The SNP’s great education betrayal

Some facts about education in Scotland. SNPfail is a Liberal Democrat site but the information is accurate.

Some facts about education in Scotland. SNPfail is a Liberal Democrat site but the information is accurate.

That’s right – betrayal. For all its bluster about free University tuition, the SNP government at Holyrood seems more interested in providing cheap education for the already-well-off than helping the disadvantaged achieve their potential.

Holyrood abolished tuition fees for Scottish universities – but who did that help? According to research by Edinburgh University in 2013, it helped those who were already wealthy.

The report on widening access to higher education was submitted to the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) after Ferdinand von Prondzynski, the university principal hand-picked by SNP ministers to review higher education, said abolishing tuition fees has mainly benefited the middle classes.

The report found the lack of fees in Scotland has meant initiatives to widen access have had “lower priority” and less funding.

The amount of grants available to poorer Scots has fallen and the funding packages offered north of the Border are virtually the same, regardless of the student’s wealth.

Meanwhile, there has been a huge drop in the number of students attending colleges since the SNP came to power in Holyrood and inflicted “savage spending cuts”, axing part-time courses which MSPs derided as “hobby courses”. The figures came from the Scottish Funding Council and show that 130,000 college places and teaching staff have been lost.

Those most affected by the cuts are young people who are less academic and are looking for vocational qualifications, and women returners – it was said that 100,000 fewer women were in education as a result of the SNP’s cuts.

And almost 4,000 teachers have been lost since the SNP took office in 2007. The party froze council tax that year, meaning local authorities were forced to make cuts in their spending.

As a result, instead of reducing class sizes to 18, the loss of enough teachers to fill 50 average-sized secondary schools has pushed class sizes to more than 30.

Again, the well-off are the winners. They benefit more from the council tax freeze because it leaves them with more disposable income; lower earners still have to spend most – if not all – of their income on the bills. And wealthy parents can afford to supplement their children’s education with extra, private, tuition – or opt out of the state system altogether and send them to private school.

So the SNP’s education policy is to penalise the poor and reward the rich. So much for that party’s left-wing credentials!

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22 thoughts on “The SNP’s great education betrayal

  1. Andy

    Mike, at last, someone criticizing the SNP for the same reasons I do. They’ve also not protected education budget in their manifesto, unlike Labour. And some analysis by Kevin Hague on his chokka blog (don’t ask!) shows how the SNP spending across different budgets ends up highlighting how little they prioritise education.

    Add to that, their recent enhancement to free school meals has been in their manifesto since 2007 but was only implemented this year because England did it first.

    So much so for good Scottish education.


    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      For clarity, I should point out that this is a different Andy from the chap who’s arguing over David Cameron’s attitude to the death of David Clapson.

  2. Charles Norman Hay

    Once again Mike your out of your depth and have no idea what you are talking about, i get the impression that your jealous of the SNP that they have stuck to there guns with education for all its only through the economic restrictions posed by this Coalition government that forced the SNP to curtail certain courses , whereas in England higher education is for the well of .

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      If I’m out of my depth, does that also go for Edinburgh University? How about the Scottish Funding Council? The Educational Institute of Scotland?
      You write about the SNP having “stuck to there [sic] guns” but say nothing about the fact that this party’s policies attack the poor and help the rich. That’s no way for a party to be, if it’s claiming to be left-wing. And the SNP can’t attack Labour for having drifted too far to the right, in these circumstances.
      In England, a higher proportion of less wealthy people are attending university courses because they have more grants available to them, better-tailored to their needs. It’s in the linked websites.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      What a strange link! Didn’t give me a story about funding cuts at all – just lots of adverts. Obviously I’m not against advertising, but I would appreciate some content as well.

