'Some parents and teachers think that there are too many changes going ahead too quickly. But I believe the changes we are making are necessary, carefully considered and appropriate. They also build from strength on the very solid foundation that is Scottish education.
Lord Douglas-Hamilton moved to the topic of opting out: 'Schools can only seek self-governing status if parents wish it. The Government has no secret plan to try to force parents to choose to opt out as has been suggested in same quarters.
'We should not seek an education system in Scotland which is uniform in every way. Schools are not identical. Provided they continue to meet the necessary high standards of quality, schools should be free to be different, whether in the way they are managed or in the specialisms they can offer.
'We reached our decisions on these proposals only after wide consultation. I would also make the following observations. First, the impetus for change on this front has come largely from local authorities themselves. Second, we have sought to give the new authorities the maximum flexibility in determining their internal organisation to meet local need and priorities, and to be consistent in our approach across all local services.
'Third, present statutory provision for the Director of Education post merely requires is that such an individual be appointed. It does not specify that that individual must be experienced in education nor suitably qualified. Fourth, we plan to retain the statutory requirement that an authority which sets up a committee to consider education must include Church representatives on that committee as they do at present.