A consensus on melting rocks

Written by Tom Freeman on 4 March 2015

It's an election year, but you'd never guess it was an election with no bearing on Scottish education policy.

First we had the First Minister making announcements on Scottish education from a school in London, now Scottish Labour have come out in support of universally free university tuition fees, as leader Jim Murphy met with student activists in Glasgow yesterday.

Never mind Alex Salmond's stone (pictured), it was Labour First Minister Donald Dewar who started the abolition of tuition fees in 2000, according to Murphy. But it wasn't just about fees he said. “There is sometimes a certain conceit in Scotland about our education system. As a society we pat ourselves on the back for keeping university tuition free when for too many working class Scots even the idea of going to university is just a pipe dream. That’s not good enough."

The SNP were quick to pounce on what they called "shameless hypocrisy" because Murphy himself had voted for the introduction of fees as a member of the New Labour Government, as well as being against free tuition as when he was president of the NUS.

MSP Stewart Maxwell said:"It’s clear that students in Scotland won’t be fooled by this shameless stunt."

NUS Scotland however warmly welcomed the announcement. President Gordon Maloney said the union had "worked tirelessly" to build a consensus on fees after "bitter memories of the betrayal" by the Liberal Democrats at Westminster after 2010. "Today’s welcome announcement marks a broad consensus against fees for Scottish students, and against charging in Scottish higher education, which should settle the debate once and for all," he said. 

Labour education spokesman Iain Gray said the party had never "at any stage" supported the reintroduction of fees in Scotland. Why did we need a stone again?

This taken from my weekly education briefing - sign up to receive it here 

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