The Scottish Parliament will establish a new context for restoring national negotiating rights for further education, according to Ian McCalman, president of the Educational Institute of Scotland.
Mr McCalman, speaking at the annual conference of the EIS College Lecturers' Association, said staff and management faced difficult choices and difficult compromises if negotiating rights, withdrawn in 1995, were to be restored.
In the past year, eight of the 43 colleges had been involved in industrial action and many more had balloted for possible action. There was now "a pressing need to remove the roots of the internecine industrial warfare which has brought the sector into turmoil in recent years."
Further education should form an important part of the remit of an education committee of the new parliament, and there was also a need to establish the sector's role in relation to local councils and the Parliament.
"There may well be a case for a strategic layer of decision-making which ensures that colleges within a certain geographical area are bound together within a common framework in order to secure coordination and joint planning," he said. "That layer could be a non-governmental public body with representation on it from college management, trade unions, local councils, business interests and the Scottish parliament."
Mr McCalman welcomed the recent statement by David Blunkett, secretary of state for education and employment, on the need to re-examine the composition of boards of management to ensure broad representation. Such a re-examination should form part of a thorough review of further education under a Scottish Parliament, he said.