FORMER Prime Minister Gordon brown believes education holds the key to Fife's future success and greater investment in our schools and colleges is needed urgently.

The Press sat down with Mr Brown before the launch of his new book which documents the history of Fife and explores some of the challenges we now face as a community.

The book, 'Fife: A History from Earliest Times to the Present Day', has been co-authored by former head of Scottish Television Alistair Moffat and is the most up to date story of the Kingdom.

It covers the history of farming, linen, linoleum, mining and electronics right through to recent times with chapters on the burghs, health and social conditions, religion, sport and trade unions.

Mr Brown believes Fife has a great future ahead of it but it has got to face challenges affecting its immediate future.

"It’s got to deal with the fact it’s got so many people working in Edinburgh, it’s got to work out the next stage for the development of its industries and its economy," he said.

"Whether we need to have another university, for example, in Fife; these are things we have to think about.

"Biggest challenges: I think it’s jobs first of all because we lost the mining industry and the aircraft carrier to Rosyth Dockyard has a limited timeframe.

"We’ve got the possibility of development at the Longannet site but Fife will need lots of new industries in the future, lots of new businesses to create the jobs we need.

"The jobs are going to require particular skills. The education system has got to keep improving.

"Our primary schools are good but we’ve got to do more in our secondary schools. We perhaps need more investment in our colleges and even a university. Education is the future in Fife."

A copy of the book will be given to every school and every library in the county. Beyond that, all proceeds from any book sales will go to local charities.

Mr Brown was inspired to write the volume by the desire for more local history in the Scottish schools curriculum.

After speaking to groups of pupils several years ago, he recalled: "I realised while I was doing these speeches we didn’t have enough local history in one place so that a pupil or a teacher or a family could find out about the history of Fife in one book: an overall account of what has happened over the centuries in the county that they now live in

"And if they had such a book they could then think, 'Well how does my family history link into the history of Fife and what does it mean for our family?'.

"To have a one-volume history of Fife in one place I think is essential for students and pupils who are studying at school."

The new book walks you through the making of Fife and focuses on parts of its history that are still shaping it today and what kind of society is being created today.

There were many things that Mr Brown said he didn't know about Fife when he started the project and some of the most interesting parts included realising that Fife had an incredible 30,000 coal miners; while working patterns show that more people now work in Edinburgh than in any one industry in Fife.

Of course one of Mr Brown's favourite things about Fife is its football! He remarked on the great tradition of junior football teams in the area and teams like Kelty Hearts that are making their mark.

Other notable achievements he pointed to included our formidable galleries, the work of our charities and our reputation as having a great community spirit.

He added: "Wherever I go in Britain or the world I am very proud to say, 'I’m from Fife and talk about these achievements, which have made a huge impact on the world."

The book has been compiled with the help of a number of local historians – including Chris Sparling and John Hunter – and with support from former Carnegie Trust UK chair Angus Hogg and former Fife director of planning Bill Taylor.