SNP u-turn on exam results after backlash…
The Scottish Government had a poll tax moment this week as school pupils led a furious backlash against its proposals for mediating this year’s school exam results, prompting a complete u-turn.
Now John Swinney, the Education Minister and one of Nicola Sturgeon’s key allies, is facing calls to resign – although with the Scottish Greens supporting the Government he’s safe from any no-confidence vote.
The row erupted over the decision of the Scottish Qualifications Authority (SQA) to adjust down the self-assessed results handed out by teachers. As they did this in line with the previous performance of the school, it led to bright pupils from disadvantaged areas being marked down on the basis of their postcode.
This went down about as well as you’d expect – a sort of anti-matter version of the usual blondes-jumping-with-joy results-day story. Pupils staged a protest and the opposition parties piled in. The SNP finally caved, but only after spending a week trying to defend the decision and attacking teachers’ self-assessed grades as ‘not credible’.
Whilst the Scottish Government’s rankings remain stubbornly high, this shows that the SNP aren’t immune to the corrosive effects of an extended period in office on political judgement. The SQA’s decision was very probably good policy – the unmoderated results are implausibly high – but maintaining the integrity of the system creates concrete, photogenic losers and only abstract winners.
The question is whether or not Sturgeon’s complete capitulation can limit the fallout, or if this is going to dog the Nationalists’ fortunes in the run-up to next year’s Holyrood elections.
…as the Party’s internal divisions deepen
Another threat to the Nationalists’ election campaign are the still-deepening divisions within the movement, as the two wings of the separatist movement continue to come apart.
This week the party’s national secretary is in the firing line over sudden changes to their internal rules over candidate selections, according to the Daily Record.
Under the proposed new arrangements, SNP Members of Parliament can’t stand for Holyrood without resigning their Westminster seat and raising £10,000 towards the resulting by-election campaign.
This is widely seen as being an effort to thwart the bid by Joanna Cherry, a high-profile Nationalist MP and ally of Alex Salmond, from moving to Holyrood next year. She had been preparing to fight Angus Robertson, the former Moray MP and Sturgeon loyalist, to be SNP candidate for Edinburgh Central.
Another MP, Alyn Smith, has meanwhile been criticised for suggesting that the number of ‘equalities’ posts on the party’s executive be slimmed down in order to re-focus on independence, the Sun reports.
On top of all this, a documentary about Salmond’s trial is due to be broadcast next week!
Johnson launches ‘plea for the Union’
The Prime Minister has put himself front and centre of the fight for the Union as he heads up to Scotland on holiday. He has reportedly ordered ministers to make regular visits north as part of a campaign to make the UK Government more visible in Scotland.
According to the Daily Telegraph, this is much-needed. Scottish ministers have apparently been getting the political credit for many of the economic and jobs-protecting interventions made by Rishi Sunak and the Treasury – the mirror of the usual trend wherein ‘Westminster’ is blamed for the failings of devolved government.
Boris Johnson is still taking a very muscular approach, though, having apparently blocked a proposal from Michael Gove to give Sturgeon a seat in the Cabinet. Suffice to say this is quite correct: the First Minister has no role in reserved policy, and including the devolved governments in it would be another step towards a confederal UK.
Alok Sharma, the Business Secretary, also refused to be grilled by MSPs over the Government’s proposals for protecting the British common market post-Brexit, and David Mundell accused the Scottish Government of deliberately sinking a deal on the same in order to stoke grievance.
- We can stand up to nationalism’s false promises – Douglas Ross MP, Daily Telegraph
- The hypocrisy of ‘devocrats’ like Sturgeon imperils the UK economy – Matt Smith, CapX
- That SNP reputation for competence is now in tatters – Euan McColm, The Scotsman
- Can Johnson stop Scottish independence? – Alex Massie, The Spectator
- The foundations of Scotland’s democracy have crumbled and you should worry – Robin McAlpine, Source
- The UK is nearing breaking point and the Unionists must fight back – William Hague, Daily Telegraph
- The consequences of the new border down the Irish Sea – Owen Polley, CapX
- Why this education disaster must be Swinney’s last – Richard Leonard MSP, The Scotsman