      1. Mike Sivier Post author

        Right, so in England (the BBC story) the drop is due to schools becoming academies – privately-owned and run institutions within the state system, with the demands of private business.
        And in Wales, the problem is reduced funding from central government (the same as it was with the NHS).
        In Scotland, the SNP-led Scottish Parliament decided to freeze council tax, forcing councillors to make unwanted cuts. Scottish councils have been borrowing heavily in a bid to save essential services, to offset the continual cuts from the Scottish government:

    2. Jim Round

      The transferring of schools from LA’s to academies has been used by The Tories to fiddle these new jobs figures, state schools in England are using supply teachers to cover shortages.
      Holyrood are using the same excuse, blaming block grant cuts.
      Further education is suffering all over, take the protests in North Wales, Coleg Cambria and Llandrillo.
      Education should be more of a priority than NHS spending. It has been neglected and used as a political football for too long by ALL political parties.

  3. Ian

    This fixation on the SNP is getting weird. I know you’re doing your bit to get Labour elected but they’re going to get walloped in Scotland. Best get used to it and devote your time and energy to more fruitful pastimes such as getting Labour’s poll ratings up elsewhere.

    If 33/345 is the best Miliband can muster against this lot he doesn’t deserve to be PM and he certainly won’t have a genuine mandate to lead. He should have bailed out last year like a real honorable gentleman instead of limping along, putting personal ambition before the country and party.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      Maybe Labour will get walloped in Scotland but the Scottish people (and everyone else) have a right to at least have a chance to see the facts.
      Labour’s poll ratings are where they are because a very determined assault is taking place against those facts, and people are being duped by what they are seeing. The popularity of the SNP is an example of this.
      Read the article. Think about the facts it is putting before you. Think about what you have been told. Bear in mind that I have less reason to lie than any of the politicians you know.
      Think about it a little more.

      1. Ian

        To be honest, it won’t matter if the SNP are not all they seem on education, they are the best of a bad bunch by some distance. If we in England had a viable alternative party to vote for, particularly a social democratic one, they’d be Hovering up votes against the deeply poor competition out there. Cameron only has a third of the vote because a third of English people are either nasty bastards or stupid bastards and Miliband only gets his third by default – nobody will vote for him with enthusiasm, no lefty, at least.

        It’s going to take the SNP to fail (if it gets any power post election) or Labour to ditch the neolibs before Labour do well again north of the border. The Scots have got tired of Labour taking them for granted. About time we in England did, too.

        Pro privatisation, pro private involvement in the NHS, pro TTIP, pro war, pro nuke decidedly iffy on benefits, bashing immigrants (see the Labour mugs…)… they only have themselves to blame for their losses and poor showing in the polls.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        What are you on about? Miliband’s popularity is increasing by leaps and bounds. If we had a more impartial press, he’d be miles ahead.
        All this talk about Labour being full of neoliberals and taking the Scots for granted is a bit silly, now we’re starting to see how right-wing the SNP really is.
        Your last paragraph is full of distortions – clearly that is the only way you think Labour can be beaten.

    2. Ian

      Labour are nnot coming on leaps and bounds, last poll I saw they wre 4% behind the Tories and they rarely, if ever get above 33 or 34%. That is criminal against this lot in government. I suspect you know Labour are struggling or you wouldn’t be going all out against the SNP in the way you have been recently.

      Labour *is* full of neoliberals, that isn’t even a debate point, ou get the occasional Meacher or Skinner but they are overwhelmingly neoliberal. I don’t know how you can even begin to argue the Scots haven’t been taken for granted. The Labour core vote in Scotland and northern England have been totally taken for granted in favour of trying to capture middle England swing voters and the southern middle class, they’ve been doing this since Blair, Labour has very little to offer the working class these days. The huge swathes of unemployment and economic depression left by Thatcher were entirely ignored here by Labour. They gave some places a lick of paint but the underlying structural economic issues were never addressed. I’m not saying anything new or breaking any confidences here. Labour threw us a few bones (Sure Start, and a very poor NMW) then chased the middle class for all they were worth. The Scots switching allegiance to a more left wing party, the SNP, was obviously going to happen once it became a viable option. You cannot please all the people all of the time. Jack Monroe spoke about this phenomenon in The Guardian a month or two ago, you probably read it, she said something like, ‘I didn’t leave Labour, Labour left me’, many Scots will feel precisely the same.

