Gordon Brown: Scots want ‘UK-wide school system’

FORMER Prime Minister Gordon Brown has appeared to question the devolution of education in extracts of a speech on independence.
Former prime minister Gordon Brown. Picture: John DevlinFormer prime minister Gordon Brown. Picture: John Devlin
Former prime minister Gordon Brown. Picture: John Devlin

In a speech at Edinburgh University, Mr Brown cited surveys which show more than 50 per cent of 14 to 17-year-olds in Scotland want a UK-wide education system with common UK exams and qualifications.

The speech challenges the separation of education for Scotland which has been guaranteed for more than 300 years since the Act of Union.

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Mr Brown cited “astonishing new surveys of young people” carried out one year apart which found that around half of Scottish 14 to 17-year-olds “do not want to be part of an exclusively Scottish education system but want a UK system where the curriculum and exams are the same for everyone in the UK”.

Mr Brown went on: “Scottish young people’s support for the same educational curriculum and exams across the UK is stronger than any poll would report for any group of adults, showing that young people are not the newly enfranchised ‘nationalist generation’ of the independence movement’s dreams but a newly enfranchised and also newly empowered ‘networked generation’ - happy to be seen as Scottish first but suspicious of being seen as exclusively Scottish.”

He added: “As I argue in My Scotland, Our Britain, breaking all links with the UK makes no sense - in this case for our young people and for their education.”

“Instead Scotland retained its own institutions which over decades and centuries continued to develop,” he said.

Better Together leader Alistair Darling also delivered a speech to students at St Andrews University, claiming that independence risks the free movement of trade and people across the border, and attacked the “childish fairy story” espoused by “romantic nationalists” that Scotland’s identity has been absorbed by its larger neighbour.

Mr Darling said: “It’s perfectly plain that their (the SNP) idea of free university education for Scots, but charging students from elsewhere in the UK, is legally unsustainable, and their assertion that Research Council funding would remain even after Scotland had left the UK is simply laughable.”

The SNP seized on Mr Brown’s comments arguing that it undermined the devolution of education on the day when the leaders of the pro-UK parties in Scotland joined together to pledge more powers for Holyrood.

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson said: “Having undermined the No campaign last week by calling for David Cameron to debate with Alex Salmond, Gordon Brown has done it again.

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“This week, he has endorsed the idea of a UK-wide education system - which could only mean taking powers away from Scotland and giving them back to Westminster - on the very day Alistair Darling and the No campaign are desperately trying to say that they stand for more powers for Scotland.”