Satisfaction with Scotland’s public services hits all-time low

Schools are under scrutiny. Dave Thompson/PA Wire
Schools are under scrutiny. Dave Thompson/PA Wire
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Public satisfaction in health, schools and public transport in Scotland has plunged to a record low, with opposition parties accusing the SNP of overseeing “nosediving” standards.

Results from the latest Scottish Household Survey, based on responses from 10,500 householders across the country, found just 51.7 per cent of Scots were satisfied with all three public services.

The combined satisfaction level for schools, public transport and health services is at its lowest since it was first measured in 2007 – when the SNP took power at Holyrood.

The report also found 71 per cent of respondents were happy with schools in their local area – a rise of one per cent year-on-year, but a marked drop from the 79 per cent who declared themselves satisfied in 2007.

Growing unhappiness with public transport is reflected in a fall of 4 per cent on last year, down to 65 per cent – the lowest it has been.

There was also a large variation in combined satisfaction between those living in urban and rural areas, with just 42 per cent of those in remote parts of Scotland satisfied with all three services.

The Scottish Government has carried out the annual survey since 1999, with the aim of measuring public opinion about life north of the Border.

Responding to the results yesterday, Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie accused SNP ministers of putting their quest for independence ahead of delivering public services.

“The findings of the SNP Government’s own official survey are unmistakeable,” he said.

“People are rightly unimpressed by the SNP’s handling of their schools, health and transport services. Satisfaction has nosedived.

“Staff are as frustrated as anyone else and the good will of everyone from teachers to nurses has been relied upon for far too long.

“The SNP’s priority will always be independence. The claim that education is the First Minister’s priority is in tatters. Teachers wouldn’t be at their wits end if the SNP had put anywhere near the same amount of energy into making Scottish education the best again.”

Scottish Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray said the blame for the decline in satisfaction in local schools should lie with Holyrood minister John Swinney.

He said: “With fewer teachers, fewer support staff, unwanted national tests, rising class sizes and falling pass rates, it is no wonder satisfaction levels in schools have fallen.

“This is not the fault of hard-working teachers and support staff, this is the fault of the education secretary.

“Instead of listening to parents, pupils and teachers, he has put his fingers in his ears and dismissed any problems brought to his attention.

“It is past time for Mr Swinney to sit up, pay attention and back our young people and teachers.”

Scottish Conservative spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “We didn’t need a household survey to tell us that the SNP has undermined public trust in Scottish schools. It has been obvious for some time that teachers and parents have many concerns about SNP education policy.

“Under the SNP, schools have too few teachers, which has resulted in shortages in key subjects and in additional support for learning where staff numbers have dropped by 26 per cent in the last decade.”

The 2018 report, published yesterday, also found significantly more Scots are driving alone amid rising car ownership levels and falling spending on fuel.

In a blow to Scottish Government ambitions to encourage greener transport usage among the public, two in three cars on Scotland’s roads (66 per cent) had just the driver aboard last year compared with 56 per cent two decades ago.

The rise came as the proportion of homes with cars increased from 63 to 71 per cent since 1999.

A sharp increase in concern about climate change was also recorded in the survey. Nearly two-thirds of adults (65 per cent) now agree a climate emergency is looming, up from 46 per cent five years ago.

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “Overall public satisfaction with local schools is at 71 per cent according to the survey – broadly in line with last year when it was 70 per cent.

“What is more, satisfaction among households who have a child of school age is high at 86 per cent.”