Monday 13-06-2016 - 11:52
NUS Scotland President Vonnie Sandlan on why she'll be voting Remain on Thursday 23 June.
On Thursday 23 June we face a choice that will set the path for the UK’s future. The question is simple: do we want to continue to play our part in the European Union, influencing from the inside and taking full advantage of the opportunities EU membership brings. I firmly believe the answer is an enthusiastic yes.
Students in Scotland benefit from EU membership as it not only opens up opportunities to travel, but also to study and work abroad. EU funding also supports our universities and colleges as well as providing vital funding to tackle youth unemployment.
EU funding has been vital over the past few years as economic hardship saw youth unemployment rise. Money from the European Social Fund (ESF) and its partners has provided hundreds of millions of pounds to help young people across Scotland. In 2014 and 2015, £110m was split between areas in south west Scotland, providing support helping thousands into jobs.
Earlier this year it was announced that the Youth Employment Initiative (YEI) has been awarded £60m from the European Structural and Investment Funds 2014-2020 programmes. Again, this will be a lifeline for thousands of young people and is vital funding that we simply would not see outside of the EU.
Scotland consistently punches above its weight when it comes to securing competitive EU research grants, with our universities receiving a whopping £90m funding a year from EU sources. For EU Framework funding alone, Scotland received 10.4 per cent of all funds – that’s higher than our population share.
Our colleges also benefit hugely from funding associated with our EU membership. Scotland’s colleges have received tens of millions of pounds in recent years from ESF – and in 2014, 3,500 extra college places were created with the £13m we received. Many colleges have also relied on ESF to ensure access to opportunities and support for their students.
Our students and our communities benefit from the opportunity to learn from different cultures as part of the EU. In any given year, there are over 20,000 students studying in Scotland from other EU countries and it is estimated that one in five postgraduate students studying at Scottish universities are from elsewhere in the EU. It is estimated that EU students provide over £150m to the economy each year.
Scottish students also enjoy opportunities to travel to and study in other EU countries – which again brings educational and social benefits. Recent figures show over 15,000 students across the UK benefit from the Erasmus+ programme each year – and 13 per cent of these students are from Scotland. Again, this figure is higher than our population share.
For many in Scotland, the EU referendum brings back memories of the independence referendum in September 2014. No matter what side you were on in that debate, it’s impossible to ignore the fact that it invigorated politics in Scotland. It also gave 16 and 17 year-olds the right to vote and the chance to have their say in democracy for the first time ever. The debate was made richer by their contribution and it is a great shame that they won’t have a say this time around.
Support for remaining in the EU is higher in Scotland than elsewhere in the UK – and polling shows we will be vital in securing a vote to stay.
That’s why it’s so important to vote to remain on Thursday 23 June.
When I cast my vote, I’ll be thinking of Scotland’s students. I want them to enjoy the opportunities that only EU membership can bring.
We all benefit from being a member of a union as culturally diverse as the EU. It is unthinkable that future generations might miss out.