Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross plans to spend £550m on 3000 more teachers for Scotland if his party gains power at the next Holyrood election.
He will outline the policy, a manifesto pledge for next year’s Scottish Parliament election, in an online event for parents and teachers on Friday morning.
The party said the pledge for 3000 teachers would be paid for “through Barnett Consequentials from the UK Government’s levelling-up strategy and the savings from delivering key projects on time”.
Speaking six years on from the Scottish independence referendum on September 18, 2014, Ross said: “Over these last six years, Scotland has been stuck debating the same argument instead of building for the future.
“In spite of the First Minister’s infamous pledge to judge her on education, our schools are stuck down the list of SNP priorities.
“Before the pandemic, Scotland’s schools were struggling from the SNP cutting teacher numbers by nearly 3000.
“Multi-level teaching was rife and subject choice cuts were limiting pupils’ ambitions.
“Those avoidable tensions are now ramping up. There are not enough teachers to deliver smaller classes and meet the demands of absences related to Covid.
“So the Scottish Conservatives will commit to fixing the SNP’s mess. Over the next parliament, our plans would deliver 3000 more teachers to restore local schools to where they once were.
“The focus of the next six years must be schools, not separation.”
Scottish Government figures show in 2007, the year the SNP came to power, there were 55,089 full-time equivalent teachers.
By 2014 this had fallen to 50,814 but the most recent statistics, published in 2019, show a rise to 52,247.
The figures include school-based teachers, those categorised as centrally-employed and early learning and childcare teachers.
In July the Scottish Government announced funding for hiring 1400 additional teachers but last month the EIS teaching union said an extra 3500 would be needed in Scotland to allow for physical distancing.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Teacher numbers are the highest in a decade with the number of primary teachers the highest since 1980.
“We have provided £80m to local authorities, enough to recruit around 1400 additional teachers and 200 support staff, in order to bring much-needed resilience to the education system and to compensate for any loss of learning suffered by children and young people during lockdown.
“Local authorities are still working through their recruitment processes, and current estimates suggest that an additional 1118 teachers have already been recruited, with plans in place to recruit another 250.”