EIS President warns that austerity must not be imposed in wake of COVID-19

The outgoing EIS President will use his final speech in office to warn against a return to the damaging programme of austerity that has decimated public services over the past decade.

The EIS President, Bill Ramsay, will also highlight the immense scale of the challenge facing Scottish education in the COVID-19 era. Mr Ramsay will deliver his speech to a special online meeting of the EIS Council which has been convened following the enforced cancellation of the EIS Annual General Meeting (AGM) – the Institute’s sovereign decision making body – as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Warning against a return to austerity, Mr Ramsay is expected to say, “We must plan for the future now particularly in the area of funding for public services. We are already being told that the post COVID word will be one of austerity. It need not be. It must not be.”

Mr Ramsay, whose background is in History and Politics, will compare the challenge facing education and other public services with the period of rebuilding that faced the country following the two world wars: “Of course, the scale of the grief that teachers, children, and parents endured during these years was much greater than today, though for some, today, at the personal level, grief for loss of a loved one or a friend is no less painful.”

“The post COVID world must be one of regeneration, as it was in 1945: In Scotland; In the UK; In Europe; In North America; and in other countries across the world. It is this 1945 economic legacy of positive transformational change that we and all other trade unions everywhere need to promote in 2020.”

“In terms of disruption to the education system, at all levels, from early years, through to higher education, the level of disruption is profound and it is unprecedented. What will be the legacy of this crisis on the wellbeing of the young people and students that we teach, in the short, in the medium and in the long term? What will be the legacy of the COVID crisis on funding of the public sector in general and education in particular?”

In addition to the President’s speech and the processing of essential business matters, such as the approval of the Institute’s accounts and planned expenditure for the year, today’s special meeting of the EIS Council will also consider a number of changes to the EIS constitution, and hear speeches from EIS General Secretary Larry Flanagan and from the new General Secretary of the Scottish Trades Union Congress (STUC), Roz Foyer.

A copy of the full text of Mr Ramsay’s speech is available here, for information.