Cowdenbeath by-election: Labour attack on SNP candidate over teacher comments backfires


  By G.A.Ponsonby
The Scottish Labour party has suffered embarrassment after the party’s candidate in a local by-election attacked his SNP opponent claiming she had “no respect” for teachers.
Labour candidate Alex Rowley had highlighted a tweet posted by Natalie McGarry two years ago in which the local charity worker had acknowledged teachers worked hard but suggested she didn’t have to be told about it.

Ms McGarry had tweeted to a teacher: “I know you work hard. I just don’t need to hear about it.”

Rowley, the Labour party candidate in the Cowdenbeath by-election said: “These tweets are a glimpse into what Natalie McGarry really thinks about our public sector workers.

“She clearly has no respect for our hard-working teachers who day in, day out, do their best for our children.”

However, in an embarrassing twist for Mr Rowley, his own party has today announced plans to force teachers to be licensed before they can teach.

Labour’s Shadow Education Secretary Tristram Hunt, has revealed that under new plans being drawn up by Mr Rowley’s party, teachers will be forced to undertake tough new checks on their ability and will be refused a licence and struck off if they fail.

He said: “Veterinary surgeons, accountants, doctors all have to be re-licensed. If we want to re-professionalise the teachers it would be crazy not to do it. If teachers aren’t re-licensed, they won’t be allowed to teach.”

The timing of the Labour announcement is the latest blow to Mr Rowley and his campaign which has already been hampered by comments he gave to a local Labour film crew in 2011 where he signalled his support for an increase in council tax.

In an interview conducted by his own local Labour group, Mr Rowley called for council tax to be increased in order to pay for capital infrastructure.

He said: “My view is you need to spend more money…” he added, “…but local government doesn’t have the money to do so.  One option is that you could put something on the council tax to try and help you do that.”

The Labour candidate also criticised the SNP policy, suggesting that the council tax freeze was damaging local democracy.

However in a bizarre interview with STV earlier this week, the Labour candidate denied ever having called for the council tax to be increased, and claimed to always have been in favour of a freeze.

Alex Rowley told the interviewer he had always supported the council tax freeze and added: “you won’t find me saying introduce a Council Tax rise”.

Responding to her Labour opponent’s claim she had no respect for teachers, Ms McGarry said: “This is desperate stuff from Labour who are clearly trying to whip up a smokescreen around the fact that Alex Rowley’s Labour administration published cuts proposals that could see 300 teachers in Fife lose their job.

“That is what is really concerning parents and teachers in the area. As I myself said, teachers are hardworking and do a good job, so to characterise this as an attack on the profession is simply ludicrous.”