Headlines: February 2nd, 2004

A disagreement between Scottish local authorities and the country’s Qualifications Authority has become public with the councils announcing that they will seek another organisation to provide the service, even if that means going south of the border to find one. It follows the decision of the SQA to increase the examination entry fees they charge education authorities by a 35 per cent over the next two years. The local authorities are also concerned that there is no indication that this is the end of the rises.The SQA says the rises are necessary as it moves towards its goal of becoming self-financing, although even with the increases it will require some grant support from the Scottish Executive. Councillor Ewan Aitken, the education spokesman for the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities responded to news of the increases by stating that councils would not be held to ransom or used as a tool to bale out a quango.

In less that two weeks, he said, local authorities would be announcing council tax rises of less than five per cent and they were expecting to be criticised by the media. “Yet here we have a non-departmental public body hoping to pass on a withdrawal of central government funding directly to us in the form of massive charge increases – it is simply not on,” he added. He said COSLA had been working to try to avoid the row breaking out in such a hostile and aggressive way but appeals from COSLA had fallen on deaf ears.