Mike Russell, Scotland’s Education Secretary, admitted this week that he was not “a model of perfection.” An increasing number of Russell’s colleagues from the three opposition parties are now more loudly letting it be known that they agree.
The calls for Russell to resign his post have become more frequent — and insistent — after he deliberately misled parliament by telling them in June that the funding for Scottish universities wouldn’t be cut in the next year’s budget, all the while knowing that more than £9 million in cuts were actually planned. He is also fighting off accusations from Liberal Democrats, Labour and the Conservative Party MSPs that his strained relationship with the people in the college sector led to the resignation of the Chairman of Glasgow’s Stow College Kirk Ramsay.
Although Russell apologized for delivering the wrong figures to members of parliament, that hasn’t seemed to mollify the opposition. Holyrood Parliament members from the Labour and Tory Party have outright called for him to tender his resignation. The leaders of the Liberal Democrats were more measured in their remarks, but still raised the question about whether he continues to be the right man to head the country’s education system.
Labour’s Neil Findlay said: “I think it’s time for him to go.”
Findlay said the college funding system is “opaque and complex”, with money being cut and transferred across different agencies.
He added: “It is a blatant attempt to try and camouflage the reality of what is going on by creating a funding shambles which is difficult to follow or effectively scrutinise.
Ramsay’s resignation seems to have sharpened attacks on Russell. Russell called on Ramsay to step down after news that the chairman taped a conversation between Russell and other college chiefs came to light. In his resignation letter, Ramsay said he didn’t want to continue after Russell’s “unwarranted personal attack.”
Ramsay left his job at Stow College in Glasgow claiming there was a gross over-reaction to his decision to record a large private meeting where Mr Russell made a speech on the future of the college sector. In the Scottish Parliament, Labour and Tories called for him to step down, while the Liberal Democrats asked whether he is the right man for the job.
There is as yet no movement from the SNP leadership, but the backbencher support for Russell remains high. According to the Irvine Herald, SNP MSP George Adam replied that the claims of Russell’s bullying behavior were overstated, since – as he put it – he has yet to meet anyone who was cowering in fear of the Education Secretary.