SCHOOLS: The educational impact of the pandemic has been enormous.

Scottish LibDem leader Willie Rennie says pupils should not go back until they are vaccinated.

By Lucy Ashton

Covid testing should be available to pupils and teachers before anyone returns to the classroom, according to LibDem leader Willie Rennie.

Responding to the First Minister’s statement on schools returning, said: ““Despite the best efforts of hardworking teachers and pupils, the educational impact of the pandemic has been enormous.

“If the data is now saying that it is possible to safely relax the rules in a limited number of areas, it is right for the First Minister to prioritise schools.

“However, that must not come at the expense of the safety of teachers and other school staff.

“Ministers must have regular asymptomatic testing for teachers and senior pupils in place, not just once schools return but before, so that everyone who walks into a classroom next week can be confident that they are safe.

“We also need the First Minister to beef up the testing and tracing system. In South Korea and Taiwan, their contact tracing system is able to track down super-spreaders and crush outbreaks before they can spread further.

“That is the level of precision and effectiveness that we should be aiming for.”

Speaking after he pressed the Scottish Finance Secretary Katie Forbes over additional funds for mental health, business support and local authorities, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said:

“Scottish Liberal Democrats will negotiate the budget constructively and seriously. The Finance Secretary knows that our priority is to put the recovery first.

“That means cutting mental health waits, tackling the impact of the pandemic on education and ensuring that the Governments tackles the budget shortfalls identified by local authorities.

“Ministers need to make sure that these challenges are being addressed as a matter of urgency. We know the Scottish Government has money to spend, now they must ensure that it is getting to those who need it.

“This budget needs to have a needle-sharp focus on the recovery, ensuring that everyone can live in a Scotland that is fair, generous and green.

“A single penny spent on preparing Scotland for another independence referendum is a penny denied to these vital services. “

He added:  “Even supporters of independence and those thinking about it know that another referendum is not the immediate priority from our country. We should put recovery first.”

“The public will be absolutely baffled that in the middle of a pandemic the SNP are still pushing ahead with an independence bill.

“Where is the bill to ensure that mental health issues are treated as seriously as physical health? Where is the bill to support pupils, who will need extra educational help to recover from the pandemic?”

“The SNP should put recovery first, not their misguided obsession with independence.”

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