Flag-waving for Brexit and Scottish independence needs to be replaced by a focus on more mundane political issues like education – Scotsman comment

As life slowly returns to normal after the worst excesses of Covid, so too is politics.

Standards of education and training attract less passion than constitutional issues but are more important for our long-term well-being (Picture: Andy Buchanan/AFP via Getty Images)

But will this 'new normal’ be any different to the pre-pandemic focus on flag-waving for either independence or Brexit? Will other issues, like education, start to get the attention they deserve?

The UK is one of the world’s wealthiest countries, but failing to maintain a highly skilled and well-educated workforce would inevitably mean the slow decline of our economy with consequent effects for people’s livelihoods and happiness.

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In his speech to the Labour party conference, Keir Starmer, referred to one of his predecessor Tony Blair’s slogans, saying: “Education is so important I am tempted to say it three times. When you don’t invest in young people the whole nation suffers and the less fortunate are left behind.”

He also said that Labour would make Britain “a world leader in science and research and development” in contrast to the “low-wages, low-standards and low-productivity of the Tories”.

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He spoke as Boris Johnson insisted he was not prepared to address labour shortages, such as the lack of HGV drivers, through “uncontrolled immigration” leading to a “low-wage, low-skill” economy.

Meanwhile Finance Secretary Kate Forbes told MSPs that online vacancies were 33 per cent higher than in February last year, saying it was vital that young people had the skills to take jobs on offer. She added that even if everyone out of work found employment, “there would still be shortages” – a problem she argued was made worse by Scotland’s lack of control over immigration policy.

A Labour, a Conservative and an SNP politician, all with very different views, but all agreeing that education is key to our future prosperity.

But a serious problem is that the two in power have, to a significant degree, enjoyed political cover for any failings on such bread-and-butter issues because of the level of support for independence and Brexit.

That cover may start to run out for Johnson, given Brexit has happened and its supporters will start wanting to see positive results, but if Scotland remains locked in the “neverendum” it will become an increasing factor.

We get the governments we deserve and without effective public scrutiny standards will inevitably slip. We need to be smart enough – well-educated enough – not to let that happen.

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