Labour scaremongering over Abertay University condemned


By G.A.Ponsonby
Outgoing Labour front man Iain Gray has been accused of “scaremongering” after claiming that Abertay University was to close with the loss of 500 jobs.
Mr Gray made the allegation during First Minister’s Questions where he also accused Education Secretary Mike Russell of having a “hit list” of Universities that he intended to close.

Speaking in the chamber Mr Gray cited a statement from Mr Russell last week as proof that closures were being planned. 

Mr Gray claimed that “last week Mike Russell told us he was going to shut colleges” and asked how many the SNP were “going to get rid of”.  Mr Gray added: “It’s not just colleges, he’s going to get rid of Universities too” and said “Everyone knows that Mike Russell has a hit list”. 

“The fact is the First Minister … is going to close Abertay university” claimed Mr Gray who then demanded Mr Salmond clarify whether it will indeed close.

However his claim that Abertay was to close brought a stinging rebuke from the First Minister who ignored the question and instead openly accused the Labour front man of twice misrepresenting Mr Russell.

Mr Salmond pointed out that what Mr Russell had in fact announced was a consultation on possible mergers, something he said Labour run Glasgow Council was itself in favour of.

The University is one of the smallest universities in the UK with a role of 4250 students and relies on the Scottish government for 60 per cent of its funding.  The Scottish Funding Council is currently seeking an evaluation of the University’s role.

Speaking after the session SNP MSP for Dundee City West Joe Fitzpatrick condemned Iain Gray for claiming Abertay University was to be “closed”.

Mr Fitzpatrick said:
“It is disgraceful that Labour politicians are talking up the closure of Abertay University.
“There has been no suggestion from the Cabinet Secretary or anyone apart from Labour’s failed leader that Abertay will close.
“They will not be thanked by the university or students for doing so and for seeking to use the future of the institution as a political football.  It is too important for that.
“Abertay should be given the time and space to discuss with Dundee University what options there are to secure a bright future for higher education in the city, which ensures the continuation of the Abertay brand, maintains student numbers, course choices and the quality teaching and research the city is known for.
“There is clearly an opportunity and imperative to look at the merger of a number of functions to preserve the front line offer to students in Dundee.
“That should be the priority rather than spending £1million over 5 years to employ a new principal. I am confident that Dundee’s universities can rise to this challenge”