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'Give us the tooth!'

Brian Taylor | 14:38 UK time, Thursday, 11 March 2010

Come the revolution, Denis Healey once opined, we shall abolish teeth.

The former Chancellor was suffering persistent pain from his own choppers at the time.
While (solely) an MP, Alex Salmond was contacted by a constituent, whom he knew well, on the subject of dentistry.

Teeth, Mr Salmond replied, are devolved.

They are indeed - and Annabel Goldie was concerned at their condition. Teeth, she said, are rotting all around us as we speak.

I think she was referring to the nation as a whole rather than MSP molars in particular. Either way, it was a horrid prospect.

In the Holyrood gallery, observers clenched their jaws defensively.

Her concern was with the cost of allowing folk to remain permanently on dental registers even if they never turn up for appointments.

School lessons

She felt this was offering the appearance of widespread dental treatment when the reality might be different.

Mr Salmond polished his incisors and snapped that it was important to retain people on registers, not drive them away.

Earlier, Mr Salmond and Labour's Iain Gray had bared their bicuspids at each other over the subject of the Curriculum for Excellence due to be welcomed by/inflicted upon Scotland's schools.

A former teacher, Mr Gray appeared, for a moment, to be back in the classroom. He repeatedly warned young Salmond to sit up straight and pay attention. (Actually, he said "listen carefully" but generations of school pupils knew what he meant.)

Mr Gray asked Mr Salmond to explain precisely when the new curriculum would be introduced in secondary schools, how many subjects would be offered, what exams would be taken and when.

And to show his working.

After some discussion, the answers were August, the same, the same, and four years.

Modern languages

Labour suggested later that this was wrong: that the subjects and exams would differ substantially and that there were suggestions that pupils might move into the new exam structure in S3.

Not so, says the Scottish government. The method of delivering education is changing with the new curriculum - but the fundamental subjects, such as modern languages, remain unchanged.

Or, as one minister put it to me: "You don't change the laws of physics just because you have introduced a new curriculum."

Scotty from Star Trek will be relieved.


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