Government control culture no secret
Alex Salmond, Mike Russell and a long line of SNP MSPs have claimed that the chairman of Stow College secretly taped private discussions, using a “spy pen”and distributed this to an “unknown list” of people (your report, 15 November)
They say that, had he taped a telephone conversation in this way, he would be committing a criminal offence. Therefore, he was pushed out.
This was not a “private discussion” – it was a large meeting with 80 to 100 people present.
He did not have a spy pen, he had a “smart pen”, quite a different product with quite different connotations (one is used by spies, the other is used by academics so they can just handwrite things onto their e-tablets and iPads). This was not “private”, as the minutes are publicly available on the internet.
Not only was he not doing anything illegal, it is simply wrong to suggest it is illegal to tape a phone call.
It is not illegal to tape a call which you are party to. I presume the SNP government knows this as it has a whole legal department to consult.
So why such a vicious public attack on a college leader?
The real question is what is it about Stow College that the SNP government doesn’t like?
It can’t be that Stow College has a long, successful history of providing many people, young and not so young, from some of the poorest communities in the UK, mostly in north Glasgow, with a chance of gaining skills, an education and a future. Could it be that Stow College seems to believe that government reforms, to cut college budgets by 24 per cent (Audit Scotland’s figure) and force through mergers, will damage their ability to serve their communities?
Whether Stow College is right or wrong, what this shows is how this SNP government treats people who have the temerity to disagree with it. We can only imagine what it will be like if it wins the referendum.
The former chairman of Stow College may have been misguided in secretly recording his meeting with education secretary Michael Russell, albeit the minutes of the meeting will, reportedly, be accessible to the public. However, the main matter of concern is the suggestion that senior figures in the education sector fear for their jobs if they speak out against the education secretary.
Surely a robust and successful education system can only be achieved through a frank exchange of views and respect on all sides.
Any hint of bullying by the government is a sinister development and needs to be investigated, otherwise the public can have no confidence in those who seek control over compromise and negotiation.
What has happened at Stow College in Glasgow is nothing new. Leaders of charities and voluntary organisations have long been warned not to criticise the Scottish Government if they wish their public funding to continue.
Handouts to local authorities also depend on them doing what they are told through control of the council tax and, of course, the aggressive, bullying SNP online phenomenon – the “cybernats” – is well documented.
Behind the populist sweeteners designed to keep the SNP in power stands a big bully whom I, for one, would not wish to control me in the Brigadoon-Braveheart vision of “independence” they would like us to sleepwalk into, where more and more is controlled from the centre.
Henry L Philip
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