ELECTION: HOW THE PARTY LEADERS FARED IN TRUTH TESTS

Ferret Fact Service | Scotland's impartial fact check project

Willie Rennie, Douglas Ross, Anas Sarwar and Patrick Harvie.

By Bill Heaney

Who can you trust when it comes to the party leaders in the upcoming Scottish Parliament election on May 6?

The second debate between leaders of Scotland’s main political parties took place just weeks before Scots cast their ballots in the Scottish Parliament elections.

The televised debate on 13 April featured Nicola Sturgeon, Douglas Ross, Anas Sarwar, Patrick Harvie and Willie Rennie, making their pitches and questioning each other’s records and previous promises to the electorate.

The claims looked at by Ferret Fact Service related to education, health and employment and, as we all know, in politics as in life in general, there are statistics, half truths and downright lies.

The First Minister’s claim that the government has employed 3,000 more teachers during the lifetime of this parliament is based on figures published in December 2020 by the Scottish Government and is only half true.

Douglas Ross’s claim that we’ve seen, since the SNP got into power, 1700 fewer teachers in Scotland was also half true.

The Scottish Conservatives leader attacked the SNP’s education record, citing the number of teachers employed by the SNP, but coming to a very different figure.

However, the Scottish Conservatives may be including early learning and childcare (ELC) teachers in its figures for the claim, which would mean a reduction from 55,097 FTE teachers in 2007 to 53,401 in 2020. This amounts to a decrease of 1,696.

Scottish Government statisticians have cautioned that the way ELC teachers were counted was changed in 2013, with local authorities revising data back to 2010 where teachers had been double counted. The report states that “teacher data before and after 2010 is not comparable”.

There has been a significant reduction in FTE early learning and childcare since 2010. In 2020, the number of teachers had more than halved from more than 1,500.

Anas Sarwar, the Scottish Labour leader’s claim that there are over 300,000 people across the country who earn below the Scottish living wage is true.

Minimum wage levels are set by the UK Government.

Anyone between school-leaving age and 23 should be paid the minimum wage, which currently ranges from £4.30 an hour for apprentices up to £8.36 an hour for those aged 21 and 22. Anyone aged 23 and over should be paid the national living wage, which is currently set at £8.91 an hour.

According to the Living Wage Foundation, the national living wage does not take account of the full cost of living and as such is not considered to be enough to live on. The foundation asks employers to voluntarily pay their staff the real living wage, which is calculated each year by the Resolution Foundation and is currently £9.50 an hour. Employers who pay that level are accredited by the Living Wage Foundation.

Living Wage Scotland, which works in partnership with the Living Wage Foundation and is funded by the Scottish Government, accredits Scottish businesses that pay the real living wage. It says there are 1,900 accredited employers in Scotland and that Scotland has the highest share of accredited living wage employers in the UK at 27 per cent of the UK total.

Last year your exams authority, the SQA, punished 75,000 mostly working class young people, lowering their school grades for no reason other than their postcode.

Patrick Harvie of the Green Party’s claim that last year your exams authority, the SQA, punished 75,000 mostly working class young people, lowering their school grades for no reason other than their postcode is true.

All Scotland’s school exams were cancelled last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, the Scottish Qualifications Agency (SQA) came up with an alternative system to calculate results. This was based on teacher estimates, which were then moderated to take account of schools’ prior history of attainment.

The Scottish Government said that as a result of the SQA moderation process, around 134,000 pupils – a quarter of the total – had their grades adjusted. Of that number, just under 76,000 had one or more of their grades lowered from the estimated level.

As soon as the results were announced on 4 August 2020, concerns were raised that individual pupils in more deprived areas had been penalised because, in general, their schools had historically performed less well than those in wealthier areas.

Figures released by the SQA showed that for those living in the most deprived parts of the country – those in the bottom 20 per cent of the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) – the Higher pass rate would have been 85.1 per cent based on teacher estimates. That was reduced to 69.9 per cent following moderation – a drop of 15.2 percentage points.

In the wealthiest areas – those in the top 20 per cent of the SIMD – the pass rate was reduced from 91.5 per cent to 84.6 per cent, a fall of 6.9 percentage points.

In an equality impact assessment published in December, the Scottish Government said the data showed that “for all levels of qualifications the changes in pass rates are larger for those learners in more deprived areas than in less deprived areas”.

Willie Rennie, Scottish Liberal Democrats, Nicola Sturgeon’s leadership  brought us an NHS waiting time guarantee that she promised would be in 18 weeks – everyone would be treated within 18 weeks. That’s only half true but it’s been broken 380,000 times.

As part of the action plan, the government promised that from November 2011 the maximum time anyone would have to wait for outpatient treatment following a GP referral would be 18 weeks. That promise is known as the Referral to Treatment (RTT) standard. It is up to individual health boards to ensure the standard is delivered, but the Scottish Government requires them do so for 90 per cent of patients.

Data collected by Public Health Scotland (PHS) shows that the RTT standard was breached 1.1 million times between November 2011 and December 2020, although the figures are incomplete as they did not include NHS Grampian or NHS Lothian. There are also some differences in the way the numbers have been collated over the years.

To check these details in full please go to The Ferret website for the full investigation report.

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