Thursday’s First Minister’s Questions was a fiery exchange which focussed mainly on education reform in Scotland.
Questions were opened by the Scottish Conservatives’ Ruth Davidson, who raised the Education Secretary’s announcement of the delay in education reform plans which he attributed to high number of submissions to the consultation – over 1,000.
Nicola Sturgeon replied that it was right that the Scottish Government is taking the time to review the submissions carefully and reaffirmed her commitment to closing the attainment gap.
Ms Davidson responded by accusing the First Minister of “putting education on the slow train” and raised the case of an educational body which submitted plans to the Scottish Government but waited years for the reply. She asked whether the Scottish Government had already made up its mind on the direction of education in Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon said that this was “absolutely not the case” and “it would make no sense to have a review of governance and not take time to consider the submissions.”
Labour’s Kezia Dugdale picked up where Ruth Davidson left off by pointing out that it has been 10 months since the election and people are still waiting for the Government’s education strategy.
The First Minister replied that the Scottish Government will introduce an Education Bill later this year and has already given funding directly to Head Teachers as part of reforms.
Ms. Dugdale then accused Nicola Sturgeon of doing nothing to help Scottish Schools and reducing the education budget.
Ms. Sturgeon reminded Ms. Dugdale that education spending has risen in Scotland, in real terms, under the new budget and that Labour-led local authorities are refusing to raise extra money for education by freezing the council tax.
Ms. Dugdale called the council tax ‘unfair’ and asked why the Scottish Government hasn’t scrapped it, to which the First Minister pointed out that for 10 years Labour have been asking the Government to raise council tax and now they are asking for it to be scrapped. She accused Scottish Labour of having no idea what their argument is.
Patrick Harvey of the Scottish Green Party attempted to calm the heated atmosphere by calling for more resources to help students with additional needs.
Ms. Sturgeon said that the Government is providing funding for additional support needs and highlighted the resources which are already available – she also assured Mr Harvey that she would look for ways for Local Councils to publicise these resources more widely to teachers.
Questions from other Members included queries on social housing, the threat of Westminster undermining devolution, and potential cuts to sports funding.