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by Louise Wilson
09 May 2024
Increase teacher numbers, John Swinney urged at First Minister's Questions

The new first minister warned of pressures on the public finances | Alamy

Increase teacher numbers, John Swinney urged at First Minister's Questions

John Swinney has been urged to recommit to increasing teacher numbers following concerns about cuts in Glasgow and elsewhere. 

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross said numbers had fallen two years running and asked whether the SNP’s 2021 election commitment to increase them by 3,500 by the end of this parliament would be met.

But the first minister – taking his first session of FMQs since becoming SNP leader – said “significant” inflation since then meant funding that commitment was harder.

While refusing to say whether the 3,500 pledge would be met, he added: “The government will take forward its programme within the resources that are available. But I have to make clear to the people, to be straight with the public which I will be, that public finances are under enormous pressure and we will set out our commitments as we take our budget decisions.”

Ross said Swinney’s record on education, referring to his time as education secretary between 2016 and 2021, was “one of broken promises”.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar warned of the impact fewer teachers was having on pupils' educational experience.

He said Swinney must “confront the challenges he created over the last 17 years”.

The first minister said he was “working in partnership with local authorities” on teacher recruitment and would meet with Cosla on Friday.

He also defended the SNP's record on education, pointing to figures showing more pupils reached positive destinations, reductions in the attainment gap and improvements to the school estate.

And responding to accusations his party had been distracted from governing by recent events, Swinney said the last two weeks had been “frankly traumatic” for the SNP.

But he added: “The fresh leadership has just arrived – and I am right here to deliver it.”

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