John Swinney’s promise of a “renaissance” in education was met with threats of strike action by a union over teacher pay.
The Deputy First Minister used his conference speech in Aberdeen to herald a new era for Scottish schools, where headteachers wield more power.
In Dundee, the boss of the country’s largest teachers’ union EIS laid down the gauntlet by telling Mr Swinney that salaries had to be increased by 10% if the recruitment crisis in Scotland’s classrooms was going to be fixed.
The Education Secretary is pushing reforms that will transfer powers from councils to schools.
His schools shake-up would give more powers to headteachers over spending, recruitment and the curriculum.
“We all know there is much more to do, but friends, I believe we are seeing the start of a renaissance in Scottish education,” he told delegates.
“Now is the time to press on, to put even more faith in our teachers, in our head teachers and to make sure we succeed in our mission to make Scottish education the world class system it needs to be.”
Larry Flanagan, the EIS general secretary, used his speech to the union’s annual gathering in Dundee to call on members to back strikes over pay if necessary.
“I am convinced the Scottish Government will only concede our claim if they believe our threat of strike action is a real one,” he said.
“That means, colleagues, persuading members, one by one if necessary, to be willing to put an X in the Yes box when the question is asked. And we will ask the question.”