Thank you for contacting me about the teacher strikes.
I recognise the huge importance of the work teachers do. The education of future generations is vital to the success of this country. I know the last thing teachers want is to be on strike over pay and as a result unable to educate our children and young people.
As you will be well aware, the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) teaching union is currently in the midst of strike action until at least the 21st April.
On the 15th of February the EIS unanimously rejected the SNP latest pay offer branding it ‘inadequate’ and unacceptable’.
The lack of urgency on the part of the SNP Education Secretary to resolve this dispute is stark and the continuing disruption is a damning legacy of a party who claim education is their top priority.
Already, Scottish pupils and parents have had to deal with rescheduled preliminary exams and now face additional disruption because of the SNP’s failure to reach a deal with the teachers’ union. Over the last 16 years the SNP have run down Scotland’s education system and it is clear that teachers now have had enough.
I do not want to see the education of children and young people further disrupted and I urge the SNP Government to recognise the hard work teachers put in, fully engage in negotiations and propose a fair pay offer to teachers so these strikes can end and get teachers back to teaching.
Gender recognition reform Bill
Thank you for contacting me regarding the SNP Government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill.
The Scottish Conservatives recognise that improvements to the system of gender recognition would be beneficial for trans people. Now that the SNP Government have published their Bill we will constructively scrutinise proposals that may help to make the system and process easier.
However, as drafted, the proposals do not protect women’s rights and they do not offer enough protection for women’s safety. Women have raised legitimate and reasonable concerns about sections of this bill and it is essential that the SNP Government both listens to and addresses those concerns.
Improving the process for transgender people must not come at the expense of women’s rights and safety.
Thank you once again for taking the time to contact me on this issue.
Energy Charter Treaty and the threat to a just transition
As you will be aware, the ECT, which is the largest international agreement of its kind, continues to play a crucial role in promoting investment in the energy sector and fostering international cooperation on energy, including in the development of renewable energy worldwide.
For the last two years, those party to the ECT have been negotiating its modernisation to ensure that it is aligned with common climate objectives. I am encouraged by the announcement, on 24 June 2022, of an agreement to this end.
It is important to note that, as of today, the UK has never faced an investor-state dispute under the ECT that has proceeded arbitration. However, the new terms of the Treaty, due to be signed in 2022, will limit costly legal challenges from fossil fuel investors in the UK, reducing the risk to British taxpayers and ensuring the benefits of the ECT remain.
Furthermore, the modernised treaty will protect the UK Government’s sovereign right to change its own energy systems to reach emissions reductions targets in line with the Paris Agreement. It has a stronger climate focus, clarifying that states can regulate to reach emissions reductions targets, and includes new protections for green and low-carbon technologies.
The UK tabled terms which mean new investments in all types of fossil fuels lose protection under the ECT following entry into force. Existing investments in fossil fuels will lose protection under the ECT ten years after entry into force of the modernised treaty, except for existing investments in coal which would lose protection from 1 October 2024. This position includes some exceptions for abated gas, which will play a key role in the UK’s net zero transition.
Buffer zones around abortion clinics
Thank you for getting in touch with me about buffer zones around abortion clinics.
I understand that the Scottish Government is currently considering taking forward legislation to introduce anti-protest or buffer zones around abortion clinics. Gillian Mackay has also said that she will bring forward a Member’s Bill on this issue if the government does not do so.
Abortion clinics are an essential legal medical service. No women should feel that they are being stigmatised against and discouraged from accessing abortion services.
As such, I will engage constructively with any proposals that are brought forward by either the government or an individual MSP to enhance protections for women who are accessing these services.
While I acknowledge that there is a right to protest, this must not come at the expense of women’s health and their right to access medical services free of prejudice.
Political bias in the classroom
Thank you for contacting me regarding the political bias in the classroom.
The Scottish Conservatives fully support unbiased political education in our schools. Our pupils are the future of our country, so it is critical that they gain a solid understanding of a wide range of political beliefs and current issues.
Teachers have an obligation to be objective and professional when distributing information, with the purpose of stimulating discussion and independent thought. Pupils must be exposed to all sides of an argument in order to have a well-formed opinion and to further develop their own ideas, but at no time should that cross over into the expression of politically partisan opinions where they are held by any individual teacher.
Unfortunately, pro-SNP material seeping into our classrooms is not a new trend. Recently, an S1 Modern Studies class was given a 34-page booklet and urged to come to their own conclusions about issues including independence. This contained 16 pictures of the First Minister and other SNP politicians and shows two completed ballot papers with the boxes ticked for pro-independence parties. There was only one picture of a Labour MSP and logo, and no mention of the Scottish Conservatives. On another occasion, an S3 Modern Studies class, were asked to compile a list of Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘important policies.’ Pupils were given ‘useful’ links, one of which goes to the SNP’s website. After listing the achievements, it concludes: ‘If you haven’t yet, join the SNP today to help secure independence…’ However, the SNP Government seem unconcerned about addressing the problem.
Parents should have the opportunity to raise with the headteacher any concerns they have over perceived bias.