Salmond warns rival parties on student tuition fees

University of Glasgow

Former First Minister and Alba Party leader Alex Salmond has warned rival political parties that their support will “evaporate” if they attempt to reintroduce tuition fees for Scottish students. 

Salmond’s warning comes after a university leader called for a review of universal free tuition. 

Paul Grice, vice-chancellor at Queen Margaret University (QMU), said in a Sunday newspaper that talks must begin “quite soon” as he signalled his support for creating a cross-party commission to find a new way of funding higher education in Scotland.

Grice is the vice-convener of umbrella body Universities Scotland, having previously served as clerk and chief executive of the Scottish Parliament from its inception in 1999 to taking the helm at QMU in 2019. 

Salmond said: “As First Minister,  I said that ‘the rocks would melt with the sun’ before we allow the Tories or Labour to take away the right to free education in Scotland. It has been a huge success with an increase of 30 per cent in Scottish domiciled students going to college and university.

“Any political party which tries to reintroduce tuition fees will see their support evaporate like snaw aff a dyke. Higher education is one of the great success stories of the Scottish economy and society over the last 15 years.

“Meanwhile, south of the border, the student loans system is in meltdown and young people are emerging to take their place in society with an albatross of  tens of thousands of pounds of debt around their necks.

“Instead of moving the dial backwards, we should be powering forward with a further huge expansion of Scottish higher education.”

Salmond argued this can be done in three ways.

“Firstly, Scotland should control and expand the entry of overseas students into our higher education sector,” said Salmond.

“In addition these skilled youngsters should be encouraged to live and work in Scotland at least for a period after graduation.

‘Secondly, although Scottish entries into university have been rapidly expanding overall, my successors introduced unreasonable caps in key subject areas. These should now be lifted and every qualified student should be offered a place.

“Thirdly, there should be a national bursary scheme for working class youngsters without the requisite formal qualifications, but who have graduated through the Saltire awards or other schemes recognising voluntary work, to enrol in our top universities after a foundation course.

“Paul Grice should know better. He was there watching in the Parliament when we moved Scotland forward. He should be putting his shoulder to the wheel not just to protect what we have gained, but to secure the powers required for future success.”