their skills base later in life.

The Government has been without a dedicated minister in charge of colleges since the SNP was forced to sack Gillian Martin from the role before she was even appointed, due to previous transphobic and racist comments she made.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Iain Gray said:

“The SNP claimed that education was their ‘top priority’ but further education is bottom of the pile – without a dedicated minister in Government and having been hammered by 11 years of brutal cuts.

“A real terms cut of £75 million to Scotland’s colleges will have cut off opportunities for thousands of working class young people and people seeking to learn new skills later in life. It is a disgraceful record from the Nationalists.

“Colleges should be ladders of opportunity for people, engaging with schools, universities and employers to deliver opportunity for all. Instead they have become the whipping boy of successive education budgets.

“This cannot go on. Labour would make the richest pay their fair share to invest in education so everyone has the skills they need to get on in life.”




Comment on Teacher's Pay


24 July 2018



Commenting on reports that talks on teachers' pay have broken down, Scottish Labour's Education spokesperson Iain Gray MSP said:

"These are deeply troubling reports.

"No one wants to see strike action - but the reality is Scotland's teachers have been treated appallingly by this out of touch SNP government that claims education is its number one priority.

"SNP education secretary John Swinney must now be the only person in Scotland who thinks you can close the attainment gap with overworked and underpaid teachers - and his obstinance is taking Scotland's schools to the brink.

"Labour is the only party that believes in asking the richest to pay their fair share so we can invest in our schools and give teachers the support they deserve."




SCOTS DO 115 MILLION HOURS OF UNPAID OVERTIME A YEAR



17 July 2018

Workers in Scotland do 115 million hours of unpaid overtime a year, new figures released from Scottish Labour have revealed.

Analysis of the 2017 Annual Population Survey by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) estimates that, on average, Scots do 7.7 hours of unpaid overtime per week.

If these figures are taken to be representative of the year as a whole, they would imply a total of 115million hours of unpaid overtime in the year.

Labour said the figures revealed structural problems in the economy and effectively cut the wages of working class people in Scotland.

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“These figures reveal that we desperately need to rebalance our economy so that it works for people, rather than just people working for the economy.

“This overtime effectively represents a cut to the wages of working people across Scotland. It also reveals how desperately understaffed some of or our key public services are.

“We should be looking to strengthen the working time directive by ending the opt out.

“Instead under the SNP and the Tories, workers are doing more hours on unpaid overtime while the incomes of the richest soar.

“That is not an economy working for the many, it is one rewarding a privileged few.”




GENDER PAY GAP REVEALED: WOMEN MORE THAN £70,000 WORSE OFF THAN MEN



16 July 2018

Women in Scotland will earn more than £70,000 less over their lifetime than men because of the gender pay gap, new analysis from Labour has revealed.

Fresh analysis by Labour shows that in every age group women earn less than men on average.

Over the course of a woman's working life this amounts to £73,620 less on average.

Labour has a plan to close the gender pay gap, including:

- Introducing a civil enforcement system to ensure compliance with gender pay auditing – so that all workers have fair access to employment and promotion opportunities and are treated fairly at work

- Introducing a £10 real Living Wage

- Ensuring that more businesses publish pay ratios

- Introducing gender audits of all policy and legislation for its impact on women before implementation.

Scottish Labour’s Economy spokesperson Jackie Baillie MSP said:

“It is shameful that under the SNP and the Tories women in Scotland could earn £73,620 less than men on average well into their careers. "Closing the gender pay gap isn’t just a question of fairness – it is essential for our economy.

"There is so much more to do to shatter the glass ceiling for women.

"Only Labour will take the radical steps to close the pay gap for good, like a real living wage and forcing companies to publish pay ratios.

"If a company thinks a woman is worth a lower wage than a man then under Labour we’ll force them to admit it.

“This gross inequality is wrong and is holding Scotland’s economy back - it must be tackled by the SNP and the Tories as a matter of urgency.”






Comment on NASUWT survey

26 June 2018

Commenting on a survey by the union NASUWT, showing only half of teachers feel satisfied in their jobs, Scottish Labour's education spokesperson Iain Gray MSP said:

"These are shocking figures that once again expose how teachers and pupils across the country are being failed by this SNP government.

