Leonard rounds on Sturgeon over School funding at FMQs
The Labour leader warned of the consequences that chronic school under-funding by the Scottish Government were having for Scottish pupils, and argued the SNP must up their offer to teachers after they emphatically rejected their most recent pay offer.
Speaking at First Minister’s Questions today, the Scottish Labour leader read out an anonymous letter from a teacher to Education Secretary John Swinney, which said educators had been forced to buy basic supplies like books and pencils for publics because of budget cuts.
Leonard also stated that if education was the government’s top priority; it would "start valuing teachers and funding schools properly."
In his remarks to the First Minister, Leonard added that “Nicola Sturgeon wants to be judged by her record on education."
“It is a record of austerity – which even SNP councillors now admit is going too far. It is a record of our teachers having to buy pens, pencils and books for pupils because Scotland’s schools are starved of cash."
“Little wonder that this week Scotland’s teachers emphatically rejected the SNP’s pay offer.
“Teachers, parents, pupils right across Scotland will rightly ask how education can be Nicola Sturgeon’s top priority with underfunded schools and undervalued teachers."
Recent ballots by teaching union, the EIS found that 98% of respondents rejected the SNP and COSLA's pay offer, and are now moving towards possible strike action in the new year over the pay increase.
The First Minister denied that the Scottish Government's offer was 'inadequate', telling MSPs that teachers' demands were simply "not affordable".
“I recognise that offer has been rejected, I respect that and I recognise the strength of feeling, so the Scottish Government and Cosla will go back to the table and we will continue to seek a reasonable agreement in good faith.” she added.
“This is a statement of simple fact – pay awards have to be affordable, because if they are not affordable they can not be delivered. I would love to give teachers and all public sector workers a 10% pay rise but that is simply not affordable in a single year."
“So what we need to do now, and the Scottish Government will play our full part in this, we need to come back to the table to agree a fair and affordable agreement, in the same way that the Scottish Government has already done for nurses and other health care workers and police officers."
“The Scottish Government will proceed to do that in good faith and I hope we can before too much longer reach that fair and reasonable agreement.”