Nicola Sturgeon faces public humiliation as huge billboard exposes Scots care home horror – Daily Express

Our industry, our plan – Scottish farmers lay down the law on carbon reduction – The Scottish Farmer

CIVIL SERVANTS and politicians returning to work after the Scottish Elections are to be presented with a ready-made plan for the future of the country’s farm policy.

Frustrated by the frosty reception given to the work of the various ‘Farmer-Led Groups’ charged with charting a low-carbon course for Scottish agriculture, NFU Scotland this week appointed its own crack team to bring that body of work together into ‘one coherent single farm plan’.

The idea is to create a farm policy proposal that the entirety of Scottish farming will unite behind – and if any civil servants dare repeat the suggestion that the best route to carbon-cutting would be a mass cull of livestock, the industry will be in a strong position to say a firm ‘no’, and offer their own less apocalyptic solution to the carbon challenge.

NFUS chief executive, Scott Walker, said: “When faced with a massive challenge such as climate change, working together on a solution is the best and only way forward.

“Who, in any government, would not want those tasked with all the heavy lifting to take the lead and also take any flak, for the difficult changes that will be needed?” he asked.

“ScotGov’s farmer-led groups were set up to identify a pathway to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in our industry. They have set a direction that will deliver on Climate Change mitigation, environmental enhancement and maintain farming’s fundamental role of food production.

“That is good for Scottish agriculture and all that it underpins, including jobs, incomes and the economy in Scotland. There was a clear, consistent way forward set and in the case of the suckler beef group, after being given a remit to get a scheme ready to go, it was scuppered at the last minute.

“Proposals from within ScotGov that the way to tackle climate change in agriculture is to cut cow numbers by 300,000 are not just overly simplistic but categorically wrong, a disastrous decision and wholly unacceptable to our industry,” he stressed. “Such an argument shows a lack of vision, ambition and understanding of the interdependency between agricultural sectors.

Drugs worth an estimated street value of £273,000 recovered in Johnstone – RenfrewshireNews

Police Scotland have recovered drugs worth an estimated street value of £273,000 in Johnstone.

Officers executed a search warrant on Thursday morning at a property in John Lang Street as part of an intelligence-led operation.

During a search of the address significant quantities of heroin, cocaine and herbal cannabis were recovered.

A 27-year-old man was arrested and charged in connection with drug offences. He appeared before Paisley Sheriff Court on Friday and a report will be submitted to the Procurator Fiscal.

Detective Sergeant David McIntosh from Paisley CID said: “Drugs have absolutely no place in our community, and as a result of this operation, a significant quantity has been taken off the streets.

“Officers are out working every day to identify those seeking to supply drugs in the area and put a stop to this harmful activity.

“Support from members of the public is absolutely vital to this work and we would continue to encourage people to engage with us and pass on any relevant information.
“Anyone with information or concerns regarding drugs activity in their community can contact Police Scotland through 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.”

‘Flagship’ Scottish Government job retraining programme has helped just half of its target – Daily Record

The Scottish Government has met just half of the target for a “flagship” recruitment programme for retraining workers facing pandemic unemployment.

In October ministers said the newly launched £25million National Transition Training Fund would support up to 6000 people by March 2021.

But figures released by the Scottish Government put that number at 3000.

The release of the information followed an attack by the Scottish Liberal Democrats who claimed figures they had showed the
number who’ve taken up the training programme was much lower at just 573.

The SNP says that 573 figure is wrong.

Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: “This is another broken promise from the SNP. They cannot be trusted to do what they say they will do because they always have their eyes on a different prize.

“Drugs deaths, education attainment and now worker retraining will always have to play second fiddle to another independence referendum.

“Scotland needs a government with a laser-like focus on recovery from the pandemic. The Scottish economy is fragile and precarious. It needs a government that will put recovery first.”

HMS Queen Elizabeth leaves Portsmouth on maiden deployment – BBC

Aircraft carrier HMS Queen Elizabeth has left its home in Portsmouth ahead of its first operational deployment.

The £3bn warship was waved off by crowds who lined the city’s harbour walls on Saturday afternoon.

It will lead the UK’s Carrier Strike Group, which is taking part in an exercise off Scotland before departing for a tour of the Indo-Pacific region.

The ship began sea trials in 2017, having replaced HMS Illustrious which was scrapped in 2014.

It has eight RAF and 10 US Marine Corps F35B stealth fighter jets onboard and will be accompanied to Asia by six Royal Navy ships, a submarine, 14 naval helicopters and a company of Royal Marines.

Earlier, other members of the strike group, destroyers HMS Defender and HMS Diamond, also left the naval base in Hampshire.

They will be joined by US destroyer USS The Sullivans and the Dutch frigate HNLMS Evertsen while carrying out visits to India, Japan, South Korea and Singapore.

Commodore Stephen Moorhouse said: “This is an amazing capability and pulling that all together with our international partners is a real statement that the Royal Navy is very much in the premier league.

“The deployment takes us through the Mediterranean, the Middle East then operating with key partners in the Indo-Pacific just shows the Royal Navy has an ambition to be active on the global stage and operate wherever our politicians may feel fit.”

Colonel Simon Doran, the senior US representative, said the deployment had been in planning for more than 10 years.

