South Lanarkshire College Net Widens – 28 July 2022

The net cast by the scandal at South Lanarkshire College is widening and shows just why the Education Secretary has to intervene.  It’s bad enough that there’s a smell emanating from the college caused by a report mentioning “homers” by staff and a culture of fear in the institution. Yet the report remains unpublished despite being widely available to media and politicians.  Compounding that, the esteemed principal, along with her acting clerk, both with decades of service in the sector, find themselves suspended, it seems to many, for having blown the lid on affairs.

But now two other names have been drawn in and they’re either directly accountable to the Education Secretary or are close political confidants. That means that intervention and most especially openness and transparency are required from the government.

The college’s human resources director from 2013 to 2017 was Kirsten Oswald, who’s now an MP, deputy leader of the SNP group in Westminster and SNP business convenor.

Now, many of the allegations of impropriety relate to that period. Questions are being asked about whether she knew anything and, if not, whether she ought to have known what was going on.

In any event, it seems from the unpublished report that necessary administrative actions weren’t taken despite them being government guidance. Why not?

Karen Watt, the chief executive of the Scottish Funding Council, wrote to me saying that she wasn’t involved in staffing affairs at the college. Yet it seems she was at the college when an extraordinary board meeting was being held where the only item on the agenda was the suspension of the principal and clerk.

Disingenuous suggestions to some media sources that she’d not attended the meeting failed to advise that she’d been at a pre-meeting. It was not normal for Watt to attend board meetings, as far as I’m led to believe. It’s also suggested from sources that the message the board received from the pre-meeting was “the decks need cleared”, or words to that effect.

Richard Nixon said “there can be no whitewash at the White House” and there can be no cover up by the Education Secretary. She needs to get involved and get the facts out there.