Leaders: State of the nation is an education for Scots

Picture: Getty
Picture: Getty
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The annual state of the nation report on the way Scots are living today provides much to be intrigued and encouraged about.

The pride most people take in their local neighbourhoods, according to the 2014 Household Survey, shows Scots are largely happy in their home environment.

This perhaps shatters any perception of widespread antisocial behaviour which can make life a misery for residents some local communities. In fact the biggest problem on this front comes from delinquent canines – with dog fouling and barking heading the list of gripes by some way.

And while the fact that a fifth of Scots are smoking is still too high, the fall in recent years has to be applauded. In particular, the reduction in the most deprived areas from 40 per cent to 34 per cent is a source of real encouragement and bolsters ambitious plans to make Scotland a smoke-free country by 2034.

The increasingly diverse make-up of family life in Scotland is perhaps underlined by the fact that most adults are no longer married, a trend that is only likely to continue in the years ahead. The growing number of households is also another indication of smaller, more fragmented family units, which is also now the happy norm for so many in modern Scotland.

But one area of concern must be the steady erosion of confidence parents have in Scots schools. At 79 per cent satisfaction is still relatively high, but this is the third year in a row that the rating has fallen. And it comes at a time when councils in the north are appealing to the Scottish Government for help in addressing the growing problems they have in attracting teachers. Although not a crisis point yet, the decision to stage a summit and invite the First Minister along underlines the gravity of the problem.

Nicola Sturgeon last week staked her personal reputation on tackling the “unacceptable” situation in Scotland’s schools where a worrying gulf exists between the attainment of pupils in richer and poorer areas of the country. She even went as far as inviting voters to judge her on this issue.

But this move came after questions were raised over literacy standards among younger pupils in a national survey earlier this year. The problem for Ms Sturgeon is that, once a perception among parents of dissatisfaction with local schooling becomes ingrained, it can be difficult to turn around.

Labour’s new leader in Scotland, Kezia Dugdale, has also made it clear that education will be the key issue on which she plans to fight next year’s Holyrood election.

It will leave the First Minister with work to do in the months ahead to show she is not only on top of the issue, but can regain the lost confidence of parents.

Corbyn’s off the rails on this one

JEREMY Corbyn has livened up the Labour leadership contest with the sense of a return to conviction and principle at the heart of political debate instead of presentation and image.

But Mr Corbyn had a bumpy ride yesterday when he said he would be prepared to consult over the introduction of female-only carriages on trains in an effort to tackle violence against women.

The move prompted an angry reaction from feminist groups, who warned it promotes segregation and would be a step backwards in time. It would, in effect, “normalise” unacceptable attitudes towards sexual violence.

That the problem is real is evidenced by the alarming rise in sexual assaults recorded by British Transport Police in the past year.

The main issue with Mr Corbyn’s solution is that it does nothing to address the root cause of the problem, which is the behaviour of, mainly, men.

And it is fraught with practical problems. How would women-only carriages be enforced? Would it require wardens on the trains? And if posts like this are created, could they not guard against attacks in the first place?

Most accept it was right to draw attention to the issue and it perhaps highlights the fresh approach and imaginative thinking of Mr Corbyn which has seen him streak ahead of his rivals – Andy Burnham, Liz Kendall and Yvette Cooper – in the leadership contest.

Mr Corbyn has indicated he is ready to listen throughout his campaign. If further consultation on this proposal suggests it is a non-starter, he should be ready to let this one drop.