From the cradle to the grave - Inequality and poverty in Scottish education

The first months of 2017 have been dominated by headlines of an attainment gap in education between the richest and poorest children in Scotland. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged education is her top priority amidst concern at falling standards in education overall. While elitist academics and politicians eagerly discuss the riddle of inequality in education, they cannot accept that the answer is rooted in poverty itself.

According to Scottish government statistics, children from wealthier areas outperform children from poorer areas from the moment they begin primary school (The Herald 14 December 2016). Around 90% of children from richer postcodes achieved the standards of reading, writing and numeracy expected of them by teachers. This compares to around 74% of children from the poorest areas. By Primary Seven, around 80% of children from the 20% wealthiest areas achieved the expected Curriculum for Excellence (CfE) standards of writing and numeracy, while almost half of children from the 20% most deprived areas failed to meet these levels.

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SNP pushes for Scottish Referendum 2

On 13 March Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon publicly announced the intention of the Scottish government to prepare for a second independence referendum. The timescale she proposed, between August 2018 and Spring 2019, is aimed to lessen the complications of Scotland’s re-entry into EU membership as an independent state. British Conservative Prime Minister May responded by ruling out another referendum on that timetable, fearing it will undermine the government’s position during the Brexit negotiations. Dominic Mulgrew reports.

While the Scottish government demands its ‘democratic right’ to a referendum, this dispute has nothing to do with democracy. Behind this ‘constitutional crisis’ lies a crisis of the British ruling class and its imperialist position worldwide; whether to side with US or EU imperialism. Moves towards a second independence referendum express the concerns and aspirations of a section of the British ruling class based in Scotland, as Britain heads towards a ‘hard’ Brexit. Masquerading behind nationalism and the interests of ‘the people’, their solutions will come at the expense of the working class and oppressed.

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SNP and Labour unite to impose austerity

sturgeon dugdale

The Scottish National Party and the Labour Party both say they are against austerity without any evidence to support such claims. On the contrary, both parties are putting legality before supporting social services. As an SNP councillor in Angus rural council stated: 'At this stage the only assurance I can give...is that we will deliver a legally balanced budget. I can give no further assurances about services.'

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Scotland – fighting austerity still the key!

dundee against welfare

As Scotland’s poor face another desperate winter forced to choose between heating or eating in order to live, the Scottish National Party (SNP) government’s promises of social justice are wearing thin.

Severe poverty is defined as those living with household income below 50% of UK median income. In 2014/15 this equated to £237 per week before housing costs (£12,358 per year) and £202 per week after housing costs (£10,533 per year). According to the latest statistics for 2014/15 the rates of severe poverty in Scotland stand at 12% of the population (630,000 people) after housing costs (Severe Poverty in Scotland: Communities Analysis report, August 2016). This includes 130,000 children, 10,000 more than the previous year.

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Scotland: Who owns the land?

mipim

Scotland has the ‘most concentrated, most inequitable, most unreformed and most undemocratic land ownership system in the entire developed world’ (Professor James Hunter, The Guardian, 2013). Around 432 families own half the land in Scotland. The Global Justice Now report, Scotland’s land barons and their connections to global capitalism published in August 2016, has shown Scotland’s land system is not simply a ‘feudal relic’ but very much part of a global parasitic capitalism (imperialism) with ‘billionaire oilmen and Emirati princes, mineral conglomerates, London property speculators, online clothing retailers, Swiss bankers, and financiers of every sort’ claiming a stake alongside the Dukes of Buccleuch and Argyll.

Landowners in Scotland are notoriously hard to identify, with almost 750,000 acres of land held through a series of opaque offshore companies. The SNP government has been criticised by land campaigners for giving carte blanche to rich industrialists buying up vast swathes of Scotland’s countryside. Under pressure it has set a target of publicly registering all landowners by 2024. Some landowners have already been exposed by Global Justice Now as having links to colonial style racism through land grabs, exploitation, human rights abuses and environmental destruction:

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