Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Hyslop puts a brave face on demotion

Just finished doorstepping Fiona Hyslop, who was sacked by Alex Salmond this morning as Education Secretary. She caught the first plane south to Westminster to sit on a joint committee as the SNP’s new Culture and External Affairs Secretary.

She put a brave face on her situation, portraying it as a "regrouping" of the minority SNP government rather than a demotion.

Importantly Ms Hyslop pledged her continued loyalty to the First Minister, so we conclude she won’t be any immediate trouble to him. "We’re a tight integrated team and the First Minister has kept me in his cabinet to support him personally and that is what I am going to do," she said.

"I was very pleased that I had the support of Alex Salmond and my cabinet colleagues in saying we had to re-appraise where we were with education policy. It’s a new stage and it’s correct that a new minister takes that forward."

She added: "We’re a minority government, we have to re-group, and it allows me to pursue many of the constitutional issues as I have just done at the joint ministerial committee today. On day one I am here at Westminster and we have already made progress in pursuing Scottish interests."

She denied that she had been sacked. "I haven’t. I have been appointed to a new position. The important thing is that as a minority government we have to take what comes. We’re celebrating the publication of our white paper on independence but when things develop we have to move quickly and it gives Mike an opportunity as Education Secretary to take on some of the interests we identified on Friday."

Ms Hyslop put the blame for the failure to deliver on the flagship policy of reducing class sizes firmly at the doorsteps of local authorities. "If we are going to re appraise where we are in relation to local government and its ability, or currently inability, to deliver on national policy then it’s right that a new minister takes that forward. I think that’s the right thing to do."

She added: "We have had major achievements in education - we introduced free education for university students, a package moving from loans to grants for many students and a revolutionary approach to early years. I’ve launched the major driver and the biggest transformational change in education for a generation with curriculum for excellence. I’m very satisfied with the support I’ve had a cross the sector."

If I were her, I’d be secretly happy. The SNP education promises were always over-ambitious and the culture brief is surely the most fun that can be had as a Minister in a Scottish government if part of the brief is to hang out with artists, go to the opera and attend Celtic Connections.

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