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Sturgeon’s five years of prioritising Indyref2 over education

On the 5th anniversary of Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership of the SNP, the Scottish Conservatives have accused Nicola Sturgeon of concentrating on Indyref2 at the expense of Scottish education.

Nicola Sturgeon became leader of the SNP on the 14th November 2014, and a week later was installed as the Frist Minister of Scotland.

The First Minister immediately stated that education was her number one priority and that she should be judged on her educational record.

The Scottish Conservatives have marked the anniversary by publishing a catalogue of educational decline since 2014 that demonstrates the true state of education under Sturgeon’s stewardship.

The list demonstrates the First Minister’s failures in three key areas of Scottish education; falling higher pass rates, reducing subject choice and a stubborn attainment gap that the First Minister promised to eradicate.


Liz Smith, Scottish Conservative shadow education secretary said:

“Five years ago, Nicola Sturgeon claimed that education was her number one priority and she told us all to judge her on her record.

“The reality is that Nicola Sturgeon has spent 5 years concentrating on Indyref2 and now Scottish pupils have fewer choices, and can't get the grades they need.

“Nicola Sturgeon has failed on education and failed a generation of children and parents.

“The majority of Scots want good schools for their kids, not another divisive independence referendum but Nicola Sturgeon isn’t listening.

“Only voting for the Scottish Conservatives will send a message to the SNP – ‘no more referendums’.”



Notes to editors

The list of Nicola Sturgeon’s failures is below:

SQA results

The Higher pass rate has fallen for four consecutive years.  In 2015, it was 79.2 per cent. By 2019, it was 74.8 per cent.

The Advanced Higher pass rate is at the lowest level in five years. In 2015, it was 80.9 per cent. By 2019, it was 79.4 per cent.

The National 5 pass rate is at the second lowest level in five years. In 2015, it was 79.8 per cent. Last year, it hit a new low of 77.4 per cent and is now at 78.2 per cent.

Source: (SQA, 6 August 2019, link). 

Subject choice

Scottish Government civil servants have confirmed subject choice has reduced from 2012/13 to 2017/18. The civil servant analysis read: ‘A range of data and information confirms that there are, on average, fewer subjects taken by pupils now than was the case prior to the introduction of the new qualifications.’ Civil servants said that on average, school leavers entered 10 subjects in 2012/13 but as of 2017/18, they only entered 8 subjects (Daily Telegraph, 6 November 2019, link).

The number of schools where pupils take fewer than six subjects has more than tripled in five years. Scottish Conservative research found that in 2013, there were 46 schools where S4 pupils took fewer than six subjects. Now, there are 165. In contrast, the number of schools where pupils take seven or more has almost halved in that timeframe, from 308 to 182 (Scottish Conservatives, 13 June 2019, link).  

An expert on subject choice found subject choice had declined at 201 schools since the introduction of the Curriculum for Excellence. Professor Jim Scott of Dundee University said Scottish Conservative data ‘shows that just over 200 schools have declines, or significant declines, in the number of entries whereas just over fifty demonstrate an increase, with only a very few showing a significant increase’ (The Scotsman, 14 June 2019, link). 


Attainment gap

Nicola Sturgeon said in August 2015 that she would ‘close that attainment gap completely’ (The Scotsman, 19 August 2015, link).  

In June this year, John Swinney said closing the attainment gap will take ‘in excess of ten years’ - despite the SNP being in power for 12 years already. Swinney said: ‘we’ve made it very clear that this will take us probably in excess of 10 years to close that poverty-related attainment gap’ (ITV Borders, 25 June 2019, link). 

In September this year, The SNP’s expert education panel said the attainment gap might not close for 15 years. The Scottish Government’s ten-member International Council of Education Advisers said that the attainment gap in Scottish schools might not see a dramatic reduction for at least 15 years (The Scotsman, 23 September 2019, link). 


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