Thursday, February 10, 2011

Education dominates FMQs - but did anyone care about the kids?

It dawned on me when I was thinking about this that there's roughly the ratio of Liberal Democrat MSPs to others that you'd find of adults to kids on a school trip, around 1 in 8. It certainly seemed like the Holyrood Chamber was full of childish behaviour today with just the occasional adult to bring a bit of sense to the proceedings.

I normally watch FMQs with the slightly jaundiced and cynical air of a political junkie, wondering if anyone's going to make a big gaffe as the pantomime unfolds. Today, I found that I was watching as a mum, in horror and anger.

Predictably, Alex Salmond and Iain Gray were soon kicking verbal lumps out of each other. Gray had a go at SNP Renfrewshire's plan to use unqualified teachers, Salmond retaliating with Labour North Ayrshire's plan for a 4 day week. Insults were traded, the decibel level in the Chamber grew. It was getting nasty and angry. Each question and answer got longer and longer. Every time they opened their mouths they both stuck their feet further in. Both had specified insults to fling, and they had to find an opening to do so. Salmond, for example, had to remind Iain Gray about the Megrahi Report, and have a go about Labour voting against the Budget.

So, they were talking about schools, about education - but neither of them seemed to care two hoots about the children who attended them. They were both too interested in point scoring. As I thought of the children who were being used as pawns in a piece of political pantomime, I found myself becoming progressively angrier. If they wanted to, they could sit down and talk calmly round the issues, trying to find a solution that worked for our kids. Some hope.

But then there was Tavish Scott. He behaved like a grown up. He asked a sensible, reasonsable question. It was about the National Centre of Excellence in Music based at Plockton High School in the Highlands. This was set up to develop our most talented young musicians in 2000 and used to be directly funded by the Government until 2008, when it was given to Highland Council to fund. Tavish asked for there to be some funding from central Government to be restored. He cited how Bannockburn and the new Burns Centre received Scottish Government funding.  Tavish's tone was spot on. He talked about those kids who moved miles from home to stay in the school hostel there to further their musical studies at 14. He showed empathy and understanding. Now he could have been aggressive and confronted Salmond about withdrawing the funding. He could have joined in the lump kicking pantomime, but he chose not to. The contrast was clear.

Unfortunately, the maturity didn't last. Cunninghame North MSP Kenny Gibson (majority 48) decided he wanted to re-tread the ground which had already been ploughed up by Gray and Salmond over North Ayrshire Council. He made a convoluted speech about a subject that had already been asked. Why on earth the Presiding Officer didn't shut Gibson up, or Salmond for his equally belligerent reply, I don't know.

This is the second time in 4 days I've had cause to write about the immature behaviour of politicians. I just wish that they could remember that whatever they are discussing in Parliament, people somewhere down the line are going to be affected by the things they decide. I don't think Gray and Salmond served the children of Scotland well today. Tavish, on the other hand, gave them a bit of a masterclass in how to be an effective public representative.

1 comment:

James Mackenzie said...

OK, I'm going to disagree as usual, but in an unexpected direction. I thought the LOLITSP and the Great Puddin' were debating a genuine issue with real-life examples, unusually. Better than average.


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