“With thousands of fewer teachers since the SNP came to power, and salaries now down by 20 per cent in real terms, it is no surprise so many are feeling dissatisfied or would choose a different profession.

“While SNP Education Secretary John Swinney wastes his time on school governance reforms which will not improve our schools, overworked and underpaid teachers are having to manage ever larger numbers of children in classes.

“No wonder the attainment gap between the richest and the poorest kids remains stubbornly large with teachers increasingly unable to give pupils one-to-one support. No wonder we have a teacher recruitment crisis.

“It is time John Swinney restored teachers’ pay and gave our children the resources they need to succeed in school.

“Scottish Labour will always be on the side of teachers and pupils.”




VICTORY FOR LABOUR AS SNP SCRAP HUGE CHILDCARE HIKE IN GLASGOW

22 June 2018

SNP-run Glasgow City Council will dramatically reduce its planned hike in childcare fees after sustained pressure from families and Scottish Labour.

The council was planning to increase fees by 57 per cent in a bid to bridge the funding gap in its budget created by the SNP government in Edinburgh.

Nationalist councillors have now cut the hike to 18 per cent after sustained pressure from concerned families and local Labour representatives.

It's not up to ordinary families to properly fund Glasgow, it's up to the SNP government in Edinburgh.

It's time SNP councillors stood up for the city instead of passing on cuts to parents.

These families are owed nothing less than an apology by the SNP for the stress and worry inflicted upon them.

Commenting on the news, Glasgow Labour MSP Johann Lamont said:

"It is welcome news that thousands of families across Glasgow will not be facing such a substantial fee hike.

“It is frankly appalling it took so long for the SNP leadership in Glasgow to realise the damage their decision to increase nursery fees by 57 per cent would inflict upon thousands of hard-pressed families across the city.

"It is thanks to the sheer persistence of campaigners that forced this U-turn from the SNP.

“The SNP owe parents an apology and they must work fast to let families know exactly how much they will pay in August.

"However, the cost of childcare is still going by 18 per cent across the city as the SNP council tries to plug a budget blackhole created by SNP government ministers in Edinburgh.

"I will continue to work with parents across Glasgow who need support.

"Parents should not be forking out extra cash to sort out the city's finances.

"SNP councillors should instead be standing up for Glasgow and demanding that the city gets the funding it needs.

"Scottish Labour will always put families first and use the powers of the parliament to stop cuts to public services."




COUNCILS FORCED TO USE RESERVES AS SNP CUTS BITE

22 June 2018

Councils are having to dig even deeper into their dwindling cash reserves to plug funding gaps created by SNP government cuts, a new report has revealed.

A Scottish Government report states that local authorities spent £126 million from their funds in the last financial year, that’s up from £79 million in the previous year.

The number of councils resorting to these emergency measures has also increased over the period from 19 to 24.

It should come as no surprise after SNP ministers cut council budgets by £1.5 billion in recent years.

As SNP cuts continue to bite, the report estimates an additional £113 million worth of reserves will be used during this current financial year in a bid to balance the books.

Scottish Labour says it is high time the SNP stopped cutting council budgets and used the powers of the parliament to end austerity.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance, James Kelly said:

“This is a deeply concerning report into the finances of councils across Scotland.

“The SNP government has cut £1.5 billion from local authorities and now they are forced to use emergency measures in a bid to balance the books.

“And while communities across the country bare the brunt of SNP austerity cuts to their much needed services, we now know SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay kept almost half a billion aside for his slush fund to bribe Green MSPs to get his budget passed.

“It is time the SNP government stood up for our communities and used the vast powers of the Parliament to end austerity.

“Scottish Labour will continue to fight for well-funded public services to help build a society that works for the many, not the few.”




SNP GOVERNMENT UNDERSPENDS NEARLY HALF A BILLION POUNDS WHILST CUTTING SERVICES

21 June 2018

The SNP government has underspent almost half a billion pounds last year whilst inflicting brutal austerity cuts across the country, new figures show.

SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay has today [Thursday] admitted that he has set aside £453m of funds as an ‘underspend’. This is money that should be used to support our public services.

Instead of funding these vital services, the SNP government has opted to cut council budgets by £1.5 billion since 2011.

Scottish Labour is calling on Mr Mackay to apologise to workers facing the axe whilst he sits on millions of pounds in St. Andrew’s House.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Finance James Kelly said:

“Labour will always fight to protect Scotland’s vital public services.

“The news that SNP Finance Secretary Derek Mackay underspent almost half a billion pounds whilst cutting council budgets by £1.5 billion.

“Money is piling up in his slush fund for his annual bribe to win Green votes to get his budgets passed.

“This is simply a gross mismanagement of Scottish finances by a Finance Secretary that is clearly out of his depth.

"Throughout his tenure as Finance Secretary, Mr. Mackay his tinkered on tax instead of ensuring the richest pay their fair share to fund our schools, hospitals and other vital public services.

“Derek Mackay must apologise to communities across Scotland that have been damaged by his reckless actions.

“Scottish Labour will always put our public services first and will use the powers of the Parliament to end austerity.”




DELAYED STUDENT GRANTS PACKAGE FAILS TO REVERSE SNP CUTS

13 June 2018

The SNP government’s long delayed response to the student support review fails to reverse cuts made to grants and bursaries in 2013.

The government today outlines a range of new measures on student support – but falls short on a range of measures including:

• New bursaries for the poorest young students of £2,000 – £600 lower in cash terms than the value when the SNP slashed the value in 2013.

• Raising the repayment threshold for loans to £25,000 – but not until 2021, well behind the rest of the UK.

• The review recommended an equivalent ‘living wage’ for students of £8,100 a year, a figure the government applies to care experienced young people, but no other student.

The SNP government claim that around 31,000 students will benefit from an improved package of support – there are over 200,000 students in higher education in Scotland.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for education Iain Gray said:

“The student support review wanted to see a shift from loans back to grants for higher education students but the government told them to abide by financial restraints.

“Even with that, the government has still effectively ignored the key recommendation from the group that all students have access to the equivalent of the Real Living Wage at £8,100.

“The increase in grants the government is proposing does not even restore them to what they were in 2012, when the SNP slashed them by 35 per cent.

“The SNP promised to abolish debt, but yet again it is going to pile even more debt onto students. Only Labour will make the richest pay their fair share to ensure a fairer deal for Scotland’s students.”




SNP EDUCATION BILL JUST A COVER FOR CUTS

29 May 2018

SNP education reforms have been branded unnecessary by Labour today.

Reports in the Sunday Herald this morning reveal that John Swinney has dropped certain aspects of his planned reforms following talks with local government.

However Labour believes the reforms remain unnecessary and the real issue that needs to be addressed is proper funding for schools.

Labour group leader on Cosla, Cllr David Ross said: “We have been clear all along that the best interests of the child should be paramount in any proposals to improve education in Scotland and that an isolated focus on the structure of the education system will not achieve our aim of closing the poverty-related attainment gap and allowing every child to fulfil their full potential.

“Local authorities have always been willing to work constructively with the Scottish Government to achieve this aim. The concessions made by Mr Swinney are sufficient at this stage, for local authorities to continue working with Government as it prepares to introduce its Education Bill, but serious concerns remain about the content of that bill.

“Ultimately we don’t believe further legislation on education is necessary and that this in fact this will be a distraction and a waste of time, energy and resources that could be better spent working together to improve education at the front line.”

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for education Iain Gray said:

“John Swinney’s reforms have been opposed by teachers, parents and unions and now he has had to make significant concessions to get any measure of support from local government.

“The real reform our schools need is more funding, rather than the £1.5billion worth of cuts the SNP government has made to councils since 2011,leaving our schools with fewer teachers and more supersized classes.

“This bill is not needed and the reforms are not necessary.”


SWINNEY IN HOT WATER OVER SWIMMING CUTS

23 May 2018

John Swinney has launched an attack on SNP-led Dundee City Council after local authority leaders told headteachers to use the attainment fund to pay for swimming lessons.

The Nationalist council in Dundee has scrapped free swimming lessons for pupils amid ongoing cuts from the SNP Government in Edinburgh.

