Mr Jim Fairlie MSP, Member of the Scottish Parliament for the Perthshire South & Kinross-shire constituency, reserved a special mention for Comrie Primary when he delivered his debut speech in the Scottish Parliament today during a debate on education.  As is traditional, Mr Fairlie paid tribute to his predecessor and spoke about his constituency before turning to the topic of the debate.

Mr Fairlie linked the area’s great food production assets with the delivery of education and highlighted the way in which the Curriculum for Excellence can work in practice, saying:

“I have an ambition that every child in my constituency will have learned how to make a pot of soup by the time they leave primary school. At Comrie primary school, they’ve already taught them to make soup, they do it every week, then go out into the woods for an outdoor learning session with a flask of soup they made themselves.  These fabulous kinds of things are happening right across my constituency and right across Scotland.

“What I’ve just described, in a tiny way, is curriculum for excellence in action. Their Head teacher tells me she loves it because it gives her the freedom and flexibility to teach her children holistically, based on the principle of delivering enthused, engaged, well-rounded young people who can think critically and practically for themselves.”

Mr Fairlie drew on his own experience of the education system as a pupil, and as a parent, to offer some advice to the Cabinet Secretary:

“For all the pressure you are going to come under, for all the howls of protest that will come from our opposition, I urge you to stay strong, be bold, and stick with it. Where this country leads right now, others will follow.

 “Our education system is going through a transition, but so are every one of us, and we should all embrace the fact that we are learning new stuff every day. Learning never stops.  Education isn’t just about the 3 Rs or academic qualifications.

“It’s about teaching young people who they are, finding the ways that engage their critical thinking, their analysis and their ability to problem solve, it’s giving them practical skills to go into society equipped to take head on what life will throw at them.”

In his maiden speech, Mr Fairlie also spoke of the wonderful food-offering and hospitality sector in Perthshire South & Kinross-shire, saying:

“Farm shops like Jamesfield Organic Centre, Loch Leven’s Larder and Gloagburn Farm Shop give access to the best of local produce, and I have to say that I’m very proud to have been the founder of Perth Farmers Market which helped to establish markets and farm shops like those mentioned, right across the country.

“We are doubly blessed in Perthshire South & Kinross-shire in having people who can take that produce at the farm gate and turn it into an artistry on a plate, and I am immensely proud of my late brother Andy’s restaurant in Gleneagles Hotel, where Steve McLaughlin and Dale Dewsberry keep the flame burning bright in restaurant Andrew Fairlie, still the only 2 Michelin star restaurant in Scotland.”

 Mr Fairlie also highlighted the important work being done by volunteer groups in addressing the difficulties facing some in society, saying:

 “And yet, the flip side of that is that we live in a society where there are still folk for whom even the simplest of meals is a struggle to secure.

 “That is why there are charities, like Broke not Broken (who have just received the Queens award for voluntary service), the Climate Change Swap Shop and Letham for All.  And that is where they come into their own.

 “But, let us be under no illusions, for all the brilliant work these organisations carry out in our community, the need for them is, in fact, an affront to decency.

 “It is a moral stain on our society that we still need food banks for the working poor, that we still have a second-hand recycling shop for people who have found themselves with not so much as cutlery and plates to eat off, let alone a table to sit at, a bed to sleep in or a chair to sit on.

 “So, I humbly give immense thanks to all of these organisations, whilst at the same time, pledging to do everything in my power to make them utterly redundant and unneeded.  When our constituents send us here, they do so in the rightful expectation, that we come here to this chamber with purpose.  And, surely, that is one such purpose we can all get behind.”