I’m so proud of our party for having the guts to do what nobody else will: be honest with the Scottish public about the state of our education system in Scotland, what we want to do about it and how we need to fund it.
Willie Rennie, Lib Dem Party Leader, announced today that we want to introduce a 4 point plan to save Scottish education. Key to this would be a Scottish Pupil Premium, based on the successful Pupil Premium we introduced in government in England in 2011, which has closed the attainment gap by nearly 5% in just 3 years in primary schools. Who wouldn’t want that for their country?
Instead of obsessing with ever lower taxes like the Tories, pretending everything is fine like the SNP or squabbling amongst themselves like Labour, we actually want to take good practice and apply it to our schools in Scotland. The key is that the money would go to individual schools, so Head Teachers, who know their pupils best, can decide on what would work best to help their struggling pupils. It might be breakfast clubs, after school activities, extra classroom assistants. Whatever they choose to spend it on, the money would make far more difference to improving pupils’ learning than the ludicrous Scottish Government plan to reintroduce the Thatcherite policy of standardised testing for primary schools.
I’m also delighted that we have chosen to take a stand on education across the board, by proposing to expand early learning and childcare provision, to reverse the decline in places in Scotland’s colleges that the SNP have slashed over the last few years and reverse the damaging cuts to council education budgets the Scottish Government has just forced on councils this year.
The really radical point is we intend to pay for all of this by adding 1p to the income tax rates at 20p, 40p and 45p, using the new powers to set income tax rates in Scotland that we as Liberal Democrats introduced when in government at Westminster. The beauty of this is that nobody earning under £19,000 will pay any more, while nearly half of the funds raised will come from the top 12% of earners. In fact, thanks to the huge increases in the personal allowance, that will go up again to £11,000 in April 2016, low earners will actually be better off after tax, because the increase in the personal allowance more than makes up for the increase of 1p in tax rate. So a policy designed by the Liberal Democrats to help level the education playing field, will be mainly paid for by the better off.
Today’s announcement by the party really is a red letter day for every Scot who cares about fairness in education.