Great Start

Another video from 2011, showing how much the SNP did even back then.

Let’s look at youth. Here’s Stuart McMillan on the SNP’s Job Grant proposals:

“We all want to see all our young people start their working lives with the best possible opportunities and an equal chance of success.

“Under the SNP government youth employment has risen to its highest level since 2009 and is now the highest of any country in the UK.

“Over the next parliament we want to go further and reduce youth unemployment by 40%. The new SNP Jobs Grant will help those who have been out of work to start a new job and prevent young people slipping into long term unemployment.

“Starting work comes with additional costs such as work clothes and travel expenses and for young people who may have no savings it can be difficult to get started.

“I want to see all our young people in work, training or employment. Over the next Parliament an SNP Scottish Government will increase the number of apprenticeships, bring employers, colleges and schools closer together to help young people into work, continue to support free education and support young people as they find employment.

“It is only with a re-elected SNP government that we can ensure a brighter future for our young people and stronger growth in Scotland’s economy.”

What about other parties?

Contrast with the plans of the UK government party’s branch manager in Scotland:

Ruth Davidson has set out plans to charge students £6,000 for a four-year degree after they graduate and are earning a salary as she argued the cost of providing ‘free benefits’ are hitting poor Scots.

The Scottish Tory leader told an STV leaders’ debate that she would want to reintroduce a charge of £1,500 per year and argued the SNP had paid for free university tuition by cutting thousands of college places.

In fiery exchanges, she pointed out that a far higher proportion of youngsters from deprived backgrounds attend universities south of the Border despite the existence of tuition fees.

And what about the party of the Scottish Executive – what did they give young people last time they were in government?

Students will no longer have to pay the graduate endowment fee when they finish university, after MSPs voted to abolish the charge.

Holyrood voted by 67 to 61 in favour of scrapping the one-off charge of £2,289.

The vote means current students and those who graduated last year will not have to pay the fee.

Labour and the Conservatives voted against abolition, after they failed to force the Scottish Government to set up a review into university funding.

– The SNP abolish the Graduate Endowment Fee, 2007

Ah, but surely they’ve realised their mistake, and wouldn’t dream of doing it again?

“Ms Lamont, who is spearheading a review of Labour’s policy on universal services such as free prescriptions, has suggested a return to the graduate endowment is ‘the most obvious option’ to address current inequalities in colleges and universities.

The graduate endowment saw students under the previous Labour-Liberal Democrat coalition at Holyrood pay money towards their education after they graduated.

It was scrapped by the SNP, who described it as ‘back-end tuition fees’.”

– Johann Lamont, 2015

So, just so we’re clear: one party wants to give young people a good start in life by ensuring they have free education. The other two largest parties have actively voted against it – and given the number of u-turns Ms Dugdale’s party has made this campaign alone, I’d much rather we weren’t in a position that threatened free tuition again.

I suppose you could always vote for the Junior-Coalition-Partner Party


… But really, why would you, when they openly admit that they’re so ineffectual their own leader’s constituency has been “ignored” for the last parliamentary term?

Free tuition is one of the main reasons I am where I am today, and I’m proud that the SNP have been absolutely unequivocal in their support for this cornerstone of Scottish culture. It, alongside opposition to Trident, is one of the political ideals which I hold dearest to my heart, behind only independence in importance.


Till a’ the seas gang dry, my dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun…

I do not doubt for one minute any member’s commitment to having a better education system in Scotland. Every single person who stands for election to the Scottish Parliament, local authorities, the UK Parliament or even the European Parliament wants to make a positive difference for their community.

Usually, I do not agree with Mr Henry—or vice versa—but I could agree with quite a lot of what he said, certainly at the beginning of his speech. When he mentioned as an example people from poorer backgrounds accessing university, it took me back to when I was at university—I was the first person in my family to attend university. I remember that once, when I went home for the weekend, I got a taxi from the town up to the house and I was speaking to the taxi driver. He asked me where I had come from, so I told him, and I said that I was going home for the weekend. His attitude to university was appalling. I asked him about his family, and he said straight away, “My daughter’s not doing that rubbish. That’s not for people like us.” Going back to Mr Henry’s comments, I accept that there are challenges, but one of the biggest challenges that we have to face is parents who do not see university as something for them or their family. We have to work on that barrier and that understanding.

Kezia Dugdale and Malcolm Chisholm, who has, unfortunately, left the chamber, spoke about some of the language that has been used in the debate, and Kezia Dugdale used the phrase “pejorative language”. I am sure that she will agree that describing children as a “human shield”, as one of her colleagues did, falls into that category. I would like to think that she will reflect on that.

The Scottish Government is committed to delivering both excellence and equity in equal measure for all children in Scotland. Almost £5 billion is invested through local authorities to deliver education each year, and the additional £100 million attainment Scotland fund is now benefiting more than 300 primary schools, including six in the area where I live. Having invested £51 million specifically to maintain teacher numbers this year, the Scottish Government has also committed £88 million to protect teacher numbers and places for new teachers across Scotland next year.

We heard earlier about the read, write, count campaign, and the national improvement framework has been introduced with Education Scotland inspections to focus on raising attainment in literacy and numeracy. We also have the making maths count programme as well as the national and local numeracy hubs.

Stuart McMillan


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