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#SupportUs: Our voices heard in Parliament

Friday 20-01-2017 - 11:55

Following our #SupportUs MSP lobby in the Scottish Parliament, NUS Scotland President Vonnie Sandlan reminds us that the fight for fairer funding is not over yet. 

This week saw our budget campaign step up a gear as we headed to the Scottish Parliament to speak to MSPs about student support, what the problems are and how the Draft Budget currently making its way through Parliament can address them.

Students and student officers from colleges and universities across Scotland made their way to Parliament with us – and one person even travelled from Stornoway to be there. They met with MSPs from all parties and had constructive conversations about experiences of the current student support system and the hardship it causes for thousands of students.

The students MSPs met know that without access to sufficient financial support, students can be forced to take on expensive commercial debt, work unreasonable hours, or even drop out of education altogether – and that’s just those who make it there in the first place.

But the Draft Scottish Budget – announced in Parliament in December – was a missed opportunity to address these problems. While the student support review being carried out as a result of our 2016 Scottish elections campaign is currently underway, politicians have it in their power to do more to help students right now – this is vital support they need to stay on and succeed in education. Students asked MSPs to call for the following improvements before the Scottish Government brings the budget back to Parliament:

  • A £4m increase in the FE bursary budget to close the funding gap, and ensure that all bursaries increase by inflation.
  • A £4m increase in the HE discretionary fund budget to provide students with access to vital support throughout the year.
  • Protection for additional widening access and articulation student places, to ensure the important targets set by the Commission on Widening Access are not missed.
  • Assurances that increased mental health funding takes will take into account the needs of Scotland’s diverse student population

Thank you to those that joined us in Parliament. The first-hand experiences of you and your students will no doubt have helped illustrate to MSPs that certain elements of the student support system are broken and in desperate need of an overhaul. Without people like you helping us paint a picture of what’s going on across the country, it would be so much harder for us to make the case for change.

If you didn’t make it along to the lobby, don’t worry! You can still get involved in our #SupportUs campaign by emailing your MSPs to let them know the changes we want to see made to the budget. The email can be personalised so you can even ask them to meet with you.  

And even if you did make it to the lobby, you can keep the pressure on your MSPs by emailing them – making sure to focus on those MSPs you didn't meet on the day.

Take a look at the photos from the #SupportUs lobby here. More information about the #SupportUs campaign is available here and printable resources can be found here.

We know from past campaigns that if we all work together, our collective voice will be heard. We have just a few weeks until the Budget comes back to Parliament at the end of February to bring about real change for struggling students. Between now and then, let’s make some noise.

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