Local authority chiefs then said attainment fund money – which is only supposed to be spent on closing the gap between the richest and poorest students in schools – could be used to cover the costs of the lessons.

However, at the Education Committee, John Swinney rounded on his council colleagues in Dundee and admitted that was not what the money was for.

Scottish Labour’s education spokesperson Iain Gray MSP said:

“John Swinney has got himself in hot water over these SNP cuts to swimming lessons.

“The reality is, the SNP has now underfunded education to such an extent that councils such as Dundee are having to cut services that expand life chances and promote healthy lives.

“Then headteachers are told by council leaders to use attainment fund money, meant to help the poorest pupils, to cover the cuts – only for John Swinney to later admit that isn’t what the money is for at all.

“This deeply embarrassing episode exposes the price of £1.5billion of SNP cuts to local government.

“Scottish Labour is the only party committed to ending SNP austerity and delivering real change for our children and young people.”




SNP-LED GLASGOW CITY COUNCIL SAY CHILDCARE FEE HIKE IS NEEDED DUE TO SNP GOVERNMENT CUTS

22 May 2018

SNP-led Glasgow City Council has blamed the Scottish Government’s cuts to local authority funding for a 57% hike in childcare fees.

The authority’s executive director of education said the move is needed to raise cash due to “the funding gap in the Council's budget for financial year 2018/19”.

Instead of asking their colleagues at Holyrood to give Glasgow the funds it needs, the SNP council has asked ordinary families to pay more.

The revelation comes after the independent Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) said on Monday that the SNP Government has quadrupled austerity on local government, as result ensuring local government spending per head in Glasgow has fallen by £233 since 2013.

Scottish Labour is calling on the SNP Council to stand up for Glasgow and tell the Scottish Government to fund the city properly, not take more money out of the pockets of families.

Glasgow Labour MSP Johann Lamont said: “It is now beyond doubt that the SNP Government’s funding cuts is the reason why the Council are having to ask thousands of families to pay more each month in childcare fees.

“Instead of telling these families to pay more, SNP councillors should be demanding their colleagues in Holyrood give the city the funding it needs.

“New figures this week showed local government spending per head in Glasgow has been cut by £233 in real terms since 2013.

“It is simply not acceptable that ordinary working people have to pay more in fees because SNP councillors refuse to stand up to their own colleagues. It’s time they stood up for Glasgow and demand the city gets the funds it needs.”


 

SNP GOVERNMENT QUADRUPLE AUSTERITY TO COUNCILS

21 May 2018

The SNP Government has quadrupled austerity cuts to local government, an independent report has found.

New figures published by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (Spice) show the Nationalists have cut revenue funding to local councils by 7.1 per cent in real terms since 2013-14, almost four times more than the cut to the Scottish budget from the Tories over the same period, at 1.8 per cent.

Labour said the impact of this SNP austerity was felt in classrooms, social care and vital local services across Scotland.

Scottish Labour’s Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Monica Lennon, said: "These findings prove that the SNP government has not only passed on Tory austerity to Scottish communities but have quadrupled it.

“Working people in both urban and rural Scotland are paying the price of the SNP government’s deliberate strategy to undermine local government and the services it delivers to our communities.

"Local councillors, irrespective of party association, are shown no respect by a government that cuts their resources and increasingly blames them for the consequences.

“A Scottish Labour government would use the powers of the Parliament to end austerity and invest in our vital public services, in the interests of the many, not the few.”

Labour group leader on Cosla, Cllr David Ross, said: "This independent report confirms the significant real terms cut in the local government’s funding from the Scottish Government over the past five years.

"This is the main reason the councils are faced with making cuts to services every year. If anything, the report understates the financial pressures on councils as it doesn’t take into account the rise in demand for services like social care.

“The report also highlights that local councils have taken a much greater cut in funding than the overall Scottish Government budget.

"The Scottish Government claim they are treating local government fairly, but this is yet another report that shows this isn’t the case and that local councils are being expected to take far more than their fair share of cuts.”




