Glasgow local elections; my preferences based on secularism issues

Written for Glasgow, but relevant throughout Scotland. Life goes on at local level, and I urge you to cast your local vote on local issues. Here, for me,* the order of preference is clear, based on my educational and secularist concerns:

Greens > SNP ~ Labour > LibDem >> Conservative

Marble staircase, Glasgow City Chambers (click to enlarge)

My reasons are apparent below.

Under the system used, it is important to list all your preferences (or as pedants point out, all but the last of your preferences) in order

I asked all parties a series of questions saying I would publicise their response or lack of it. SNP replied with specific answers. The Greens referred me to their manifesto. Other parties did not reply at all. I give below SNP replies, and such information regarding the other parties as I could gather from manifestoes and other sources (note that this introduces sampling errors); direct quotations from party sources in red:

Your attitude toward suggestions that Free Schools be set up in Scotland, as they have been in England

SNP response: No. Greens, Labour: No seems to me implicit in support for role of Local Authorities in education. LibDems manifesto: Decentralise more powers to schools, working with parents, to take decisions over the mix of staff, ethos and local priorities  … support the continued role of local authorities to set standards and strategy, and provide supporting services. The word “ethos”, in this context, concerns me.

Conservatives via manifesto: We recognise and celebrate the many achievements of Scotland’s schools, including the very dedicated commitment from teachers. However, reform is needed and we will continue to make the case for an educational system based on diversity in schools, autonomy for school leaders and a focus on basic literacy and numeracy. We remain supportive of introducing a range of schools run outside of council control, where there is demand, but also want to see powers devolved to school leaders in the existing model. If there are state schools which wish to be autonomous in controlling budgets, recruitment policies or school management, they should be permitted to do so. [Emphasis in original]

In England, this has meant more religion-based schools, to the point where in many areas it is impossible to find a non-faith publicly funded school, as well as schools run by a range of largely unaccountable private organisations. The “Free Schools” are devoid of democratic control, but paid for by local taxation, and are exempt from teacher training requirements (this is what is meant by “autonomous in… recruitment policies”). The “focus on basic literacy and numeracy” is a dogmatic imposition on the teaching profession, at odds with the lipservice to autonomy. For me, this is sufficient reason to place every other party candidate ahead of Conservatives.

The teaching of evolution and creationism in schools

SNP response: The Curriculum for Excellence does not allow for Creationism to be taught as a topic in science classes. We support this position for our schools. [This matches official guidance, which does however leave a potential loophole for Creationism to be taught as valid in non-science classes.] Greens: not in manifesto, but known to be strongly against Creationism.

The presence on education committees of Church nominees not answerable to the electorate (Currently, Glasgow’s Children and Young People Policy Development Committee, whose remit includes education, has at the time of writing one co-opted faith representative, one youth representative, and two parent representatives)

SNP response: This is a statutory requirement on education authorities. [This is correct. Change would require legislation at Holyrood. Greens are known to support such change. Other parties are probably split on this issue.] We will reform Council committees to include other interest groups, such as educationalists, trade unions and parent groups.

I could find no information on this issue in the manifestoes, but since this is formally a central government issue, that is not surprising.

Inclusive sex education including realistic education regarding contraception

SNP response: We believe that young people should be provided with open, honest and practical information on sex education and sexual health. Manifesto states: We are committed to working with LGBT Youth Scotland and to supporting the TIE campaign to combat homophobia, biphobia and transphobia with inclusive education.

Green manifesto: Campaign for inclusive, consent-based sex education, and increased training for teachers to tackle homophobic, biphobic and transphobic bullying.

Labour manifesto: [We have] put discussion of LGBTI issues into Glasgow’s schools.

Links to manifestoes: Conservative here, Greens here, Labour here, LibDem here, SNP here. I could not find (would welcome links to) Glasgow-specific Conservative and LibDem manifestos, so have used Scotland-wide manifestoes instead.

Staircase image Maccoinnich~commonswiki via Wikipedia

*As an individual. I do not speak here for any organisation that I belong to. I also know that my information is incomplete, and would be happy to learn more.

About Paul Braterman

Science writer, former chemistry professor; committee member British Centre for Science Education; board member and science adviser Scottish Secular Society; former member editorial board, Origins of Life, and associate, NASA Astrobiology Insitute; first popsci book, From Stars to Stalagmites 2012

Posted on April 27, 2017, in Creationism, Education, Politics, Scotland and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on Patrick Mackie and commented:
    Here’s some good information for Scottish electors casting their votes in next week’s local council elections. If you’re interested in seeing which parties take a positive position on secularity in society, Paul’s article is essential reading.


  1. Pingback: Glasgow local elections; my preferences based on secularism issues | Primate’s Progress | Scottish Secular Society

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