Scottish MSPs accused of 'spreading deliberate misinformation' about non-publication of education report

MSPs have been accused of “spreading deliberate misinformation” surrounding a row over the non-publication of a key education report.

On Friday, education secretary John Swinney was accused of a “sleekit attempt” to bury an independent review into Scotland’s curriculum for excellence, led by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).

The report was expected to be published in February ahead of the Scottish elections in May, but was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Scottish Government.

However, last week MSPs were provided with a summary of the report on the condition they were not allowed to cite, quote or make any aspect of it public.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has been accused of secrecy around the failure to publish a report into Scottish education.

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It led to widespread accusations from opposition MSPs, including Scottish Conservative education spokesperson Jamie Greene, that it was another example of secrecy from the Scottish Government.

The accusations also come only a few days after Mr Swinney survived a no-confidence vote on the failure to release legal advice to the Alex Salmond inquiry and after Holyrood voted in favour of the release of the OECD report earlier this year.

On Friday, Mr Greene said: “This is a sleekit attempt to not just bury the report itself, but ban all talk of it in the corridors of power. That is all too typical of this secretive SNP Government and it stinks of murkiness.

“The SNP Government asked to be judged on its record on education, but they are not prepared to let the public decide for themselves on how damning this report really is.

“John Swinney has let this report sit on his desk for months and is now effectively trying to gag Parliament from even discussing its content. He should release this report publicly and immediately.”

This was backed by the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie, who described the decision not to publish the full report an “insult”.

He said: "This is an insult to the people of the country that they can't be trusted with a seven-page summary of preliminary recommendations.

"People will draw their own conclusions that the SNP are not prepared for their record on education to be judged at the election. This is a summary of a fraction of a report, in a private library, under lock and key.

"This is a bind of the government's own making. It agreed to the OECD reporting a month after the election. John Swinney didn't even contact the OECD after he told Parliament he would be ‘happy to discuss’ getting something sooner.

"The upcoming election will allow the people of Scotland a chance for change."

However, Scottish Green education spokesperson Ross Greer accused MSPs of “spreading deliberate misinformation” and shared internal emails from the OECD to the government indicating stating the preliminary draft report “cannot be published and disseminated to the public”.

On Twitter, Mr Greer said: “The Tories and the Lib Dems don’t give a damn about Scottish education.

"They’re spreading deliberate misinformation. Why? To undermine devolution.

"The report will be published in full when the OECD are done. Nothing is being buried, it just isn’t finished yet. I voted for early publication, but am now content with why that’s not possible.

"Attempts to turn it into a ‘government secrecy’ story are absurd and deeply misleading.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The OECD has provided a summary of draft preliminary findings for the purposes of engaging with stakeholders on emerging thinking. This has been provided to Parliament on a confidential basis.

“It is a draft document and will not be formally published by the OECD.

“We value the expert advice that the OECD is providing and look forward to receiving its final report in June.”

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