This column appeared in the Daily Record on Monday 11th January 2016. You can view on the Daily Record website here.

SNP school cuts threaten the future of our children

Someone once said nothing in life is certain except death and taxes. ­Everything else is up for grabs.

The way our society operates doesn’t just happen. The decisions people make, particularly those of government ministers, shape the world we live in. Look at the major achievements of our country down the decades – the NHS, the social security system, the minimum wage, the Scottish Parliament and the smoking ban in public places, to name just a few.

Conscious decisions had to be made by Labour government ministers.

I was thinking about this when the SNP Finance Minister John Swinney announced his budget just before Christmas.

By common agreement it was a budget even George Osborne would have been proud of. Not only did it fail to bring an end to austerity, it piled on even more misery, particularly for future generations.

School budgets are set to be hit hardest, through devastating cuts to councils. These cuts aren’t inevitable. They weren’t pre-ordained. The SNP Government made a conscious decision to cut the money that goes to pay for our schools and employs our specialist teachers, janitors, office staff, and more. These cuts are SNP cuts.

For John Swinney and Nicola Sturgeon to view our schools as such easy targets when it comes to cuts is self-defeating. The biggest economic challenge our country will face in the coming decades is competing with other nations of the world. We need a skilled workforce who can compete for the jobs of the future – jobs that we can’t even imagine today, just as people 20 years ago would never have thought people would be employed now as mobile app developers.

The gap between the richest and poorest won’t be closed by publishing more data on the problem, welcome though that is. Extra investment is needed.

A Scottish Labour budget will ensure investment in early years and education is the top priority.

We have set out a plan to invest an extra £1000 for every child from a deprived background, through our Fair Start Fund. We would let head teachers decide how this money is used. We’d ask the richest few earning more than £150,000 in tax to pay a little bit extra to fund this.

Politics is all about making difficult choices. But when it comes to the future of our young people it’s not that hard – education should always come first.

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