Scottish Liberal Democrat MPs have voted in favour of increases to tuition fees in England.
Of the nine Scottish Lib Dem Mps who took part in the vote in the House of Commons the majority opted to side with their Tory coalition colleagues.
Amongst those who voted for the Tory inspired proposal was Lib Dem Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore. The MP for Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk voted in favour of the controversial policy along with Scottish Lib Dem colleagues Danny Alexander, Alistair Carmichael, Malcolm Bruce and Jo Swinson.
Only four out of eleven Scottish Lib Dems voted against the proposal with two refusing to vote. Those who voted against included former party leaders, Charles Kennedy and Sir Menzies Campbell who were joined by Argyll and Bute MP Alan Reid and Edinburgh West MP Michael Crockart who resigned as Parliamentary Secretary to Michael Moore yesterday.
The Tory-Lib Dem motion was backed by 323 votes to 302 and raises the limit on annual tuition fees for English students to £9,000.
Michael Moore defended his decision to back-track on the party’s pre-election pledge and said:
“Of course Liberal Democrats wish they had entered government with a budget that would allow us to abolish fees for all UK students.
“But we are part of a coalition government, grappling with a record peacetime deficit inherited from Labour.”
The new Secretary of State for Scotland argued that the tuition fee increase would not affect Scotland. He added: “As for Scotland, Scottish students who choose to study north of the border continue to pay no fees at all and will be unaffected by this vote.
“Scottish higher education funding policy is fully devolved to the Scottish government.”
Mr Moore’s claims are sure to anger the very many Scottish students who protested against the proposal both in Scotland and in London. Students in Scotland claim that the increase in fees south of the border will have a serious knock on effect in Scotland.
The vote result sparked anger amongst student protesters outside the Commons and clashes with the police saw a car carrying the Prince of Wales caught up in the skirmishes.
All SNP MPs voted against the rise in fees with the party echoing the Scottish students concerns; the SNP’s Education Secretary Michael Russell has ruled out tuition fees in Scotland. Yesterday at First Ministers Questions SNP leader Alex Salmond implored Scottish Lib Dem MPs to vote against the tuition fee plans.
SNP Home Affairs spokesperson Pete Wishart MP said the ditching of their pre-election pledge by the Scottish Lib Dem MPs was ‘a black day for higher education’. Mr Wishart said the decision to vote for the fee hike would come back to haunt their Lib Dem MSP colleagues in the run up to the Holyrood poll in May.
Commenting, Mr Wishart said:
“This betrayal is a black day for higher education and is all the more disgraceful because it has been delivered by the votes of Scottish Lib Dem MPs.
“This tripling of fees will have serious consequences for higher education north and south of the border. Scottish students studying in England will be saddled with mammoth debts and there will be a knock on effect on Scottish higher education.
“People in Scotland will have an early opportunity to pass judgment on the Liberal Democrats at the elections next year and I predict this betrayal will haunt the LibDems at Holyrood.
“The Tories introduced loans, Labour brought in fees and the LibDems have now helped the Tories increase them. Only the SNP is left as the party for students in Scotland offering them the opportunity to be part of something better.”
Meanwhile the SNP are offering free memberships to all students in Scotland.