YOU CAN’T CLOSE THE ATTAINMENT GAP WITH CUTS TO COUNCILS AND UNDERPAID TEACHERS

12 May 2018

At a campaign event this morning (Saturday), Jeremy Corbyn has said the gap between the richest and poorest pupils in Scotland will not be closed while SNP cuts to councils leave our schools understaffed and our teachers underpaid and overworked.

As Scottish Labour campaigns across the country on cuts to council budgets, they warn that teachers in Scotland are overstretched.

Labour is highlighting:

A £1.5billion cut to council budgets under the SNP since 2011

Scotland having 3,500 fewer teachers since the SNP came to power

The number of primary school pupils being taught in classes with more than 30 pupils has increased by 44 per cent since 2011.

Labour is also warning that teachers are on the verge of strike action after years of real terms pay cuts and increasing workload.

Leader of Scottish Labour Richard Leonard said:

“Under the SNP 3,500 teachers have been cut, class sizes are growing and in the last decade pay has fallen dramatically.

“It is little wonder we face a teacher recruitment crisis and that teachers are saying they've had enough and threatening industrial action.

"Labour supports the teachers’ campaign for better pay and action on workloads.”

Speaking in Scotstoun ahead of a campaign session, Jeremy Corbyn said:

“We won't close the gap between the richest and the poorest pupils with overworked and underpaid teachers.

“Our schools need real change, with more teachers, more support and more resources.

"They do not need more Tory austerity from Westminster and more SNP cuts."




Comment on "school isn't free" reports

20 April 2018

Commenting on reports pupils are missing out on key subjects because of the potential costs involved in studying them, Scottish Labour's education spokesperson Iain Gray MSP said:

“These revelations by the Child Poverty Action Group are the shameful reality of the SNP’s £1.5billion cut since 2011 to local councils, who fund our schools.

“That young people are making subject choices based on their ability to pay for materials should put to rest any pretence that education is the SNP’s ‘number one priority’.

“Even given evidence such as this, the SNP continue with their unwanted and flawed reforms.

“Our schools do not need an SNP power grab, they need a government which will get a grip of the situation, properly fund our schools and give teachers the pay rise that they deserve and the resources that they need.

"Anything less will simply ensure that these disgraceful situations remain.

“Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts, invest in education and ensure our schools work for the many, not the few.”




SNP POSTCODE LOTTERY FOR PUPILS FROM POORER BACKGROUNDS

18 April 2018

Scottish Labour has today accused the SNP of failing school pupils from poorer backgrounds.

Joesph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) research, presented at Holyrood’s Education and Skills Committee, highlighted the ‘postcode lottery’ that pupils in deprived areas face.

The research found that, despite similar levels of deprivation, pupils from some local authorities can be twice as likely to secure good grades as those from other areas.

Labour said cuts to councils were at the heart of the matter.

Scottish Labour’s Education Spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“This important research from the JRF highlights the SNP’s failings in education.

“It shows the real effects which their £1.5 Billon cut to council’s finances has had.

“The committee heard of the importance that teaching has on attainment. Our teachers do fantastic work in increasingly difficult circumstances, but the truth is that they have seen 4000 of their colleagues disappear, their class sizes increase and their pay drastically cut.

“The government needs to get a grip of the situation, properly fund out schools and give teachers the pay rise that they deserve. Anything less will simply ensure that the attainment gap remains.

“But instead, they continue with their unwanted and flawed reforms which will do nothing to solve these issues.

“Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to stop the cuts, invest in education and ensure our schools work for the many, not the few.”




SNP REFUSING TO PAY THE REPAIR BILL FOR SCOTLAND’S COLLEGES

15 April 2018

The SNP is refusing to pay the repair bill for Scotland’s college campuses, Labour analysis reveals today.

Scotland’s colleges need over £360million in repairs over the next five years to bring campuses up to scratch.

However, the government only plans to spend £39.4 million on maintenance in the next year.

Further analysis shows that in the last five years only £131.4 million has been spent on college maintenance, just over a third of what is needed in the next five.

Labour said the figures highlighted the government’s appalling record on colleges and further education.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Iain Gray said:

“Colleges and further education continue to get a rotten deal from the SNP government in Edinburgh.

