Helen Liddell in the Press

Ah've nae grudges against the Nats, ah just hate their guts!

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Commenting on Scottish Office Education Minister Helen Liddell's remarks in the newspapers this morning [Thursday] - in which she brands teachers' leaders "1980s dinosaurs" (Daily Record), and is reported under the headline "Labour goes to war on teachers" as saying: "The teachers don't mention pupils, they don't mention standards or quality. Everything they have to say is couched in the rhetoric of the 1980s." (The Sun) - the Scottish National Party's Education Spokesperson Ms Nicola Sturgeon said:

"Helen Liddell's remarks in this morning's press are outrageous. Mrs Liddell was sent to Scotland to bash the Nats - but now she is bashing Scotland's teachers, and the Scottish education system, as well.

"Last November, Labour branded teachers' leaders as 'a coterie of Trots and Nats' (Scotland on Sunday, 22 November 1998).

"This week, Mrs Liddell is calling them '1980s dinosaurs', and she grossly insults the entire teaching profession by implying that teachers aren't interested in pupils, standards or quality.

"London Labour's education policy in Scotland has been reduced to a shambles by Helen Liddell's confrontational approach. Instead of a willingness to engage in mature dialogue, what we have from Helen Liddell is desperate spin doctoring directed against the teaching profession.

"Mrs Liddell is using the civil service to draft Labour Party policy proposals - which are poisoning the atmosphere within Scottish education - at public expense.

"This has got to stop, and the best way to usher in a fresh start for Scottish education would be for Helen Liddell to resign early.

"In a few months' time, Mrs Liddell will have no responsibility for Scottish education whatsoever - either in opposition or administration - since she isn't even standing for the Scottish Parliament. It would be better for all concerned for her to go now, so that we can begin to develop a new and better approach to education policy in Scotland.

"At present, we are in the absurd position of not even knowing who will speak for Labour on education in the Scottish Parliament. Unlike the SNP, Labour have failed to name a team of spokespeople from among their candidates for the various executive portfolios. For Mrs Liddell to continue using the civil service to draft Labour's policy proposals is totally undemocratic, and increasingly incongruous.

"New Labour's 'top down, talk down' approach of setting targets from on high, and making unrealistic demands on teachers, needs to be replaced by a partnership approach. That is why the SNP propose an Education Convention once the new Scottish Parliament is up and running - including representatives of all those involved in Scottish education - so that we can develop a consensus on policy and implementation.

"In Scotland, teachers are rightly held in high esteem. A recent ICM/Scotsman poll showed that 78 per cent of Scots think that teachers are hard-working, and 70 per cent believe that they are undervalued (30 September 1998).

"The Scottish Parliament gives us the opportunity to build on the strong consensus that exists in Scotland for high quality public education, so that we deliver a better future for all our children. Mrs Liddell's early resignation should be the beginning of this process."