LARRY Flanagan, General secretary of the EIS, answers our questions on the up-and-coming Holyrood election
If you had the power to change one thing in Scotland what would it be?
The level of inequality in our society. It is truly depressing that as we journey into the 21st century we are witnessing growing levels of both relative and absolute poverty while the rich and privileged become even richer and gain ever-increasing advantage.
Most parties say education is the main issue – does this indicate problems in the system?
I think it reflects the importance of education to our sense of self and to the values we aspire to as a nation. There is a real danger, however, that politicians, in order to score points against each other, ignore the very real achievements of our education system and create a false narrative of failure. You only need to look at the chaos of the English system to understand the danger of too much political interference.
Some parties are proposing tax rises to raise money specifically for education. Will more money alone change anything?
There have been very specific cuts to education budgets, such as in the area of additional support needs, which have damaged the service being provided. Increased resources could see those cuts reversed. I would accept, however, that money needs to be well spent. Investing in nursery education, and the role of teachers in pre-5 services, would be one significant development that new funds could facilitate, ensuring a sure start for all children and seeking to close that attainment gap as early as possible.
What’s missing from the Holyrood election campaign so far?
The referendum campaign generated a great deal of energy and engagement, with public meetings and hustings all over the place. Maybe it’s overly optimistic to hope for something similar in this election but carefully planned photo shoots are a poor substitute for genuine debate.
Does Holyrood or Westminster have the biggest influence on your working life?
Holyrood, by a country mile. With education being almost wholly devolved the key issues for the EIS clearly lie within the locus of the Scottish parliament. We have been developing our education system in a qualitatively different way here, and devolved power has been key to that. There are big issues at Westminster, such as the Trade Union Bill and the enforced pension changes. We would prefer to have seen powers in these areas devolved.