Sturgeon and Swinney constituencies to be hit in ‘targeted’ teacher strikes

Scotland’s largest teaching union has announced further “targeted” strike action to take place in the constituencies of key Scottish politicians, including the First Minister and Deputy First Minister.

One year after the EIS submitted a pay claim, the union has announced further strike action, singling out Nicola Sturgeon, John Swinney, Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville, Scottish Green education spokesman Ross Greer and Katie Hagmann, the resources spokeswoman for local authority body Cosla.

The announcement is the latest escalation in the long-running dispute which threatens to rumble on into the exam period.

The EIS said on Tuesday that four out of the five areas – not including the Dumfries and Galloway ward of Ms Hagmann due to an already planned holiday period – would see teacher walkouts beginning on February 22, followed by strikes in all five areas starting on March 7.

The action will be on top of national strikes on February 28 and March 1 and another rolling programme of walkouts starting on March 13.

The First Minister represents Glasgow Southside, while the Deputy First Minister is the MSP for Perthshire North and Ms Somerville the MSP for Dunfermline, while Mr Greer represents the West Scotland region at Holyrood, but it is understood East Dunbartonshire will bear the brunt of the EIS action.

Andrea Bradley, the general secretary of the EIS, said: “It is deeply regrettable that the continuing inaction, obfuscation and spin from the Scottish Government and Cosla on teachers’ pay has led to an escalation of our programme of strike action.

“It has now been a year since our pay claim was submitted, and teachers should have had their pay rise in their pay packet last April.

EIS members on strike
EIS members on strike on February 1 (Andrew Milligan/PA)

“Instead, the Scottish Government and Cosla initially offered a pathetic 2% pay settlement – at a time when inflation was nearly four times that amount.

“Since then, the Scottish Government and Cosla have dithered, delayed and dragged their feet while the cost of living has continued to soar.”

She added: “The latest offer, for a well-below inflation 5%, has now been kicking around for six months and has been rejected by Scotland’s teachers twice.

“Our members have already taken part in three days of national strike action, and a further 16 days of rolling action across the country.

“The response from the Scottish Government and Cosla has been, essentially, nil – and this now has forced an escalation in our action. The offer of a 9% real-terms pay cut, which is what is on the table, will never be acceptable.”

Ms Somerville said: “We have been clear that a 10% pay increase for all teachers is unaffordable within the Scottish Government’s fixed budget.

“We’ve also been very clear about the need to progress opportunities for compromise so we can reach a fair and sustainable settlement for all involved.

“Escalation of strike action by targeting pupils, parents and carers in certain parts of the country does not change the financial reality the Government is operating in.”

The escalation of the strikes was discussed in the Scottish Parliament on Tuesday afternoon.

The Tories’ education spokesman Stephen Kerr hit out at Ms Somerville, saying “she shows not one ounce of energy or urgency to resolve this dispute”.

He said there is now a “clear threat” to the exams timetable.

The Education Secretary accused the Conservatives of “scaremongering” on the threat to exams, saying she had last met with union leaders on Friday.

Labour’s Michael Marra said: “How on Earth did we end up here?

“When will the Cabinet Secretary do the job that taxpayers have sent her here to do, when will she sanction a new offer, get it on the table and get a deal done?”

Ms Somerville said union demands remained “unaffordable and unsustainable”.