First Minister apologises for error over college funding figure


  By a Newsnet reporter
First Minister Alex Salmond has apologised to the Scottish Parliament after figures he gave in response to a question on college funding were revealed to have been wrong.
The apology followed answers Mr Salmond had given to questions by Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont who claimed that funding for Scottish colleges had been cut this year, something the First Minister had denied.

The First Minister insisted that figures showed that funding had risen marginally from 2011/12 and that an Audit Scotland report cited by the Scottish Labour leader was in fact inaccurate and out of date.

However it later emerged that Mr Salmond had used the wrong figures for 2011/12 in his answer, and that his belief that funding had marginally increased, was wrong.

When the error was discovered, Mr Salmond promptly returned to the chamber to offer an apology.

Addressing the chamber, he said:

“There was no intention to mislead, indeed this can be seen and demonstrated by the fact that the cabinet secretary for education in a letter to the Education Committee on the 18th of October set out the correct figures.

“These are £555.7 million in 2011/12 and £546.4 million in 2012/13, the difference of these figures is £9.3 million which equates to 1.7% of the half billion 2011/12 college budget.”

Mr Salmond informed the chamber that the figures would be made available in order that they can be checked and insisted that it was only the 2011/12 figure which was incorrect.

Mr Salmond said that only the 2012/12 figure had been inaccurate: “The figures I quoted for this year and for next were correct.”

The First Minister also commented on the Audit Scotland report, cited earlier by Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont in her original question.

The figure used by audit Scotland for 2011/12 in their report, he confirmed, excluded the budget provisions made after this year’s spending review was published.  Mr Salmond pointed out that it was not therefore possible to calculate budgetary variations using this report.

However Mr Salmond insisted that he took full responsibility for anything he said in the chamber and issued a full apology for the error.

“Deputy Presiding Officer let me make clear, I take full responsibility for what I say in this chamber and therefore I have taken this earliest opportunity to correct the figure.

“The figure should have been £556 million not £545 million, and I apologise to the chamber for this error.”

Mr Salmond also revealed that The Education secretary Michael Russell would himself be writing to the Presiding Officer to apologise for using the same erroneous figure as Mr Salmond had done in a parliamentary answer on the 28th June.

Scottish Labour had earlier called for the resignation of the Education Secretary Michael Russell for use of the wrong figures.

Hear Mr Salmond’s apology