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Last Updated:  Wednesday, 2 April, 2003, 11:59 GMT 12:59 UK
Education tops election agenda
School pupils
Labour pledged to cut class sizes
Education and the economy have been the main themes on the Scottish election trail on Wednesday.

Labour has promised smaller class sizes for maths and English in the early years of secondary school.

The Scottish National Party attacked Labour's running of the economy and the Conservatives made a case for smaller government.

The Liberal Democrat leader Jim Wallace boarded a helicopter for a two-day "flying start" tour of all eight Scottish regions.

Growth rate

He called on people to use their second vote to elect his party's MSPs on 1 May.

Labour leader Jack McConnell pledged to cut secondary school class sizes in maths and English to 20 pupils, for years one and two of secondary school.

Mr McConnell, a former teacher, said too often gains in primary school could be lost during the transition into secondary education.

He said the precise phasing of the plan would be worked out in the first six months of the new parliament but it would be delivered by the end of the four year term.

Andrew Wilson
Andrew Wilson: "Full economic potential"

Meanwhile, SNP economics spokesman Andrew Wilson attacked Labour's handling of the Scottish economy.

He said that Scotland's poor growth rate - 0.1% compared to 1.3% for the UK as a whole - was the result of London rule.

He argued that independence was central to the SNP's election pledges because it was the only way Scotland could achieve its full economic potential.

Mr Wilson also confirmed that the SNP would not use tax-varying powers - the so called Tartan Tax - if it won the election.

Positive campaign

He repeated the SNP pledge to reform Scottish Enterprise and cut business rates within the first four years of an SNP government.

The Lib Dems set a target of returning at least 20 MSPs to the Scottish Parliament after the election.

Over the next two days Mr Wallace will be delivering the Liberal Democrat 'Charter for Scotland' to local candidates pledging a positive campaign, better health for Scots, a reduction in crime and more teachers in the classroom.

The Scottish Tories unveiled plans for a radical revamp of the quango which runs Scotland's public water supply.

David McLetchie
They've turned their back for no good reason at all, other than a calculation of self interest
David McLetchie,
Tory leader

And party leader David McLetchie attacked former Tory MSPs Keith Harding and Lyndsay McIntosh for their defection to the Scottish People's Alliance.

"The party has been let down very, very badly by these two," said Mr McLetchie.

"They've turned their back for no good reason at all, other than a calculation of self interest."

"Well frankly, if that's what actually motivates them in politics, then in a sense we're well rid of them."

On policy the Conservatives said Scottish Water should be turned into a mutual company owned and run by its customers rather than ministers.

Mr McLetchie also said that the Tories offered the only centre-right alternative to the other mainstream parties.

The Tory leader said his party was in favour of reducing the tax burden and giving greater power to teachers, doctors, nurses and police officers to deliver improved public services.

Brian Taylor reports
"Policy mattered said David McLetchie, not defectors"

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