John Swinney at FMQs: New first minister vows to be ‘straight with the public’ as he dodges question on boosting teacher numbers | UK News

Scotland’s new first minister vowed to be “straight with the public” while he dodged answering a question on a previous promise to boost teacher numbers by 3,500 in this parliament.

John Swinney led First Minister’s Questions for the first time in the top job after taking office this week.

Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross kicked things off by highlighting a protest held in Glasgow on Wednesday over cuts to teacher numbers in the city.

He said 100 teachers have already gone, with that projected to rise to 450.

Mr Ross claimed there are 250 fewer teachers across the country than two years ago.

He said: “Across Scotland, teacher numbers have declined for two years running and a new Scottish government report published this week suggests that the SNP may abandon their manifesto pledge to increase teacher numbers by 3,500.

“The first minister made that promise when he was education secretary.

“So, will he be honest with pupils, parents and teachers today? Is he going to stick to his promise to increase teacher numbers by 3,500 in this parliament?”

First Minister John Swinney with his deputy Kate Forbes. Pic: PA

Mr Swinney stated that the teacher number commitments were given in “good faith” as he vowed to work with councils to deliver them.

He explained that public finances are under pressure due to inflation and the “persistence of austerity” from the UK government.

Mr Swinney said: “But I assure Mr Ross and parents, most importantly in the city of Glasgow and around the country, of the government’s commitment to sustained investment in education and to maximise the investment we can make available.”

Mr Ross – putting the question to Mr Swinney four times – noted that the first minister failed to clearly answer whether he will keep his pledge of increasing teacher numbers by 3,500 this parliament term.

Mr Ross said: “We were supposed to have a different style of politics, but it sounds like the excuses are the same as we’ve had before.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross arrives for the debate on a motion of no confidence in the Scottish Government, at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh. Picture date: Wednesday May 1, 2024.
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross. Pic: PA

The Scottish Tory leader branded Mr Swinney’s record in education as “one of broken promises”.

Mr Ross said: “He introduced a flagship education bill that could have improved standards – then he abandoned it.

“He promised a free laptop to every child – that never happened.

“Three years ago, the SNP said that Education Scotland would be reformed – nothing happened.

“The government he served in promised the SQA would be replaced – it is still there.”

Follow Sky News on WhatsApp
Follow Sky News on WhatsApp

Keep up with all the latest news from the UK and around the world by following Sky News

Tap here

Mr Ross claimed the first minister was “not being straight with the public” and urged him to “be “honest and “give a straight answer”.

Mr Swinney insisted teacher numbers rose while he was education secretary, as he listed some of the achievements made by his government – including the “transformation of the educational estate in Scotland” and £145m to support the recruitment of teachers.

The first minister stated: “But on the question of the commitment to 3,500 teachers, I want to be absolutely clear with people in Scotland today.

“We face very significant financial pressures in Scotland in our public finances.”

Read more:
Swinney unveils cabinet as Forbes becomes deputy

Swinney axes minister for independence role

First Minister John Swinney outside Bute House with his newly appointed cabinet. Pic: Reuters/Lesley Martin
First Minister John Swinney outside Bute House with his newly appointed cabinet. Pic: Reuters/Lesley Martin

He said that his government will “take forward its programme within the resources that are available to us”.

Mr Swinney added: “But I have to make clear to people, to be straight with the public, which I will be, that public finances are under enormous pressure and we will set out our commitments as we take our budget decisions.”

The first minister highlighted how he’s only been in his new role for less than 48 hours.

He said with parliament he will be “straight about the challenges that we face”, adding: “But I’ll also be straight with the people of Scotland about the successes that this government has delivered and which we are very proud of.”

First Minister of Scotland John Swinney and Deputy First Minister of Scotland Kate Forbes, speak to the media at the Scottish Parliament in Holyrood, Edinburgh, following Mr Swinney's debut at First Minister's Questions. Picture date: Thursday May 9, 2024.
Mr Swinney and Ms Forbes speaking to journalists after FMQs on Thursday. Pic: PA

Following FMQs, new Deputy First Minister Kate Forbes vowed to “progress” the rights of all communities in Scotland after the Scottish Greens urged Mr Swinney not to adopt the “repressive values of the 1950s”.

Ms Forbes was criticised by Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie for her views on LGBT rights, gay marriage and abortion.

Mr Harvie raised concerns that the “second most powerful job” in the Scottish government had been given to someone “who has opposed LGBT people’s legal equality, expressed judgemental attitudes to abortion, and who has expressed the view that people who have families without being married are doing something wrong“.

He asked: “Is this the Scottish government’s vision for the future of Scotland – taking us back to the repressive values of the 1950s?”

Mr Swinney defended Ms Forbes and insisted his minority SNP government would be a “moderate left of centre” administration.

Ms Forbes, a member of the Free Church of Scotland, later said: “I am here to support the first minister and together we serve all communities in Scotland as we further and progress the rights of every community in Scotland, and I look forward to doing my part in achieving the government’s aims in that regard.

“Not just that, but when I joined government yesterday in a clear role to support the first minister, I signed up to collective responsibility, so I stand by the government’s decisions and agenda to improve and progress the rights of all of Scotland’s communities.”


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

GreenLeaf Tw2sl