The SNP Lacks Credibility on the Attainment Gap.

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One of the great contradictions of contemporary Scottish politics is the emphasis the nationalists have placed on tackling inequality despite having done virtually nothing to redistribute wealth and opportunity.

The Scotsman today suggests there is some movement in the SNP on this issue and, after eight years in power, they will adopt a successful Labour education policy.

However, I am unsure that this initiative alone will be enough. Authoritative analysis by Unison has estimated that the council tax freeze has cost £2.5 billion and thousands of job losses in local authorities – this has had a direct impact on every state school in Scotland. Class sizes are rising and Scotland has 4275 fewer teachers. In addition to this, our colleges have been cut and university students from poor backgrounds receive the worst grant in Western Europe.

These cuts have taken place to enable the SNP to deliver populist policies which in many cases have also worsened economic inequality as well as the attainment gap. For example, the council tax freeze gives an annual saving in Band A of  £60, or 0.3% of net household income, compared with £370, or 0.8% of net household income, for Band H residents. This is good news for those living in mansions, but those on low incomes face high costs for everything from school meals to people with learning difficulties being charged for access to day centres.

Let’s get serious about the attainment gap. Let’s tackle educational inequality from pre-school to university. Let’s fund it by having the wealthiest Scots pay a fair share, not cutting service to the vulnerable in Scotland.

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What could the SNP bring to a coalition arrangement with Labour?

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There can be little surprise that Ed Miliband has refused to formally rule out a coalition agreement with the SNP. The real question is what could the SNP bring to such an arrangement?

If they had left open the possibility of working with the Conservatives, then they could perhaps have had a stronger bargaining position. Their current position means they’d have to back Labour or be criticised by the Scottish left for letting the Conservatives back into Downing Street. Ed Milliband would have them over a barrel.

Nonetheless, if the SNP say they hope to influence Labour’s policy agenda, they need to outline what they oppose, what their alternative is and how Scotland would benefit. Simply pretending that the SNP’s mere presence in government would “end austerity economics” is fanciful.