Maree Todd: A Week of Positives at Holyrood

Maree ToddThere have been plenty of positives to focus on at Holyrood in the past couple of weeks, among them the update on Primary 1 assessments following the independent review. This found that the assessments should continue, albeit with important modifications and the establishment of additional guidance and support for practitioners.

As John Swinney said in his statement, we now have a far clearer picture of the views of P1 children and of their teachers to the assessments. The impartial review has confirmed the value of the SNSAs. A constructive action plan for enhancing the assessments, consolidating their value and delivering on their potential has been laid out, and I look forward to playing a part in that.

I also had the pleasure of announcing measures to strengthen the protection of children and vulnerable people, while simplifying the system of applying for criminal record checks.

The Disclosure (Scotland) Bill will make the Protecting Vulnerable Groups (PVG) scheme mandatory for anyone working with children and vulnerable people, such as sports coaches.

This Bill will deliver a fairer disclosure regime that protects our most vulnerable, is simpler for employers and less invasive for the majority of users. Mandatory registration for people carrying out regulated roles with children and protected adults is essential, but we will also ensure that people with minor convictions – particularly crimes committed under the age of 18 – have a better chance to move on and make a contribution to society.

Meanwhile, looking south to Westminster I can’t help but feel general dismay at the Tory leadership contest, where the choice ranges from ‘least worst’ to ‘worst worst’.

Front-runner Boris Johnson – when he bothers to say anything at all – has confirmed himself as clueless about devolution. His stance on Scotland was clear last week as he unveiled plans to cut taxes for higher earners in England, to be paid for by a National Insurance hike across the UK.

After the last Westminster election, the Scottish Tories said they would vote as a block in the House of Commons to protect Scotland’s interests – but there has been no evidence of this so far. They were silent when their bosses handed over £1bn to N Ireland to buy off the DUP – but they simply cannot remain silent in the face of this Boris Tax.

If she is to stick to previous statements – highly questionable in itself– Ruth Davidson should instruct all 13 of her Scottish Tory MPs to vote against any UK budget that includes these outrageous tax plans. However, having seen how none of these MPs has fallen into line behind her backing of Sajid Javid as next Tory leader, nothing is certain. With many of them now backing hard-line Brexiteers such as Johnson and Michael Gove to become Prime Minister, it appears that Ruth Davidson’s powers over her Westminster cohort are on the slide.

Scotland deserves a far more positive future than that promised by remaining in this broken Union, where undermining devolution appears to be the Tory way.

This is a regular column by local MSP Maree Todd, SNP. All list MSPs for the Highlands and Islands have been offered the same space in The Orkney News to share their views.

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