“Any government serious about further education would be ensuring that there is a clear plan to make the campuses wind and watertight. Instead the SNP only plans to spend a fraction of what is needed.

“Refusing to pay this repair bill is just the latest sorry failure from the government on further education – a failure which sees 140,000 fewer college places since they came to power.

“Students deserve to learn in safe, secure and comfortable facilities. The SNP must quickly explain how they are going to give colleges the vital funds they need for these urgent repairs.”




SNP SET TO MISS CHILDCARE STAFFING TARGET BY FOUR YEARS

11 April 2018

The SNP is set to miss its childcare staffing target by four years, new analysis from Labour reveals.

The Scottish government has committed to increase the number of free childcare hours to 1,140 by 2020.

In a letter of guidance issued to the Scottish Funding Council, the government outlines plans to train an additional 1,813 childcare practitioners in the forthcoming academic year.

However, Scottish Labour analysis shows that this is just a fifth of the 8,000 extra childcare staff the government says it will need.

By 2020, the year the policy is meant to be in place, not even half of the additional number of staff needed will be trained based on current figures.

In fact it will take until 2024 to train the additional practitioners if current trends are kept.

The SNP’s childcare minister was previously embarrassed at Holyrood’s education committee by admitting she did not know how many staff presently worked in the sector.

Scottish Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Iain Gray MSP said:

“Scratch beneath the surface of the SNP government’s spin and we are seeing huge problems with the implementation of this childcare policy.

“The government says it needs 8,000 additional staff to deliver this flagship pledge – but will be four years late in training them all if currently levels are not significantly increased.

“This is what happens when childcare policy is written to fit on an election leaflet, rather than to fit around the lives of Scottish families.

“Increasing the availability and flexibility of childcare would have a huge difference, not just in terms of tackling poverty and the cost of living crisis, but also in terms of fuelling economic growth.

“But as it stands there is not enough money, there are not enough staff, and there are not enough buildings to deliver it.

“The SNP minister needs to get across this urgently.”




COUNCIL WORKERS AT LOWEST LEVEL SINCE DEVOLUTION

8 April 2018

The number of local government employees in Scotland has fallen to its lowest level since devolution, Labour analysis has found.

In 1999 there were 210,000 local government employees, excluding police and fire staff – that grew to 230,000 under the Scottish Labour Governments before the SNP came to power in 2007.

The most recent figures, however, show that local government employee numbers have fallen even further to 198,000.

This is a 14 per cent drop in council employees since the SNP came to power.

Scottish Labour said that in any other sector the scale of job losses would have prompted a taskforce from SNP Ministers to protect jobs and help workers find other work, and that the figures make a mockery of claims that local government is getting a fair deal from the SNP.

Scottish Labour’s Communities spokesperson Monica Lennon called for the Scottish Government to undertake an impact assessment of local government cuts.

Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Communities, Social Security and Equalities Monica Lennon said:

“The only way we can build a Scotland that works for the many, not the few, is by ensuring vital local services that people rely on are properly resourced.

“Instead, the SNP government has taken Tory austerity and passed it straight on to Scottish councils and the communities they serve.

“Council services are crucial in the fight against poverty and inequality and these job losses hurt the poorest the hardest with lifeline services stripped back year after year because of the cuts.

“That’s why Scottish Labour has set out plans to re-empower local government including new powers to raise income including a tax on vacant land, a tourist tax and a social responsibility levy on alcohol sales.

“The Scottish Government should urgently undertake an impact assessment of local government cuts to understand how they are contributing to growing poverty and inequality and open its mind to the solutions Scottish Labour, councils and trade unions are suggesting.”




COMMENT ON CHILD POVERTY FIGURES

23 March 2018

Child poverty is rising in Scotland, according to new figures released .

The statistics show one in four children and one in five adults are now living in poverty.

Scottish Labour said the figures should shame the SNP and Tory governments.

Commenting on the figures, Scottish Labour’s inequalities spokesperson Elaine Smith MSP said:

“No one in 21st century Scotland should have to live in poverty –especially children.

“But these figures show that poverty rates in Scotland are continuing to rise.

