24 June 2004

S2M-1119 School Education (Ministerial Powers and Independent Schools) (Scotland) Bill: Stage 1

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Murray Tosh): The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-1119, in the name of Peter Peacock, that the general principles of the School Education (Ministerial Powers and Independent Schools) (Scotland) Bill, be agreed to. ...
... ... ...

Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): I occasionally take lessons from the Executive. Paragraph 4 of the Education Committee's report on the bill states that 3,400 consultation documents went out and 49 were returned. Similarly, I have consulted in order to discover why such a bill is before us. I, too, sent out 3,400 consultation documents and—curiously enough—received 49 replies. Initially, I was puzzled about which member of the Labour Party failed to return their response, but I realised that the minister would probably exclude himself from doing so.

At the risk of transgressing Chatham House rules that govern what happens in the members' lounge from time to time, I will tell members exactly why the bill is before us. Initially, there were three theories. The first theory was that the minister, in the ever-fevered competition to have the right to introduce a bill, won the three-legged race last summer on the banks of the Kelvin in the Labour Party's summer sports. However, I realise that that theory was entirely inappropriate because Peter Peacock, as a member for the Highlands, would be performing his civic duty of allowing the midges to bite him back on his native heath.

The second theory that was put forward was that he participated last Easter in the world politicians' arm-wrestling championship in the Bow Bar. However, it was put to me that the residents of Castle Bar in Inverness would feel greatly disquieted to know that their member was spending his money in someone else's establishment.

Therefore, I can exclusively reveal that Jessie Chisholm organised the Christmas party for the Labour Party last year—which was provisioned by McDonald's, of course—at which there was a bran dip and the minister drew out the right to introduce a bill and get his strike count up. It is no coincidence that bills are printed on purple paper, as the minister thought that it was time that he was in the bill.

I have a serious question for the minister about a trivial bill. How much did it cost to bring it forward? There is little cause for us to rejoice at the bill and little cause among SNP members that, for the first time, we have to oppose a bill at this stage of its process.

The reality is that many issues require to be addressed in our schools. Indiscipline is rife throughout Scotland. Inclusion is a very worthy aim, but it has side effects that are not yet fully taken into account and standards in schools are variable.

One of the key things that the Parliament—encouraged by the Executive—has done has been to give local authorities the power to promote well-being. That is something that my colleagues and I welcomed very much, as it touched on a matter of principle for the SNP. Decisions should be made as close as possible to the point of application. That is why, at every opportunity, we argue for more powers for the Scottish Parliament and the disconnection from our affairs of houses of little relevance that are located elsewhere. However, in the Executive's behaviour we often see things that run against that principle. For example, Mary Mulligan brought a Scottish statutory instrument to the Communities Committee that defined planning charges for all councils in Scotland. She did not want councils competing to be cheaper for planning charges. The bill is another example of the centre dictating to the periphery.

Ultimately, when power lies elsewhere, the assumption within councils will be that responsibility lies elsewhere. We risk breaking the link of accountability between local delivery and local accountability, and that could damage democracy itself. At 15:30 today, Andy Kerr said:

"I do not want to dictate from Edinburgh to local health boards".

We should not dictate to local councils either.


Stewart Stevenson
does not gather, use or
retain any cookie data.

However Google who publish for us, may do.
fios ZS is a name registered in Scotland for Stewart Stevenson

  © Blogger templates The Professional Template by 2008

Back to TOP