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Tuesday 18th December 2012 | 11:50
SNP press release
The SNP is today welcoming the Scottish Government’s £10m funding package which will help widen access to higher education for students from poorer backgrounds.
An extra 2000 places are to be funded by the Scottish Funding Council from next year – consisting of 700 from widening access schemes, 300 on the Skills for Growth Scheme and 1,000 moving on from college to university.
The ‘opening up’ of university places contrasts starkly with Labour leader Johann Lamont’s announcement that she wants to remove free access to higher education.
Johann Lamont yesterday took a swipe at university graduates, saying that they “not only receive higher lifetime returns, but a disproportionate number also come from more privileged backgrounds.”
Lamont let the cat out of the bag on STV’s Scotland Tonight programme, admitting Labour seek to reintroduce graduate endowment.
When pressed by political journalist Bernard Ponsonby, who said “You were asked a specific question by a Labour student, I didn’t think you gave him a straight answer. He said: ‘Are fees on the table?’ Are they?”
She replied: “…a graduate contribution, a way of funding higher education is being examined. This is part of the review process, testing policy against both its benefits and its consequences.”
The move has been met with incredulity from students, with NUS Scotland President Robin Parker claiming in a press release that "The idea that introducing charging for university is somehow progressive, when it puts off the poorest students in Scotland, just simply makes no sense. And it would certainly make no sense to the many college students who aspire to go on to university.
Commenting, SNP MSP Clare Adamson – who sits on the Education Committee – said:
“The contrast between the SNP and Labour is crystal clear. The Scottish Government will now help more than 2,000 extra young people go to university but Labour want to drag Scotland back by making higher education a closed shop for people from disadvantaged backgrounds.
"More young Scots than ever before - including those from our most deprived communities - will reap the benefits of a university education. This further widening will ensure young people from deprived areas who show potential get the support and education needed to aim high and succeed.
“But Johann Lamont talks about cutting higher education provision and wants to implement policies which act as a barrier to the very people the SNP are committed to helping. There would be 3,300 fewer students accepted to universities this year if Johann Lamont had her way.
“Higher education is too important an issue to get tribal on. But Labour's obsession with the SNP since 2007 has prevented them from becoming a credible opposition and they are completely unable to offer positive vision for Scotland.
“Ms Lamont rightly points out that it was an independent Scotland which was the first country in the world to offer free education, and talks about the huge social progress which resulted from this - but her apparent belief that the way to maintain this progress is to abolish free education as Westminster has done is totally misguided.
“Why on earth does Ms Lamont want to drag Scotland backwards to a situation as in England under Westminster government, where the effect of tuition fees is turning potential students away in their thousands?
"Scotland is delivering far more successful policies and outcomes with the degree of independence that we already have in the Scottish Parliament - and with the full powers of an independent Scotland we could do the same in all the areas currently reserved to Westminster, such as macroeconomic policy, welfare and defence."