“It is simply unacceptable that one in five people and one in four children are forced to live in poverty.

“That is why Labour proposed using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to top-up child benefit and immediately lift 30,000 children out of poverty – but the SNP is joining with the Tories to block it.

“It is why we would end austerity, invest in our public services - and why we have presented an industrial strategy that would create more high-skilled, high-paid jobs.

“With 1,000,0000 people in Scotland living in poverty, we cannot afford to continue to tinker around the edges. The SNP reconsidering its alliance with the Tories to oppose Labour’s plan for a £5-a-week child benefit top-up would be a good place to start.”






PLUMMETING ASN TEACHER NUMBERS BRANDED A ‘NATIONAL DISGRACE’

13 March 2018

Commenting on new analysis from the Scottish Children’s Services Coalition showing escalating numbers of children needing additional support as specialist teacher numbers slump to a record low, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Iain Gray said:

"The plummeting number of ASN teachers under the SNP is a national disgrace.

“A government that has preached for years that education is the top priority has systematically cut off opportunities for vulnerable young people.

“This is the result of years of SNP cuts to local councils and the only way to fix this problem is to provide the funds councils need. That's why Labour would use the powers of the Scottish Parliament to invest in education."




COMMENT ON IPPR SCOTLAND REPORT : ‘How much would it cost to reduce child poverty in Scotland?'

5 March 2018

Commenting on How much would it cost to reduce child poverty in Scotland?
, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Eradication of Poverty and Inequality, Elaine Smith, said:

"This is an important contribution to the debate around tackling child poverty in Scotland.

“It is all very well for the SNP government to set targets for reducing child poverty by 2030, but this report highlights the scale of that challenge. It shows that bold action is needed right now.

"Labour agrees that we need a whole Scotland approach to tackling poverty.

"That's why our anti poverty strategy isn't just about social security, but also includes fixing our broken housing and energy markets, and ensuring better paid work with guaranteed hours.

"Reducing child poverty should be the overriding mission of every government, and run through the work of every government department.

“It is only a Labour government that will end austerity and poverty proof all policies to deliver the real and radical change that Scotland wants and needs."






POSITIVE DESTINATION FIGURES EXPOSE SCOTLAND’S CLASS DIVIDE

28 February 2018

New figures outlining what young people do after they finish secondary school has revealed Scotland’s class divide.

A new statistical publication, ‘Initial Destinations of Senior Phase School Leavers’ reveals that the poorest young people had the greatest percentage of school leavers going on to further education at 37 per cent.

Colleges have been hammered by ten years of SNP government, with 140,000 fewer college place under the Nationalists.

Meanwhile young people from the richest backgrounds had the greatest percentage of school leavers going on to university.

Just 24.9 per cent of the poorest school leavers go on to higher education, compared to 60.6 per cent of those from wealthier families.

The figures are the latest set of school leaver statistics to include zero-hours contract jobs as a positive destination for young people, after the SNP voted against Labour proposals to remove the jobs from the figures.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Iain Gray said:

“The SNP promised a more equitable education system, but instead the stubborn gap between the richest and rest remains.

“In Scotland today,young people from the poorest backgrounds are more likely to go to college and less likely to go straight to university after school – but the SNP has slashed college places, with 140,000 fewer since 2007.

“That cut has closed off opportunities for working class young people – who are told by this government that a zero-hours contract is a ‘positive destination’ for them after school.

“The SNP should remove zero-hours jobs from these stats in the future, even if it makes it more difficult for them to spin the numbers. In the long term further education needs to properly funded.”






COMMENT ON POVERTY AND INEQUALITY COMMISSION REPORT

26 February 2018

Commenting on the Poverty and Inequality Commission’s report ‘Advice on the Scottish Government's Child Poverty Delivery Plan’, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for the Eradication of Poverty and Inequality Elaine Smith said:

"This is an important report from the Commission, which correctly highlights the potential of Scotland's new social security powers to tackle child poverty in Scotland.

“After a decade in power there has been a sense of complacency from the SNP government when it comes to lifting children out of poverty.

"Labour would use the new powers to increase child benefit by £5 a week. That's a move that would lift 30,000 children out of poverty. We would take action to end the brutal impact of the benefit cap on families across Scotland.

