MSPs are busy debating the Scottish Government’s latest Programme for Government, which sets out what the SNP administration aims to achieve in 2015/16.
Education has bagged most of the headlines, with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announcing a new system of national testing for Scotland’s primary schools.
The nationalists first came to power – in the form a minority government – more than eight years ago.
Surely that’s plenty of time to have made good on all the promises the party made to voters before the 2007 Scottish Parliament election? Not quite everything.
While a range of targets, including delivering 1,000 more police officers and 30,000 affordable homes, have been achieved, the SNP has failed to meet several of its key historic pledges.
The SNP’s 2007 manifesto contained commitments to cut class sizes and maintain teacher numbers – promises long since abandoned.
The number of school-based teachers in Scotland has actually fallen year-on-year since 2007:
The specific promise to make sure pupils were taught in classes of 18 or less for the first three years of primary school proved impossible to meet.
Scottish government figures show that primary classes are bigger now than in 2007:
The 2007 manifesto also pledged to increase free nursery education for 3 and 4-year-olds from 400 hours to 600 hours a year.
That did actually happen – but not until August 2014.
And a study by the Family and Childcare Trust this year found that only 15 per cent of councils had the capacity to deliver childcare for parents who work full-time.
Nevertheless, yesterday’s programme for government said the Scottish government wants to increase the entitlement to 1,140 hours a year by 2020.
In 2007 the SNP promised to replace student loans with means-tested grants, and even said the Scottish government would pay off the debts of Scottish graduates.
Neither of these things happened.
In 2008 Holyrood voted to restore free higher education for Scottish-domiciled students, in contrast to the tuition fees paid by their peers in England.
But this 2014 University of Edinburgh report found that, even in the absence of tuition fees, Scottish students on low incomes can expect to graduate with as much debt as those from the rest of the UK.
It said: “From 2013-14, there have been significant reductions in grant and a considerable increase in the use of student loans to support living costs in Scotland.
“Scotland is unique in having a system which assigns the highest student debt to those from the lowest income homes, due to its much lower use of student grant.”
Scrap council tax
The SNP wanted to do away with council tax in 2007, but the plan was dropped in 2009 after failing to win the backing of enough MSPs.
Interestingly, this is one idea that refuses to die.
This week’s Programme for Government document confirms that a commission set up to look into alternatives to the council tax is due to report in the autumn.