Talking Point: The grass is greener, honest

by Oct 01, 2014 No Comments
The revolution didn’t happen. The voters took a walk up to the line, but in the end didn’t step over it. In the run-up to the referendum those who were concerned with environmental issues and willing to pin their colours to the mast appeared to be mainly from the Yes camp who saw opportunities in everything from the current differences in policy on nuclear power to the potential of sitting at the ‘top table’ on the world stage and raising issues like climate justice. The fact that notable environment campaigners including the Scottish Greens backed a Yes would suggest that No has stunted their ambitions. But it doesn’t have to be that way. Even as part of the UK, Scotland is able to champion issues like cutting carbon emissions and fighting climate change and ministers from here...
Talking Point

Sitting comfortably

by Oct 01, 2014 No Comments
So now we know. After years of deliberation, Scotland has made its choice. The result itself will be picked clean in the months and years ahead. However, Sir Harry Burns, Scotland’s former Chief Medical Officer, now Professor of Global Public Health, made an interesting early observation about who voted for what and why. There was a strong inverse correlation between life expectancy and the decision to vote Yes, he noted. There was also a correlation between low income and a Yes vote. Despite the best efforts of the Yes campaign to paint a picture of what an independent Scotland could be like, they couldn’t ease every uncertainty in advance. Independence would be an experiment; fascinating but also frightening. A Yes vote required taking a leap of faith. Is it any wonder, then, that...
Talking point: ideas vacuum

Much ado about nothing from Hunt

by Sep 29, 2014 No Comments
Tom Given criticism of Tristram Hunt by teaching unions recently for ‘a lack of ideas’, it is surprising the shadow education secretary didn’t come out fighting at the Labour conference last week. Instead, his speech there was just ten minutes long and relegated to the early shift on the first day. “The Tory record on education is shameful: rising class sizes; more unqualified teachers; tripling tuition fees and, now, in Nicky Morgan we have a ‘Continuity Gove’, auto-pilot Education Secretary,” he said. Ambitions were for “world-class teachers in every classroom” and to “build character and resilience” in our children, but there was no mention of qualifications or standards, and it is still unclear what Labour’s position is on the free schools project. There was also...
Talking Point: A fairer outcome

How we treat former prisoners a measure of how fair our country will have become

by Sep 17, 2014 No Comments
Unsurprisingly, the criminal justice system – given its already devolved nature – did not prove nearly as prominent in the referendum campaign as other aspects of public policy. Besides a discussion among anoraks on the fallout of a withdrawal from the UK Supreme Court, it has remained somewhat silent in the shadows, working away as usual. Yet, if this referendum is considered the vehicle through which to create a more socially just and fairer Scotland then those within our prisons mustn’t be ignored, even if their voting preferences have been. Now, I have heard Colin McConnell, chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service (SPS), speak on numerous occasions and indeed I have read many of his speeches. Few, however, have been as candid as the one published a month to the day of the...
Talking point: First steps

Starting school

by Sep 17, 2014 No Comments
Tom By sheer coincidence, as I stepped into the education brief for Holyrood, my daughter started her school career. Like many parents, I imagine it was probably a more traumatic experience for me than her, waving her off into a system which will dominate her life for at least the next eleven years, hopefully more, knowing that forces outside my own control can shape her education, attainment, and ultimately her choices in life. Research has shown social mobility has declined since the 1970s, and the recently published Social Mobility and Child Poverty Commission study shows the UK’s key institutions are dominated by graduates from private schools and Oxford and Cambridge. Commission chairman Alan Milburn said the country’s top jobs remain “disproportionately held by people from a...
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