"The Commission is also right to highlight the need for a cross-departmental approach – we need to see better quality housing in the right places and the use of the powers of procurement to drive up wages while ending zero hours contracts.

"Instead we have an SNP government that takes Tory austerity and passes it on to Scottish communities.

“Councils have faced £1.5billion of cuts since 2011 - but councils remain the last line of defence against austerity, and the frontline in tackling poverty. “




MCDONNELL CALLS ON UNIVERSITIES TO GET BACK ROUND THE TABLE WITH UNIONS

23 February 2018

The Shadow Chancellor attended a “teach-in” organised by the University and Colleges Union (UCU) today in Glasgow, where workers were protesting against plans by universities to reduce their pension rights.

John McDonnell MP, Labour’s Shadow Chancellor, said:

“I went to the teach-in at Strathclyde and the picket line at Glasgow to express my solidarity with lecturing staff fighting to protect their pensions.

“I am also today meeting with university principals in Glasgow and I intend to directly raise my concerns about this attack on staff pensions with the principals when we meet.

“I will impress on them the urgent need for employers get back around the table, negotiate a decent settlement and stop threatening the pensions these lecturers now have.

“Higher education is entirely depended on recruiting and retaining staff and attacking and undermining pensions can only impact on that.

“Rest assured the next Labour Government will do everything to protect workers and their pensions while providing the investment that all our public services need to function and recruit and retain the staff that are the very lifeblood of all our public services.”




COMMENT ON EDUCATION CUTS

24 February 2018

Commenting on analysis from TES Scotland which shows education spending set to face cuts, including reductions in teacher numbers and local education budgets, Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education Iain Gray said:

“The SNP government claims that education and closing the attainment gap is its number one priority yet it is introducing a budget that will have a devastating impact on schools across Scotland.

“Local council budget plans show that councils across Scotland are being forced to look at cost cutting measures, some as severe as reducing the number of teachers. We’re already 3,500 teachers down since the SNP came to power and schools are already struggling because of the £1.5 billion cuts in local authority budgets in recent years.

“Further cuts to education services will have a direct impact on the attainment of our children.

“It is time the SNP used the powers of the Parliament to invest in local services and the future of our children.”




EXPERT REPORT BLOWS £160M BLACK HOLE IN SNP CHILDCARE POLICY

15 February 2018

An expert report has revealed a £160million shortfall in the SNP’s flagship childcare policy.

The report from the Accounts Commission reveals that raising the amount of free early learning childcare to 1,140 hours per year by 2021 is set to cost Scottish councils £1billion.

However, the SNP government’s own forecasting expects funding of the policy to be £840million – creating a spending black hole of £160million.

The report says there are ‘significant risks’ that councils will not be able to expand funded places due to issues such as workforce planning.

The government’s own estimates state that 8,000 additional whole time equivalent staff will be needed to deliver the expanded entitlement.

However the report says the Scottish Government ‘has not yet done enough to ensure they will be in place on time’.

The commitment to increase the hours of childcare entitlement by the end of this parliament, from 600 to 1140, was a key part of the SNP manifesto during the 2016 elections.

The report also details issues with the 600-hour entitlement, such as a postcode lottery in local provision.

Labour Shadow Cabinet Secretary for Education, Iain Gray, said:

“This independent report blows a £160million black hole in a flagship SNP Government policy.

“Raising the amount of free childcare families are entitled too has been a cornerstone of the SNP’s offer to families – but this report reveals that, not only does the Scottish Government not expect to fully fund it, but that it is also miles behind the levels of staff recruitment needed.

“This is what happens when childcare policy is written to fit on an election leaflet, rather than to fit around the lives of Scottish families.

“Increasing the availability and flexibility of childcare would have a huge difference, not just in terms of tackling poverty and the cost of living crisis but also in terms of fuelling economic growth.

“Instead, the SNP has slashed council budgets by £1.5 billion since 2011, and it is working families who will miss out.

“Labour’s alternative means using the tax powers of the Scottish Parliament to ask the richest to pay their fair share so we can fund local services, not continue to cut them.”