SCOTLAND'S Education Secretary has said she hopes to “de-politicise” education.

Jenny Gilruth will meet Tory, Labour and Lib Dem education spokespeople this week, telling the PA news agency too many debates in Holyrood had become “toxic” since the 2021 election.

Speaking at the NASUWT Scotland conference in Aberdeen on Saturday, the minister said: “I think education is something that we should be able to work on a cross-party basis on.

“I have meetings set up next week with Stephen Kerr (Scottish Tory education spokesman), Willie Rennie (Scottish Lib Dem education spokesman) and Pam Duncan-Glancy (Scottish Labour education spokeswoman) to talk about how we can try to de-politicise Scottish education.

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“I’m going to try to work with my counterparts in other parties.

“The wider space with regards to politics is quite challenging, but in a cost-of-living crisis we should be able to work together on these issues, we absolutely need to, I think.”

Early engagement with her opposite numbers in other parties, she said, had been positive.

Broadly, Gilruth later told the PA news agency that “Scottish politics is pretty divided”.

“The atmosphere in the chamber since 2021 … and I think because we have a majority support for independence in the parliament, that has necessitated quite a toxic atmosphere from opposition parties that probably didn’t exist in the 2016 parliament,” she added.

“That means any debate, any policy issue, is challenged, the business is routinely challenged at decision time, things that never used to happen in the last parliamentary session, and that feeds into political discourse.”

She added: “We have a responsibility as politicians to behave ourselves.”

After Gilruth’s comments, the opposition politicians due to meet the minister attacked the Government’s record on education, with Kerr describing it as “lamentable”.

He also stressed that any engagement must be meaningful, saying: “I welcome this consensual approach from Jenny Gilruth, but this has to be more than a PR exercise – she must demonstrate a genuine willingness to listen to different viewpoints.

“As a former teacher herself, you would hope the Education Secretary is aware of the scale of the task she faces in restoring the once-proud reputation of Scottish education after 16 years of SNP neglect.”

Rennie said: “If I were a new minister seriously looking to de-politicise debates over education I’m not sure I would be pinning the blame for toxicity on opposition parties in the same breath.

“If I were cynical, I would suggest that this is a crude attempt to limit scrutiny of the SNP’s failure on education. The former first minister wanted to be judged on education so it would be wrong for the SNP to shut down political debate now.

“When I meet with Jenny Gilruth I will tell her that she should be focused on boosting teacher pay and conditions, making good on the SNP’s long-forgotten pledge to cut class sizes, expanding additional support needs provision and tackling the wave of violence in our schools.”