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EDITIONS
Wednesday, 13 December, 2000, 17:22 GMT
Galbraith survives confidence vote
Sam Galbraith
Mr Galbraith is now minister for environment
Former education minister Sam Galbraith has survived a no confidence motion in the Scottish Parliament.

The motion, lodged by the Scottish National Party and the Conservatives, was defeated by 66 votes to 52 with one abstention.

The opposition parties said that Mr Galbraith was to blame for the poor handling of this summer's school exams fiasco.

Mr Galbraith, who is now the environment minister, was staunchly defended by First Minister Henry McLeish.

Mike Russell
Mike Russell moved the no confidence motion
The exams chaos at the Scottish Qualifications Authority prompted a number of calls for Mr Galbraith to step down.

The SNP and the Tories maintained that Mr Galbraith was ultimately responsible for the problems which led to thousands of pupils receiving late, incorrect or incomplete results.

Proposing the motion of no confidence, SNP education spokesman Mike Russell said such motions should be used sparingly.

He said: "The circumstances of this summer's disaster for Scotland's pupils, teachers and parents - the disaster of the failure of the Scottish Qualifications Authority - are surely serious enough for us to consider if there was an element of ministerial blame to be attached to what took place.

"And if such blame does attach, then surely the unprecedented events of this summer demand unprecedented ministerial and parliamentary responses."


If Sam Galbraith had resigned on 13 August, I think not even this first minister would have brought him back within two months

SNP MSP Mike Russell
He said there were three good reasons why Mr Galbraith should no longer be a minister.

"The first is that he failed to act at key times during the SQA crisis," he said.

"There was an operational failure by him and by some of his civil servants. He failed what is called the 'Carrington' test.

"The second is that there was a failure of policy in his department while he was a minister - the policy of allowing the SQA to operate not just at arm's length, but at fingertip length; the policy of implementing Higher Still by his inspectors.

"He failed what is called the 'Howard' test.

Henry McLeish
Henry McLeish: Staunch defence
"But he also failed a third test. This week Labour spin doctors have been saying: 'Sam may have let us down but he is no longer at education. There is no need for him to go now'.

"Well let's apply that third test - let's call it the Mandelson test.

"If Sam Galbraith had resigned on 13 August, I think not even this first minister would have brought him back within two months. He would not be a minister now."

Conservative education spokesman, Brian Monteith, called Mr Galbraith's handling of the crisis "negligent if not reckless".

And he said: "The minister cannot be reshuffled out of that responsibility.

Motion 'misguided'

"Sam Galbraith may not be directly responsible for the crisis but I believe that he had enough information to intervene and take control before it reached meltdown."

However, Liberal Democrat MSP Iain Jenkins opposed the motion, which he described as "misguided".

"It is a mean-minded motion which is not worthy of Mike Russell," he said.

"All they want to have is blood-letting and it is not a pretty sight."


I'm promising the people of Scotland this fiasco, this chaos, will not happen again.

First Minister Henry McLeish
First Minister Henry McLeish also called on MSPs to reject the motion.

"I believe that Sam Galbraith acted with the best interests of young people at heart," he said.

And he accused the SNP of treating the two parliamentary committees which had reported on the crisis with "more than a hint of contempt".

He said the facts did not justify the assertions made by the SNP in its motion.

And Mr McLeish added: "I'm putting my head on the block. I'm promising the people of Scotland this fiasco, this chaos, will not happen again.

"That is what we mean by taking it seriously."

MSPs will vote on the motion on Wednesday evening.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
BBC Scotland's Fiona Walker reports
"Jack McConnell will detail plans for tighter scrutiny of the SQA"
BBC Scotland political editor Brian Taylor
"The opposition are pretty heated up"

Key stories:

Highers analysis:

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See also:

13 Dec 00 | Scotland
11 Dec 00 | Scotland
10 Dec 00 | Scotland
09 Sep 00 | Scotland
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