Following Johann Lamont’s speech on Tuesday, September 25, NUS Scotland has called on Scottish Labour to reaffirm its manifesto commitment, and the personal pledge that every Scottish Labour MSP signed-up to at the last election to rule out tuition fees.
Robin Parker, President of NUS Scotland, said: “Just over a year ago, Scottish Labour stood on a manifesto pledge ruling out any kind of fees ‘up-front or back-end’ for higher education in Scotland.
"Every single Scottish Labour MSP signed up to a personal pledge to rule out tuition fees. ‘Free education’ was the third most popular policy at the last election, according to a BBC survey at the time.
"No voter will accept such a quick U-turn on this, and least of all when it’s bad politics and bad policy.
“Abolishing tuition fees is absolutely crucial to ensuring we have fair access. It is the poorest that would pay the price in a world with tuition fees, as a degree would be way beyond anything they could afford.
"If you’re from a poorer background, and deciding to go to a free college education, a paid apprenticeship or a university education that will cost you tens of thousands of pounds, the answer is obvious.
"With tuition fees, we will have no hope of ever making university open to people from all backgrounds in Scotland. The answer to college cuts, is don’t cut colleges, not tuition fees.
“Now is the time to look at where the real injustices are. We should be asking universities what more they can do to attract the students from disadvantaged backgrounds, students who we know have the potential to succeed, and who currently find the door to education shut in their face. That would be a really progressive policy, rather than adding yet another hurdle to their path.
“Developing new policies for Scotland, for all parties, is not about digging up the tired question of tuition fees from the grave. We should not somehow seek to return to pre-devolution days, with pre-devolution policies.
"The question of fees in Scotland is a settled one, we should be looking to the future, and looking for true progressive solutions to Scotland’s big challenges of social inequality. Scottish Labour MSPs should reaffirm their position and ensure this policy review reinforces Scottish Labour’s position against fees.”