Thursday 21-04-2016 - 13:44
Following ours #SP16 election debate (Monday 11th April), NUS Scotland welcomed a number of policy commitments from Scotland’s main political parties. The debate saw party leaders and politicians make a number of firm commitments to students and young people, signing up to many of the policies NUS Scotland has called for in its ‘Shaping Scotland’s Future’ campaign. Photos from the debate can be found here: https://www.flickr.com/photos/nusscotland/sets/72157666920953522. Please credit Andrew Perry/NUS Scotland.
The commitments from political parties included:
- Scottish Liberal Democrats: £30m investment in student support, including £5m to improve and guarantee support for further education students and £35m to increase higher education grants; increasing the repayment threshold for student loans; greater support for students leaving care and those with caring responsibilities; and, a continued commitment to rule out tuition fees.
- Scottish Labour Party: Guaranteed support for further education, with support rising by inflation each year; increase the young student bursary by £900 and the independent student bursary by roughly £180, restoring them to 2012 levels; and, retaining free education.
- SNP: Appoint a Commissioner for Fair Access, to drive access for disadvantaged learners; a guaranteed university place and full bursary for those leaving the care system; maintenance of free education; and, the possibility of a review of the student support system, to improve parity between further and higher education.
- Scottish Green Party: A national entitlement to bursaries for all students in further education; greater investment in further education, particularly part-time and access courses and adequately funded students’ associations; a living wage for apprentices; and, year-round support for higher education students.
- Scottish Conservatives: Greater investment in mental health services, and investment in student bursaries and reversing cuts to further education (though paid for through a graduate charge, opposed by NUS Scotland).
Commenting on the announcements, Vonnie Sandlan, President of NUS Scotland, said:
“Students and young people have a huge opportunity to be an incredibly powerful voice in this Scottish election, and our election debate showed that. Hundreds of students and young people came together to grill party leaders, leaving them in no doubt that Scotland's students deserve - and need - better. Every politician that took part spoke to many of the issues that matter to students, and we saw the first of hopefully many firm commitments to deliver the fairer support that students need to access education, stay there, and reach their full potential.
“Ahead of May's elections, NUS Scotland's Shaping Scotland's Future Campaign is calling on all political parties to make three firm commitments to students - ensuring improved, guaranteed support for further education students, year round improvements in higher education support - particularly for our poorest students - and better, more coordinated mental health support for students. While we might not agree with every party’s plan for how to deliver those policies – and some parties have gone much further, and been much more explicit, in what they’ll deliver for students – our debate saw every politician step up and start addressing those commitments and the need to deliver on them.
“Despite all the progress made during the last Parliament on improving fair access to education, there’s still more to do. That must be tackled by the next Parliament – starting with the need to address the financial support available to students. Our debate was a chance to make that case to party leaders, and hear how each is going to deliver on it. The answers we heard were an encouraging sign that politicians are hearing those messages - and included some really important commitments. Between now and polling day we'll be keeping up our campaign to ensure that politicians are left in doubt that the status quo isn’t good enough – they must set out explicitly what they’ll do to deliver fairer support for students.”