SCRUTINY OF LOCAL GOVERNMENT ESSENTIAL IN SCOTLAND, SAYS MSP

Scrutiny does need to exist at all levels of government, and how it is applied is important, writes Neil McLennan in this week’s Scottish Review.

I reported on 31 March 2021 (Scottish Review) the way in which power is often misused in education. National examples percolate down to local authorities.

A number of cases act as examples where local authorities are misusing power to unfairly treat education staff, or where issues around council’s dispensation of duties are questionable and there is limited follow up on concerns raised.

A common denominator can be found in all of them: safeguarding. It seems that authorities do not take well to safeguarding issues being flagged up to them, nor to their inadequacies being exposed.

[Former investigative journalist turned politician. Ed] Russell Findlay MSP, pictured right,  used his maiden speech at Holyrood to expose the issue on 10 June 2021:

Too often, public bodies [such as West Dunbartonshire Council Ed.] use unlimited funds to crush legitimate complaints, wage war on whistleblowers and use non-disclosure agreements to hide the ugly truth from the paying public.

Bad faith, back covering and secrecy contaminate too many of our institutions. In Scotland, legal regulation is not fit for purpose.

In education [and Health and Social Care , for example Ed.] many ‘know where the bodies are buried’ incases of misuse of power and cover-ups.

Things are starting to change as many share concerns anonymously, journalists and academics highlight issues, and FOIs continue to expose ‘the truth’ in some cases.

Some of those cases have been high-profile and more will surely follow. Alongside each individual case, there now needs to be a concerted effort by policymakers to ensure a National Whistleblowing Officer is in place for education, to provide assurance and start to end the cultural issues that have blighted education reform for too long.

Let’s stop using public funds to cover-up issues and instead use them to resolve the longstanding issue once and for all.

It is time to root out bullies, end corruption and put a regulator in place which keeps a close eye on those who feel these sort of behaviours are acceptable. If this cannot be done, bullying will keep happening in education – and not just in our playgrounds.

Neil McLennan is an education leader, former Young Programme delegate and previous Institute of Contemporary Scotland Young Scot of the Year

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