SNP and Plaid join with NUS to Condemn Tuition Fees Increase

4
519

GENERAL…
The SNP and Plaid Cymru have joined with the NUS in Scotland and Wales to protest against the Conservative / Lib-Dem Coalition’s plans to increase tuition fees.
 
In a joint letter to Business Secretary Vince Cable, sent as students from across the UK prepare to protest against the increase at a demonstration in London, representatives of both parties and the NUS warn of the impact the tuition fee impact could have in Wales and Scotland.

The SNP’s Education Minister Mike Russell argued that ability to pay was against the Scottish tradition and that the proposals in England had implications for Scotland.
 
Mr Russell said:
 
“Scotland has a proud tradition of free education based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay; and the SNP restored this principle in Scotland by scrapping the graduate endowment.
 
“We’re also investing record amounts in the university sector and support for students.
 
“SNP MPs have always championed higher education at Westminster. When Scottish Labour MPs inflicted tuition fees on English students the SNP opposed that move and we will stand firmly against the Browne review.
 
“The SNP knows that the implications of lifting the cap on tuition fees in England could well be fewer resources for Scotland and a bigger challenge for Scottish students.”

Plaid Cymru’s Education spokesperson Nerys Evans AM attacked the Lib Dems and called the plans a “betrayal”.

Mr Evans said:

“These proposals are a betrayal of the promises that each and every Lib Dem MP made during the election. Students will be facing a lifetime of debt all because the Lib Dems prioritised appeasing the Tories above their own principles.

“I am proud that Plaid Cymru in Westminster will be opposing these shocking plans and standing up for ordinary students who simply want to be able to access higher education.

“Anyone who is now facing a lifetime of debt to get a degree must ask themselves not only if they can afford £9000 a year for fees, but also if they can afford to ever have a Lib Dem or Tory representing them at any level.”
 
Liam Burns, President of NUS Scotland said:

“It’s time MPs in the nations were honest about where they stand on the issue of tuition fees. Whether they signed our pledge to vote against an increase in fees or not, it’s clear that the trebling of tuition fees would have a real and direct impact on people in Scotland.

“If Scottish MPs vote ‘yes’ to the Browne Review, or even just higher fees, they will be plunging their constituents who study in England into crippling levels of debt, steal tens of millions of pounds from Scottish students loans and grants should the repayment threshold increase, and fuel calls to increase fees for English students studying in Scotland, many of whom will be their constituents.”

Mr Burns backed the SNP’s stance and urged other Scottish MPs to follow suit adding:

“SNP MPs are absolutely right to take a firm stance against these moves. I hope other Scottish MPs follow suit. With the Scottish Parliament elections just months away, students in Scotland will not forget how their Westminster counterparts vote on this crucial issue. Make no mistake, we will be quick to point out what position parties take.”

Katie Dalton, President of NUS Wales said:

“NUS Wales welcomes Plaid Cymru’s firm commitment to vote against an increase in tuition fees. With National Assembly elections only six months away, it is clear that students and their families will not forget the actions of MPs and their associated political parties when it comes to casting their ballot papers in May.”

“Higher fees in England will have a direct impact on future Welsh students at English universities, will cost the Welsh Assembly Government millions of pounds in additional tuition fee loans, and will no doubt lead to pressure to increase tuition fees in Wales.

We know that £9,000 tuition fees would be devastating for potential students, deterring many from entering higher education and landing those who do with massive debts of £40,000. Welsh MPs need to take a long, hard look at the constituencies they represent, do what is best for students and families in Wales and vote against these disgraceful proposals.”

The text of the letter is below –
 
Dear Vince Cable MP,
 
NATIONS UNITE AGAINST BROWNE PROPOSALS

On behalf of students in Scotland and Wales, we write to call on the UK Coalition Government, and your own party, to call off your regressive plans for education funding. Trebling tuition fees in England not only goes against a promise every single Liberal Democrat MP made to Scottish and Welsh students during the elections, it will have a very real and damaging impact on potential students and their families regardless of which side of the border they reside. On the day when over 20,000 student march through London against your hugely unpopular proposals, they have our full support.

Scotland has a proud tradition of free education based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay. SNP MPs have always championed higher education at Westminster. When tuition fees were introduced in 1998 the SNP opposed that move and SNP MPs will stand firmly against the Browne review. The implications of lifting the cap on tuition fees in England could well be fewer resources for Scotland and a bigger challenge for Scottish students.

Equally, Plaid Cymru in Westminster will be opposing these shocking plans and standing up for ordinary students who simply want to be able to access higher education. Higher fees in England will have a direct impact on future Welsh students at English universities, will cost the Welsh Assembly Government millions of pounds in additional tuition fee loans, and will no doubt lead to pressure to increase tuition fees in Wales.

We thought the Liberal Democrats agreed with us on these points and we hope that you and your party will see sense and return to your previous opposition to tuition fees before the forthcoming vote on raising the cap.

The impact of these proposals on Scotland and Wales are real and direct:
• Scottish and Welsh students wishing to study in England will be saddled with over £40,000 of debt
• The drastic reduction in public spending will translate into less money for the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly
• The increase in the repayment threshold to £21,000 could take tens of millions out of the student support budget for Scottish and Welsh students
• The impact of increased subsidy in loans to students in Scotland and Wales who wish to study in England could be huge. The Welsh government are already predicting an extra £110m in subsidy

It’s time MPs throughout the UK were honest about where they stand on the issue of tuition fees. Whether they signed the pledge to vote against an increase in fees or not, it’s clear that the trebling of tuition fees would have a real and direct impact on families across Scotland and Wales. Welsh and Scottish MPs need to take a long, hard look at the constituencies they represent, do what is best for students and families in Wales and Scotland and vote against these disgraceful proposals.

We hope other Scottish and Welsh MPs follow the SNP and Plaid Cymru’s suit. With the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly elections just months away, students in Scotland and Wales will not forget how parties Westminster counterparts vote on this crucial issue. Make no mistake, NUS, SNP and Plaid Cymru – and all other parties that come out against the Browne proposals – will be quick to point out what position parties take.

Once again Mr Cable, we call on you to drop these damaging plans and honour the pledge you and every single one of your MPs signed up to during the General Election.

Yours sincerely,
Mike Russell MSP, SNP
Nerys Evans AM, Plaid Cymru
Katie Dalton, NUS Wales President
Liam Burns, NUS Scotland President