A while back I was speaking at one of those How did it all go so wrong? post-referendum discussions and, as expected, the air was thick with recrimination. The good people of Glasgow – rebranded as Yes City – were unhappy and indignant. Eventually, however, talk turned to what might be done next. I made the suggestion that, just perhaps, Scotland’s political and blethering classes might pay some attention to the powers the Scottish parliament currently enjoys.
I mean, I said, it is not as though there are no big arguments to be had within the confines of Holyrood’s truncated responsibilities. Not as though there are no large problems that needed fixing long ago. We were way past the point, I said, at which we could ignore the appalling reality of Scotland’s apartheid education system. A system that serves the affluent pretty well but utterly fails the poor. We don’t need independence or even any more devolution to do something about this, I noted, we could do it now. We could have done it at any point in the past 15 years. We’ve just chosen not to.
Responding to this small suggestion one of the high priestesses of the Yes movement said, yeah, yeah, yeah that’s all very well and good but we can’t really be expected to do much about this because, come on, it’s all about the inequality isn’t it? And since the inequality cannot be fixed without independence so it follows we can’t really do very much about education. Not now. Not yet. It’s just not important enough.
An awkward truth dawned upon me: these people don’t care. You’d think they would but they don’t. Not really. I can’t think when I last heard Alex Salmond or Nicola Sturgeon or John Swinney or even, eek, Mike Russell really talk about schools in a sense that suggested they were in anyway appalled – or even peeved – by Scotland’s educational apartheid.
You could understand this reticence before the referendum.