Of FMQ ques­tions there were plenty but an­swers came there none

The Herald - - POLITICS - TOM GOR­DON

SCAN­DALS – you wait ages for one to come along, and then two ar­rive at once.

Well, in the ac­cusatory eyes of Nicola Stur­geon and Ruth David­son at FMQS they do.

The Scottish Tory leader was con­vinced there was a scan­dal in sec­ondary ed­u­ca­tion. Pupils were be­ing de­nied a de­cent range of ex­ams to fail, she told the First Min­is­ter. What gives?

Like the stu­dent who comes with a pre-pre­pared es­say to write re­gard­less of the test, Ms Stur­geon be­gan reel­ing off stats about some­thing else en­tirely.

“I don’t know whether Ruth David­son is talk­ing specif­i­cally about Ad­vanced Highers (she wasn’t) but the num­ber of young peo­ple leav­ing our schools with them is in­creas­ing,” she mused.

Eh no, frowned Ms David­son, I’m talk­ing about sub­ject choice get­ting nar­rower, and the poorer your post­code, the nar­rower the choice. Ms Stur­geon can­tered off on an­other ami­able tan­gent.

“I am talk­ing about sub­ject choice!” gri­maced Ms David­son, not­ing 70 per cent of schools in the posh­est bits of­fered 12 or more ex­ams, but just 11% did in the most de­prived ar­eas.

Tsk, tsk, what re­ally mat­tered, sighed the FM, was the rising num­ber of exam passes among the poor, not what they passed.

Or to para­phrase Henry Ford: You can sit any sub­ject you like so long as it’s wood­work.

Ms David­son had had a gut­ful. “There’s a scan­dal go­ing on in sec­ondary schools right now,” she ex­ploded. “The Gov­ern­ment is cur­tail­ing the choice of our young peo­ple to purse the same broad-based ed­u­ca­tion as the First Min­is­ter en­joyed.” Ms Stur­geon showed the fruits of that ed­u­ca­tion with a first-rate dis­trac­tion.

“There has in­deed been a scan­dal in Scottish pol­i­tics this week. It in­volved the res­ig­na­tion of one of Ruth David­son’s front benchers,” she crowed.

This was a dig at North East farmer and some­time MSP Peter Chap­man, who had lob­bied coun­cil­lors on a plan­ning case with­out men­tion­ing his £50,000 stake in the group be­hind it. An easy de­tail to forget.

Nat back­benchers loved it. I swear I could hear a fa­mil­iar re­frain drift­ing up to the gallery. “Peter Chap­man loved to lobby, E-I-E-I-O. With a phone call here, and a phone call there…”

Tory MSPS howled in an­guish. “Shame­ful,” they cried, mean­ing Ms Stur­geon’s at­tack, not Mr Chap­man’s murky shenani­gans.

A telling choice which surely made scan­dal num­ber three.

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