“It sends a message to potential adversaries, but also to our allies to reinforce should they ever be needed, we will be there, we generally always fight together so to deploy together really helps strengthen our relationship,” he said.

How the SNP wrecked Scottish education – The Spectator

The politicians aren’t listening to us,’ an exasperated teacher tells me by phone. ‘There’s nothing left for us to do but get on with it.’ The despair felt by Scottish teachers is a notable shift from the anger I encountered in the staffroom when I trained among them five years ago.

That was the year of the ‘PISA shock’, 2015, when Scotland performed abysmally in reading, maths, and science in the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA). Distinguished education professors at top Scottish universities were left reeling. One such academic suggested that the Scottish government had five years to fix the problem. In response, John Swinney, the SNP’s education secretary, promised to implement ‘radical’ and ‘controversial’ reforms. He might have also promised to make matters worse, since that’s what he’s done.

In 2019-2020, the proportion of pupils passing three or more Highers was 43 per cent, lower than any year from 2015 onwards. Audit Scotland, an independent watchdog, concludes that the attainment gap between rich and poor ‘remains wide’ and that progress ‘falls short of the Scottish government’s aims’. Scottish children from poor backgrounds remain significantly less likely than their English counterparts to go to university.

Yet in 2019 Swinney tweeted that the most recent PISA figures (showing a slight ascent from the depths to which literacy had sunk) ‘corroborates what we see elsewhere — improving schools and a closing of the attainment gap’. But where exactly do we see this? Look closely at the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation, the shoogly peg on which the Scottish government hangs such claims, and you quickly find that it is not fit for purpose. For instance, the government reported that in 2019 the highest ever percentage of school leavers (26 per cent) from the most-deprived quintile of areas were going on to university. However, elsewhere the government’s own research indicates that as many as 90 per cent of those on low incomes actually live outside the ‘most deprived’ areas.

‘About half of the decrease in the gap (2+1.5 out of 7) is likely to have been due either to non-disadvantaged people living in deprived areas, or to the stagnation of entry from non-deprived areas,’ writes Lindsay Paterson, professor of education policy at the University of Edinburgh. Professor Paterson goes on to say that the government’s decision to base its policy conclusions on these ‘sleights of hand seems distinctly dubious’.

Distinct dubiety is a hallmark of this government’s education policy. From the beginning, standards have been adapted to fit the curriculum, and not (as it should be) the other way round. For example, when Curriculum for Excellence was introduced in 2010 under Alex Salmond, the SNP withdrew Scotland from two major international maths, science, and literacy surveys: Timss and Pirls. Then, in 2017, the government decided to withdraw from another tried and tested literacy and numeracy survey.

The SNP’s preferred metric is continuous assessment, which they largely make up as they go along. Standard Grades and Intermediates have been replaced with ‘National 4’ and ‘National 5’ and the Scottish Highers have been hollowed out, changing in all but name. To put it mildly, the results fail to impress. Paterson explains that not only do the latest reports indicate that ‘pass rates in the Higher and National 5 assessments have been falling’, but ‘in mathematics, too many students’ numeracy was weak and too many struggled with algebra. In social subjects and in English there was a tendency to mistake opinions for facts, to make sweeping generalisations, and to answer exam questions with regurgitated model essays that had been memorised’.

It was hardly surprising that CfE — dreadful at the best of times — was unable to withstand the pressures of the pandemic. Last summer, Swinney was forced to upgrade some 75,000 high school students’ exam results after the outcry over the Scottish Qualifications Authority’s decision to downgrade pupils’ marks. Cruelly and unusually, teachers had been appointed arbiters of children’s futures, and were instructed to rank order their pupils. Which created entirely foreseeable problems.

Now it would seem that ‘assessment’ is virtually the only form of education that Scottish pupils are guaranteed to get. After Easter, pupils were brought back to the classroom to face a continuous diet of assessments, since the official end-of-year exams have yet again been cancelled. What’s the difference between an ‘assessment’ and an ‘exam’? ‘You tell me,’ one teacher says.

Teachers are deeply concerned about the mental health of pupils under this stress. There are huge holes in pupils’ learning due to the pandemic, but the time away has also exposed the weakness of a system based on teaching children to parrot answers for a test. Many pupils have not been taught how to think, let alone have any general knowledge on which to draw. And while some private schools were able to set up preliminary exams over Zoom with invigilators, pupils at state schools and from poorer backgrounds (or without the same parental support) have had no such advantage.

Meanwhile, teachers are struggling to keep up with the Scottish Qualifications Authority’s continual changes to its 2020-2021 ‘alternative certification model’. As indicated on the SQA’s website, the latest ‘update’ was announced on April 13, maddeningly close to the June 25 deadline to submit materials (though that deadline is also an ‘update’).

Perhaps most scandalous of all is Swinney’s decision not to release the findings of the OECD’s report on Curriculum for Excellence until after the May election. He says this is on account of ‘confidentiality rules’. Who does he think he’s kidding? Education is fully devolved. Scotland’s pupils aren’t guinea pigs. Scotland’s teachers aren’t load-carrying mules. Scotland’s public isn’t stupid. Those responsible for this mess ought to answer for it at the ballot box.