The Scottish Greens today confirmed their support for NUS Scotland’s Reclaim Your Voice campaign, which calls on politicians across Scotland’s political parties to rule out tuition fees, to protect graduate numbers and college places, and to improve student support after the election. The Greens’ national election campaign, launched last week, included the protection of free education as one of the party’s three key pledges, alongside a £100m a year programme to insulate every home in Scotland, and a commitment to fairer taxes to support investment in public services.
Patrick Harvie, Co-convenor of the Scottish Greens, said:
“Defending Scotland’s higher education system from the market madness being inflicted down south isn’t just right for students, it’s right for everyone in Scotland. We all benefit if our education system has places for those able to get the most out of it, and isn’t just reserved for the better off. The Scottish Greens therefore fully support NUS Scotland’s Reclaim Your Voice campaign, even if politicians from other parties have a track record that’s undermined the credibility of promises made to students. It’s not just the Lib Dems: Labour introduced fees in 1997, and the SNP broke a clear pledge to abolish student debt in 2007.
“Not only will we oppose a return to tuition fees in Scotland, we’ll oppose a graduate tax too. There already is one, and it’s called income tax. We also know that closing down places and shutting departments weakens higher education for the longer term. The NUS Scotland campaign therefore poses a tough question for the other parties who want to look like they’re backing students: where’s the money coming from? Only the Greens are ready with an alternative to the cuts, built on fairer taxes so the wealthiest pay more and public services can be protected. That way we know we can fund higher education properly and keep fees out for the long term.”
Liam Burns, President of NUS Scotland, said:
“Today the Scottish Greens have shown that they’re fully committed to Scotland’s students. This is testament to the hard work of thousands of students over the last few weeks and months. By backing our campaign and committing to fight fees, protect numbers and improve financial help for students during the next parliament it’s clear that the voice of students in Scotland is beginning to be heard loud and clear.
Almost all of the main parties now oppose tuition fees, but without increases to the financial help the poorest students get, many talented people will still be priced out of their education. Education must be based on ability to learn, not ability to pay, and that’s as much about having enough money to live on while you study as it is about ruling out fees.
“We cannot see fees ruled out only to see financial help for the poorest students continue at their current inadequate levels. If the Scottish Greens are promising to use public funding to rule out fees, protect numbers and improve student support, something we very much welcome, then that clearly leaves no need for any kind of graduate contribution.
“The Scottish Greens have made a firm commitment to Scotland’s students which is great news. Students across Scotland will now be working to secure similar commitments from candidates across all the parties standing in May’s elections. In what could be a really close contest any party or candidate that does commit to students can expect to see the difference at the ballot box in May.”