£21m of University funding ‘missing’, say opposition

Written by Tom Freeman on 28 January 2015 in News

Liam McArthur says shortfall could be election "slush fund"

The draft Scottish budget includes £21m of unallocated funding for universities which could boost Scottish research globally, according to Labour and Liberal Democrat MSPs.

The Scottish Funding Council has published plans for £1,041m in HE resource, as advised by former Cabinet Secretary Michael Russell, but the Scottish Government budget proposed £1,062.5m in January. The Scottish Government says it is normal to provide flexibility.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Education spokesman Liam McArthur said: “We need to hear why SNP ministers have decided to keep hold of £21m of this funding with no explanation where they are diverting the money to. This looks suspiciously like a ministerial slush fund being saved up for the election.”

The SFC has announced it would suspend £14m funding for the Global Excellence Fund, used to support university research to compete on the world stage, adding “It is our intention that, if funds become available to SFC during the course of the year, these will be used for supporting research informed by the REF 2014 results.” £7m is also to be saved from the Main Teaching Grant and the Research Excellence Grant.

A Scottish Government spokesman said the SFC allocations were neither new nor unexpected. “As expenditure can vary in the course of the year, we have asked the Funding Council not to allocate their budget for next year in its entirety in the first instance, as was made clear last year. This provides flexibility going forward to align resources where needed across our funding for post-16 education,” he said.

Scottish Labour’s education spokesman Iain Gray called it a “stealth cut”, and said the funding should be returned to the Global Excellence Fund.

“Robbing research of resources so Mr Swinney has “budget flexibility” to play with is a false economy. The future of Scotland’s economy rests on our world leading research, and Angela Constance needs to understand that,” he said.

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