THE Scottish Labour leadership contender Kezia Dugdale will this week unveil plans to fund a pay rise for teachers in deprived areas by imposing a 50p top rate of income tax on people with salaries of more than £150,000.
In the final week before the winner of the leadership contest is announced, Dugdale will try to garner last-minute support by putting education at the heart of her agenda.
In a speech in Edinburgh on Tuesday, Dugdale will say that teachers working in Scotland’s most impoverished areas will be rewarded if they manage to close the attainment gap between pupils from rich and poor backgrounds.
Dugdale will say that education will be her top priority if she beats Ken Macintosh in the battle to succeed Johann Lamont as Scottish Labour leader.
The Lothians MSP will say: “We were once proud to boast that we had the best education system in the world. Recent evidence on literacy and numeracy casts doubt on that.
“It is time that we once again refused to accept less than the best in the world for our parents and pupils. Time to start listening to teachers again, and freeing them up to do what they do best: teach.
There is no doubt that Kezia is the candidate of the party machine
“But above all, it is time to stop just saying that too many kids in Scotland are being left behind and start doing something about it. Under the SNP Government the attainment gap between pupils from rich and poor backgrounds isn’t closing. The amount of money a child’s parents earn still determines how well they do at school. That’s just not right and I want to do something about it.
“We need to attract the best teachers to schools in working- class areas. The way to do that is to support the teachers working in our poorest areas to close the gap between rich and poor. We need to show teachers that their efforts will not go unrecognised.
“If a teacher has a track record of making a difference they should get more than a pat on the back. We need them in those areas, with the support of formal recognition through a new qualification, which will include a pay rise.”
Dugdale has been portrayed as the favourite in the contest, having won the majority of supporting nominations.
She received 90 per cent of the support from constituency Labour parties who nominated a candidate.
She is also backed by 80 per cent of the local councillors who nominated a leadership candidate, 10 trade union and affiliate groups, and 30 fellow parliamentarians. Her advisers are also in confident mood, having carried out their own internal polling.
But Macintosh yesterday remained upbeat, saying the majority of Scottish Labour members remain undecided about who they will elect as the party’s new leader.
The MSP, who was narrowly defeated by Lamont in the last Scottish leadership contest, said he was “confident” he will win the vote, claiming that momentum is with him.
Labour members have until Friday to cast their ballot, with the result due to be announced on Saturday.
Speaking after an event in Glasgow attended by undecided voters, Macintosh said his canvas returns still show that more than 50 per cent of those entitled to vote are yet to make up their minds.
He said that the majority of those who have decided are backing him, adding that “all the switchers” are also moving in his direction.
But Macintosh said the move to the one-person-one-vote system has helped his campaign.
He said: “There is no doubt that Kezia is the candidate of the party machine.
“The good thing for me is that this is not going to be decided by elected representatives, or by the trade unions, it is going to be decided by the members.
“The majority of members are undecided, and whatever switchers there are, are all going my way.
“My canvas returns are showing me that I am in the lead and momentum is with my campaign.”