The Scottish Budget must be viewed in the context of £1.3billion cut in the settlement from Westminster and whoever formed the Scottish Government would have difficult choices to make.
Between 2007 and 14/15, the Scottish Government, of which I am no longer a Member, will have invested £5billion in Scotland’s colleges, a sum 39 % more in cash terms than under the two previous administration. By way of comparison, the UK Government is reducing its investment in English FE by £1.1billion, the equivalent of 25% in cash terms and 32.3% in real terms!
As with any cash-limited budget, anyone suggesting additional monies for a particular budget head requires to say where that money should come from and I prefer to view the College budget as part of the overall education budget.
In 2013-14 an additional £11.4million will be allocated to the college student bursary budget of over £95million, over 40% more than when Johann Lamont was a Minister and something welcomed by your President, Robin Parker, ‘It is fantastic that the money is now in place to provide financial help to the poorest students’ with an additional £17million of student support – £11m for student support and £6m for college places is in this coming year’s budget.
The Scottish Government has also: provided funds to maintain college student numbers at 116,000; unlike south of the border, maintained the Educational Maintenance Allowance at £31.6 million per year; provided free higher education and best higher student support package in UK, including minimum income of £7,250 and put in place a new college building programme of £300 million in Glasgow, Kilmarnock and my home town Inverness.
Whilst there are many competing demands for the reduced funds provided to the Scottish Government, and college education is vital to our Nation’s future, I hope you will agree that the resources provide to the College sector are considerable for this testing financial period.
John Finnie MSP