Tag Archives: economics

Scottish Independence – My Take

Now I know I am an education blogger, but honestly there hasn’t really been much in the education world that has caught my interest lately, mostly because of the hype around the Independence referendum in Scotland, so I decided that as it could have an impact on education, that I would give my take on what could happen and describe what I would like to see.

Now it has been a while since my Economics A level days, but economics has still been a minor interest of mine, so when it comes to looking at economic statistics, I’m always intrigued. I personally feel that Independence for Scotland will be fiscal and economical suicide, and here’s why.

Firstly, let’s look at the currency. Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond MSP believes that they will be able to keep using the British Pound, to which Westminster have pretty much responded with ‘over our dead bodies’. This of course doesn’t mean that Scotland can’t go on using the pound without such agreement with Westminster, but they would have to build reserves of around £20billion. How would they do that? Well they would have to cut back on building ammenities such as schools, universities and hospitals, which could be disastrous for Scottish Education and Health, which are two areas in which Scotland are considered strong. If universities and school plans are cut, how can Scotland fund the free higher education that it currently has? It was made known recently that in order to achieve this policy in the first place, Scotland cut around 140,000 places. In short, this idea is far too expensive and can lead to disastrous consequences.

The next crucial point to look at is membership of the EU and other links. As it stands the whole of the UK pays billions of pounds to be a member of the EU. Again the question that needs to be answered is ‘How does Scotland intend to fund that?’ Well one way to do that is to increase tax and prices on everything, which is going to have a big impact on the incomes of families as wages still remain stagnant and below inflation as it is, so making the cost of living even higher will seriously slow down consumption, and slow down the economy even further. Losing membership of the EU and UK will mean that Scotland loses an awful lot of trade links around the world, meaning it’s import and export market will be affected, and that will cause price rises as well.

The next point to ponder concerns Scotland’s share of the national debt. Alex Salmond has claimed in an argument that if Westminster does not give an Independent Scotland an agreement to stay in the British Pound, Scotland will default on it’s share of the debts. Well that is a suicidal comment in it’s own right. If Scotland does indeed default on it’s debts, that will give Scotland a reputation of ‘sure give us money but we won’t give it back’. Does anyone else think that sounds like an Icelandic bank? What this will mean is that an Independent Scotland will be charged astronomically high interest rates on any loans they do take from other countries, which will not be sustainable for Scotland to pay back.

Here’s another thought which hasn’t really been mentioned. If Scotland becomes an independent nation, does that mean all Scottish people in the UK become foreign and would require a visa and English citizenship to work in this country? If that is true imagine how many people may find themselves forced to leave the country and head back to Scotland. That would certainly be a significant chunk of Parliament out. It could also mean jobs for English workers suddenly become available in England, but it would have the opposite effect on employment in Scotland. If thousands of people suddenly end up in Scotland without work, the unemployment statistics will go through the roof, putting huge amounts of pressure on the welfare state in Scotland. Not going to look good don’t you think?

So given all this, what would I like to see? Well you would think I would want to see the Scottish people vote No, and that is what my logic would argue. But actually I would like to see Alex Salmond suffer so in a cynical way I would like to see them vote Yes. I would like to see the result of them becoming independent, the SNP raising all the wages of his political party and then end up begging us to let them back in the UK.

If of course Scotland votes No, then what does that mean for Alex Salmond’s position? You would think all people who voted Yes but got outvoted would lose all faithin Salmond’s convictions and would find himself in a position where his own party’s standing is destroyed. I do personally think that Independence will benefit the SNP, not the Scottish people.

If any of you are Scottish, I would be interested to hear what your views on what Scotland should do are as you will have a say in it in less than 24 hours time.

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Apprenticeship reforms needed!

We hear about apprenticeship schemes but we never seem to be able to find anywhere that runs them, thus meaning that very few are actually taking them.

As countries the world over look to kick-start their economies, vocational training is more important than ever. But a major series of reports has highlighted a huge disparity in the numbers of young people pursuing work-based learning.

The picture is particularly bad in England, according to the research by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). The body’s new study claims that the country needs significantly greater investment if it is to match the level of vocational education on offer in other developed countries and meet the demand for skilled workers.

While as many as a third of young people in countries such as France and South Korea embark on vocational training after leaving secondary school, the OECD concludes that the equivalent figure in England is “probably well under 10 per cent”.

The report, A Skills Beyond School Review of England, calls on the government to “take strategic measures to encourage the expansion of high-quality post-secondary vocational programmes reflecting both labour-market demand and student needs”.

The message was backed by Julian Gravatt, assistant chief executive of the Association of Colleges. “We think there’s a latent demand for high-level vocational training,” he said.

The OECD report raises serious concerns about the “limited” amount of workplace training incorporated in many qualifications in England. It also calls for a radical overhaul of the structure of exam boards, arguing that the overlap between qualifications offered by rival organisations causes confusion for students and marginalises employers.

A franchise system should be implemented, it says, in which awarding bodies bid for the right to provide qualifications for specific professions and subject areas. Local employers, too, should have greater involvement in drawing up qualifications.

“We welcome the OECD’s view that vocational qualifications must address skills needs and be clear signals to individuals of what employers value,” said Nigel Whitehead, a commissioner for the UK Commission for Employment and Skills.

The minimum duration for 16-18 apprenticeships in England is 12 months, but equivalent qualifications in Austria, Australia, Canada and Germany often last between three and four years, according to the report. As a result, it says, apprenticeships in England play a “very small” role in post-secondary education.

Last month, it emerged that the requirement for lecturers to have formal teaching qualifications was being scrapped in England. The OECD has backed the move, arguing that the need for formal qualifications “acted as a barrier to the recruitment of teaching staff with useful industry experience”.

However, Toni Fazaeli, chief executive of the professional body the Institute for Learning, called for teaching qualifications to be mandatory in further education. “We agree with the report’s recommendation that teachers new to the profession should be supported with effective mentoring and induction,” she said. “But these should be complementary to, not a replacement for, initial teacher training and continuing professional development.”

A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills said: “Apprenticeship starts are up by 86 per cent between 2009-10 and 2011-12, and we will ensure the quality of the best is replicated throughout the programme. The new Tech Levels will further raise the status and quality of the vocational education route at 16-19. These will help ensure our workforce is skilled, agile and able to respond to the opportunities presented by the growing economy.”