SNP concede they “must do better” on schooling says Scottish Conservative MSP

Highlands and Islands MSP Donald Cameron has forced SNP education minister John Swinney to admit that performance levels in schools in Highland need to improve.

Mr Cameron put the Education Secretary on the spot during a debate in the Scottish Parliament (on Wednesday 18th December) when he confronted Mr Swinney with figures which showed only 60% of Primary 7 pupils have reached the expected level for writing and just 62% for numeracy.

In his reply to Mr Cameron, Mr Swinney admitted that: “He (Mr Cameron) is quite right that performance levels in Highland schools need to improve.”

The Scottish Conservative MSP said: “These statistics make a mockery of Nicola Sturgeon’s claim that education is her top priority.

“This news follows hard on the heels of the embarrassing withdrawal of the SNP’s Education Bill, and the publication of the PISA report on schooling which shows how far behind other countries Scotland has fallen under the SNP."

“There is no excuse for this. Our young people are not gaining the essential knowledge they need to fulfil their potential."

“The SNP have run Scotland's schools for over 12 years now: they simply must do better when it comes to education.”

HCUA Comment: 

You would think from Swinney's condescending comments that the SNP had only just taken charge of education in Scotland, and inherited a disaster. 

You would think from Swinney's breathtaking arrogance that the act of collecting data that exposes the extent of that disaster was some kind of triumph for the SNP.

But the SNP has been running education in Scotland for over 12 years, and the disaster that is continuing to unfold in our education system - a disaster that is ruining the lives and life chances of an entire generation of our children - is one that the SNP created and is doing nothing to stop.

It is time to stop the lies.  It is time for the failing SNP to admit that it is responsible for the disaster in Scottish education.

Swinney is a failing minister of a failing SNP that runs a failing and incompetent government that is failing Scotland and all our children.


The exchange between Mr Cameron and John Swinney in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday 18th December went as follows:

Support for Learning (Highlands and Islands)

·         8. Donald Cameron (Highlands and Islands) (Con): 

To ask the Scottish Government what action it is taking to support pupil learning in the Highlands and Islands region. (S5O-03924)

·         The Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills (John Swinney): 

The Scottish Government is undertaking a range of actions to support pupil learning in the Highlands and Islands. In 2019-20, schools in the four Highlands and Islands authorities together received a total of more than £4 million in pupil equity funding.

In the same year, the Highland Council received more than £900,000 from the Gaelic specific grant to help meet the costs of Gaelic education. Highland Council is also in receipt of £4 million in capital funding to support the building of the new Gaelic school in the Inverness area. In 2018-19, around £750,000 of Scottish Government funding was used by the northern alliance regional improvement collaborative to support educational improvement across the alliance region, including in the Highlands and Islands.

·         The Deputy Presiding Officer: 

I ask Donald Cameron to please be brief.

·         Donald Cameron: 

New figures that were published by the Scottish Government show that teachers in the Highland Council region have reported that only 60 per cent of pupils in primary 7 have reached the expected level for writing, and only 62 percent have reached it for numeracy. Does the Deputy First Minister accept that those figures are totally unacceptable, and what will his Government do specifically for primary 7 children in the Highland Council region?

·         John Swinney: 

As a consequence of the extensive data that the Scottish Government has collected—which totally contradicts the silly first question that was asked by Mr Burnett—we are now able to have the discussion on the subject that Mr Cameron has raised. He is quite right that performance levels in Highland schools need to improve. That is why the Government puts in place financial support for the northern alliance to assist in building and improving educational performance. It is because of the data that we have put in place that we know where the challenges are and we can support schools to improve their performance levels—that is exactly what the Scottish Government is going to do.