Only a Yes vote offers the powers to protect Scotland’s valued education system from future Westminster budget cuts, a new pro-independence group has said.
Teachers for Yes, which includes Labour party members, has become the newest addition to the ever-growing Yes Scotland movement.
Launched with more than 500 teachers, the campaign group said only independence offers Scotland the ability to give future generations the best start in life. It also predicts it will double its membership in the coming days.
The group has published an ‘education guarantee’ that proposes to enshrine education and employment rights in a written constitution as well as an increase in investment and resources for schools.
In the guarantee Teachers for Yes say an independent Scotland will:
– Take full control of Scotland’s budget and prioritise education;
– Transform childcare provision for every child;
– Increase investment and resources in schools;
– Use new powers over taxation and welfare to tackle poverty and boost life chances;
– Enshrine education and employment rights in a written constitution.
Each teacher also signed a declaration statement which spells out why independence is the way forward.
The declaration says: “As teachers, we believe that the scandal of child poverty in one of the world’s richest nations shows that Westminster isn’t working.
“A child in poverty is a child that has yet more barriers to learning. With the full powers of taxation and the control of our welfare system which Independence will bring, we believe that Scotland will be much better placed to tackle poverty, improve attainment and increase equality of opportunity.”
Welcoming the launch of Teachers for Yes, Minister for Children and Young People, Aileen Campbell highlighted the different spending priorities of the UK and Scottish Governments.
Ms Campbell said: “The strikingly different policies pursued by the Holyrood and Westminster Governments illustrate divergent visions. In Scotland, there remains widespread support for a comprehensive system based on fairness and equality of opportunity, in stark contrast to the ideology-driven market-based approach being pursued in England.
“With a ‘Yes’ vote, we’ll be best placed to protect and invest in our public services. Instead of wasting millions of pounds on nuclear weapons we can choose to invest in our education instead.”
Some of the group’s members expressed their appreciation that education was devolved to the Scottish Parliament; however, they stressed the importance of Holyrood being able to set its own budget.
Matthew Wilson, English Teacher in Leith said: “Westminster’s cutbacks are having a direct impact on Scotland’s classrooms. Devolution has been good for Scotland, yet it cannot shield our education system from the damaging effects of Westminster governance and its knock-on financial effects through continued austerity. With Yes we can choose to increase funding to education – from building and refurbishing more schools to ensuring we maintain free higher education.’
Labour party member and Modern Studies teacher John Paul Tonner in the West of Scotland said: “If we’re serious about being custodians of education we need to challenge the dependency and insecurity created by the Barnett Formula.
“Education may be devolved, but it’s Westminster that calls the shots on the size of Scotland’s budget. Only with a Yes vote can we be in control of our finances and choose to prioritise education.
“How can we teach our children to be effective contributors if we don’t have a Scotland we can all contribute to? How can we safeguard our profession if the main mechanism for its funding is is located in Westminster?”
Pauline Brown, Primary Teacher in Dundee added: “I’ve seen how poverty affects children’s ability to learn. A hungry child is a child that has yet more barriers to learning – surely that is scandalous in one of the world’s wealthiest nations.
“With the full powers of taxation and the control of our welfare system, Scotland will be much better placed to tackle poverty, improve attainment and increase equality of opportunity. How can we talk of opportunities for all when we live in a society for the elite few?”
Margaret Rankine, Primary teacher in Ellon, Aberdeenshire highlighted the issue of childcare, and said: “The childcare pledge will transform children’s lives especially those from the poorest families – empowering parents, especially women, to take up worthwhile and secure employment. We need to do everything we can to give future generations the best start in life.”
With less than six weeks to go, Yes Scotland has been emphasising the opportunity offered with a Yes vote and how Scotland’s great wealth and resources can safeguard valued public services if the Scottish Parliament is given the full range of economic powers.
Toni Giugliano, Yes Scotland’s sectoral groups advisor said: “Teachers for Yes is the latest sectoral group to join the ever-growing Yes movement of over 40 organisations.
“Like healthcare, education in Scotland is a right and not a privilege, but only if we’re in control of our finances can we protect what is important to us.
“A No vote is a serious threat to our public services and the funding that enables us to guarantee free education.”