FMQs Review: Measuring childcare provision

Access to childcare and a contest of differing statistics dominated FMQs this week. Armed with today’s report from the Family & Childcare Trust that states that fewer than one in six Scottish Local Authority areas have enough childcare capacity to meet the needs of working parents, Kezia Dugdale sought to embarrass the First Minister over the Government’s flagship policy.

Dugdale pushed the First Minister to admit that despite the rhetoric from her government, the childcare situation for working parents in Scotland is worsening on her watch. Dugdale continually referred back to today’s report firing stats at the First Minister and questioning whether the Government was happy with the report’s findings given only 15% (down from 23% in 2013) of Scottish Local Authorities have enough childcare provision compared to 43% in England.

In response, the First Minister sought to be consensual at first before becoming visibly riled over Dugdale’s assertion that she is failing families in Glasgow. Beginning with the consensual, Sturgeon agreed that the situation wasn’t what her government wants. As such, she highlighted that the SNP would seek to increase the level of childcare provision to 30 hours for 3 and 4 year olds if re-elected in 2016.  She also highlighted that despite the report’s findings, entitlement has increased by 45% since 2007, which, in her opinion, should be acknowledged by all sides of the chamber as a success.

Having listened to Dugdale accuse her of failing families in Glasgow, Sturgeon hit back strongly through stating that only Scottish Labour could fail to see the success of this policy, before quipping that maybe the chamber shouldn’t be overly surprised given the party’s loose grasp of maths this week. She then finished by stating that her government “has delivered on childcare and will continue to do so.”

Ruth Davidson sought to get the First Minister to agree to release a primary school in East Dunbartonshire from local authority control. As a proponent of the free schools model being deployed in England, Davidson questioned whether the Scottish Government would, in accordance with the parents’ wishes, allow the school to be transferred away from the local authority and into a trust. This comes on the back of the First Minister stating in December that she would listen with an open mind to any suggestion that would improve Scotland’s education system.

Sturgeon agreed to meet with the parents, listen to their concerns, and if required explain to them why she would not allow any possibly transfer. However, she refused Davidson’s request for a ‘Parents Power’ law, which would enable such transfers to occur. She finished with a bit of petty political point scoring by pointing out that the local council in question in this case is Tory run.

Finally, Willie Rennie continued to badger the First Minister over the issue of Police Scotland’s stop and search policy regarding under 12’s. He pointed to the fact that the Police had told the Parliament that the practice had stopped, but it hadn’t; and that the Police had claimed the numbers were wrong, but they weren’t. He asked the First Minister what her opinion of this lack of truth from the Police was.

Sturgeon, largely ignored his question. She instead pointed out that Police Scotland will be appearing in front of the Parliament’s Justice Committee this afternoon and that the Police retain her complete confidence.

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