We Can Work It Out

Fiona GrahameBy Fiona Grahame

It’s amazing how far a cow’s neck can stretch when it longs for that succulent mound of grass beyond the confines of its field. The grass is always greener as the old saying goes. But is it? Sometimes yes –  but most often no.

There may be something in the psyche of the Scots  that causes them to seek validation  for how well they are doing from others : be it celebrities or other nations.

And it’s good to look at what other countries are doing and sometimes take on ideas that they have had success with. Developing them in our own way – like the Baby Box for example.

But when it becomes an unquestioning adoration of what another country is doing, which is well and fine for them (perhaps), then  we have a problem with the greener grass syndrome.

Scotland, with its own Parliament, be it limited, is developing along ( some would say a bit too slowly) its own lines. And we should celebrate this not shirk away from our  success.


The Tories don’t like our education system. That’s because it is a comprehensive one, not based on the ability to pay – even up to University and college level.

The original concept of the Curriculum for Excellence was based on existing good practice with assessment for learning, learning through play, outdoor learning, collaborative planning and the removal of standardised tests (at least in the primary school). It wasn’t a new fangled idea thought up from nowhere but the development of what was seen to be working for inclusive schooling.

Unfortunately politicians like tests. They say parents like tests too but that is only because how we value a student’s progress (at any age) is based on an ability to pass a test. So the Curriculum for Excellence which started out as a skills based approach to active learning has been kind of scuppered.

Fear of what the outside might make of us if we don’t live up to the narrow confines of the PISA scores has done perhaps irreparable damage to a curriculum designed in the first instance by those who were delivering it.

Pen and ink cartoon showing a teacher answering a question from a pupil. "Do Orcadians suffer from the Scottish cringe?" She doesn't know the answer but the children's thought bubbles are an Orcadian variation on "too wee, too poor, too stupid".

Credit: Martin Laird

Health, Care and Wellbeing

careDespite the financial constraints facing our health services, medical prescriptions continue to be free. Eye, hearing and dental exams also free.

There’s a huge amount of preventative work done in health care with regular screenings, vaccination programmes, free personal care for the elderly ( to be extended in 2019), and in local communities a variety of activities to keep folk fit and active.

I include in this list the free bus pass, for those who are eligible, as extremely important for the wellbeing of many by reducing isolation and allowing people to socialise without fear of travel costs.

There are also increased numbers being recruited in our health service and funding to facilitate that.

See:Fast Track Midwifery Courses for the Highlands and Islands and Opportunities to Study Nursing with UHI.


Scotland abounds in natural resources for the production of energy. It was once said “Scotland the only country to have discovered oil and got poorer”. There may now be others because where there is oil there is often conflict as it is a valuable diminishing resource for which nations will go to war over. Nevertheless Scotland has a great deal of the black stuff.

wind-turbinePutting the fossil fuels to one side Scotland is also a leader in the production of alternative energy. Although in the 21st C it’s not really alternative – it is essential.

Wind, solar, wave,tidal, hydro – we’ve got it all. We’ve also got the engineers and the skills to develop and build the technology to harness these sources of energy. Investment is the key to this and that takes big money and the courage to see future needs. The creation of a Scottish Investment bank might just go some way to maintain our lead in these areas.

Food and Drink

Quality products, crops that are GM free and extensive fishing grounds. Scotland’s food and drink are world leaders. In Orkney alone our grass fed cattle reach top prices and our sustainably managed shellfish industry produces the finest lobsters, crabs and scallops. The inshore fishing industry is the lifeblood of many island and coastal communities and in return produces the best products of its kind. Today the high standards that our food and drink is produced under is threatened as its protected named status will go when we leave the EU and nothing comparable has been set up to take its place.

The excellent quality of our surf and turf means that it commands a high price. It will not be able to compete if our markets are flooded with cheaper foodstuffs from the US where standards are decidedly lower.


Scotland is developing its own social security system, limited,  but making the most of what it can influence. It is based on respect.

Scottish Parliament FGThe mace that resides in the Scottish Parliament has engraved on it the following words: wisdom, justice, compassion and integrity.

Hard values to live up to but the Scotland of 2018 is trying very hard to do so.

We have a parliament with limited powers and a UK Government which wishes to limit it even further by removing those it already has. This presents significant barriers to the progress we can make if we wish to make our society fairer for all and fit for future generations.

I’m not saying everything is going along swimmingly well but I am saying that progress is being made as we continue to develop a nation with the values encapsulated in the words of the Scottish Mace at its heart.

So by all means have a wee keek at what other nations, regions, communities are doing across the world and what we can learn from them. But have the courage to believe in what we are doing here, in our own wee patch, and the self confidence to continue to develop as a nation.

Time after time, on matters great and small, we are still standing on the sidelines, mutely accepting what is decided elsewhere instead of raising our voices and making our own choices. Scotland’s much vaunted partnership of Jonah and the whale.” Winnie Ewing

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3 replies »

  1. Here’s something……….
    Our neighbours sheep like to stick their heads through the fence and eat the grass on the other side, which is fair enough – nothing wrong with making the most of opportunities presented by what’s around you. But….one of those sheep, did this so much, and pushed so hard to reach further and further to get at what was, in fact, unobtainable, she wore all the wool off her head and neck, and looks mingin’.
    There’s some kind of moral there, somewhere.

  2. This is a great read, especially for an outsider. Scotland’s education system should be the envy of those suffering the turmoil and exclusiveness of the English system. I am sure that Scotland will benefit in the long term if the school system continues to be, as you put it, comprehensive and inclusive. The educational cows in England should be stretching their collective heads back through the fence to learn a thing or two. It may not be perfect, but the future for Scotland’s children is a brighter one.

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