SNP shambles on PE targets

During last week’s FMQs, leader of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland, Nicol Stephen MSP challenged the First Minister to provide clarity on the SNP’s mixed message for physical education targets in schools.

“In March, a Government spin doctor said that the guarantee of two hours of physical education had been dropped, but the First Minister issued a clarification and said that that was not true.

“This week, the Minister for Schools and Skills said that the two-hours target included walking to school, but yesterday the First Minister issued a clarification and said that that was not true. The Scottish National Party manifesto said:

“‘We will ensure that every pupil has 2 hours of quality PE each week delivered by specialist PE teachers.’

“Was any of that true?

“The First Minister seems relaxed about all this. I wonder whether all the radios in Bute House have been confiscated. Has the First Minister not heard what has been going on?

“His promise was made in two parts: not only would two hours of PE be delivered for every child, but those hours would be delivered by specialist PE teachers. The Minister for Schools and Skills, Maureen Watt, was asked on the radio:

‘Good quality. Does that mean specialist teaching?’

“She replied: ‘Well, it needn’t mean specialist teaching.’

“The Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop, was asked on the radio:

“‘You promised that, didn’t you? You said that you will ensure that every pupil has two hours.’

“She replied: ‘I can’t be in every single school detailing the timetabling.’

“That is two ministers over two days each walking away from half of the promise.

“We are fed up with the evasions and contortions, so will the First Minister tell us simply when all children in Scotland will have two hours of PE every week with a qualified PE teacher? That was the SNP promise; when will it be delivered?”

You can read the full exchange by clicking on the headline above.

Perhaps the most telling aspects of Nicol’s intervention at FMQs last week were two fold :

  • Maureen Watt, SNP Schools Minister, despite having obviously been given the “smile at all costs” remit (sitting beside Salmond at FMQs), looked extremely uncomfortable throughout. A Minister totally out of her depth – actually makes Fiona Hyslop look good.
  • When Nicol said “We are fed up with the evasions and contortions” the noises of support for that comment were audible right across the chamber. Salmond’s government never gives a straight answer to a straight question and that point is no longer lost on anyone.
Liberal Democrat Shadow Health Secretary, Ross Finnie MSP, added :

“The SNP is all over the place on physical exercise targets for children …. we discover that the Schools Minister is utterly incapable of expanding on the target. She was unable to give any details about how the two hour target would be delivered during the school day, preferring instead to remind the interviewer that physical education could be delivered before and after the school day.”

Maureen Watt? A pretty hopeless Minister, really.