jimtoggleJim O’Neill says, while the Brexit fallout continues, we must not let the SNP hide this government’s continued failures behind the smokescreen of constitutional change.


So it’s Brexit, with all that that will entail. Two years and more of negotiations with the rest of Europe under Section 50 of the Rome Treaty, calls for a new Scottish referendum, calls (already) for a Northern Ireland referendum on a United Ireland. It looks like the last thing we will do as a United Kingdom will be the Rio Olympics.

And Cameron has resigned. A Tory leadership contest will bring in an even more right wing government with new attacks on workers and human rights and more marginalisation of the poor and the disabled. Sadly, just as we predicted.

However, a look forward into the maelstrom of the next few years is for another day. For me I have had enough of referenda and want to focus on the two key issues for the next year.

The first is to hold the SNP government to account for the promises they made to the Scottish people in May. They haven’t made a very good start. John Swinney obviously thought his golden tongue would be enough to calm down teachers’ anger at the workload they are facing. Unlucky John! His persuasive powers were such that we are facing the first national industrial action in schools since the 1980s. Indeed he was so lacking in ideas that his big selling point was to ask teachers how to reduce the workload! Sorry John, that is your job.

I left direct involvement in the teaching profession in the mid-90s. However, I could tell Swinney right now how to ease the job. First, stop the perennial changes to the curriculum and its assessment. Changes need time to bed in, and teachers need time to become at ease with them. Change should not be endemic, but should be episodic, assessed periodically before considering any other changes.

Second, trust the teachers. Teachers should be given back the powers to assess their pupils’ work. After all, that is what they do every day. And I don’t give any credence to the argument that some teachers will cheat. There may be a few, but the vast majority of teachers are in the profession to benefit the children they teach and they know that cheating on tests only masks pupils’ failings, and does nothing to send them out into the world prepared for the challenges they will face. There’s two ideas to be going on with.

We also have to challenge the SNP government on social housing (not affordable housing) and on welfare. They made lots of promises to the Scottish people and now that we are likely to face an even more right wing Tory government with the resignation of Cameron, their promises to protect the poor of Scotland from the ravages of the DWP must be monitored.

The other area we have to concentrate on is the local authority elections in May 2017. The SNP’s ill-conceived experiment with the Council Tax freeze has cost tens of thousands of jobs and damaged every service provided by councils. Every Labour Group, in partnership with their Local Campaign Forums, should be preparing a list of the jobs and services that have been lost over the past five years. These facts should be put before the people and they should be asked if ideology is more important that education or social work or community facilities or roads.

We have lots of work to do. Let’s focus on these key issues and don’t let Nicola hide this government’s continued failures behind the smokescreen of a second indyref.