      The final points were accurate They are pro privatisation, pro TTIP even though it’s a corporate scam that will be to the detriment of everyone else. You know fine well how dodgy Labour are on benefits, you even called for Rachel Reeves to be sacked, if I remember rightly? They are right wing on immigration, too.

      I will not vote for such a right wing party or such a lacklustre leader, I only wish we in England had an alternative to vote for as the Scots do. I guess I’ll have to rely on Sctland doing the right thing and voting SNP to bring some vaguely left wing policies to national government.

  4. David

    Some people will grab and twist anything to try and smear the SNP!

    “Abolishing tuition fees helped the already wealthy”
    Well yes, the already wealthy were already going to university
    now the not wealthy are able to achieve going to university which was the entire point of abolishing tuition fees, it’s no longer exclusively for the wealthy

    “Initiatives to widen access have had lower priority and less funding”
    Well, the biggest obstacle to access thus the biggest initiative to widen access – abolishing tuition fees – is being funded! Now there’s not a Scottish sole who can’t go to university because they can’t afford it – that’s pretty wide access!

    The amount of grants available has fallen – no need for tuition fee grants means less grants all in its own anyway, so moot point

    “Hobby courses”
    Enough said really, clearly not courses achieving the value for money, the taxpayers money, that they cost

    The rest of your drivel has been brung up on FMQ’s in the past and satisfyingly answered and explained or even rubbished and I’m fairly sure Nicola and Alex have already done a much better job at rubbishing your nonsense so I don’t have to

    But you’re whole point being that all the SNP have done benefits the rich most – You clearly choose to fail to realise that anything that costs less money benefits EVERYONE
    Things are no longer EXCLUSIVELY for the rich
    Poorer people’s money can go further if less of it is needed for a particular bill and now have more disposable income as a direct result
    College courses that ultimately had no or very little value in helping someone progress in life – the point of education – are no longer taking money better spent elsewhere.

    Anything to do with money will always benefit those with money
    What the SNP do is make it benefit those without money too

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      How sad for you that the “not wealthy” are not able to achieve going to university, because they can’t access grants and they can’t take out loans because they don’t know that they will be able to pay off the debt. That is the point.
      Abolishing tuition fees has been funded by axing support for courses that poorer people could actually attend – that was also mentioned in the article.
      You seem to misunderstand the purpose of student grants; they are to help the student survive during his or her time as a student and are intended to pay accommodation costs, bills, and the cost of books necessary for the course. The loss of those grants is extremely significant to a poor student; not so important to the rich.
      The fact that you agree with the SNP definition of “hobby courses” automatically speaks volumes for your powers of inquiry.
      You raise First Minister’s Questions as a place where the rest of my argument has been answered, as though that is a place where accurate information is provided. I don’t have enough experience of FMQs to discount that completely; however, if it is anything like Prime Minister’s Questions (that cover matters relating to the whole of the UK) I think you have lost that point too. David Cameron habitually answered hard questions with lies or evasion – look at his record on NHS funding.
      I notice also that you have reduced yourself to insulting my work without having any accurate information with which to counter it. You have not proved that the article is “drivel”, “rubbish” or “nonsense”.
      Anything that costs less money may benefit everyone in some small way but the rich – who pay the largest proportion of tax – benefit more than anyone else. Council tax freezes are brilliant for people in Band F, Band G, Band H – they save a small fortune.
      Poorer people have less money as a consequence of the UK having had a Tory government forced on it; they don’t feel the benefit nearly as much as many of them are still living hand-to-mouth. In-work poverty has skyrocketed in the last five yeas, as can be seen by the rise in in-work benefit claims, Housing Benefit claims and attendances at food banks.
      You parrot the SNP claim that the closed courses had no value – they were vocational courses. The people who were disadvantaged as a result of their loss were people seeking vocational qualifications and women returners to work.
      Your last line is absolutely not true, as has been proved by the factual information in the article.

      1. Joan Edington

        I’m not in the mood to get into any arguments at the moment Mike. Just back from a cycle holiday and need to relax. All I want to say is that FMQs and PMQs are like chalk and cheese. There may be a bit of clapping and light laughter at Holyrood but there is none of the brianless bickering, guffawing and shouting down that goes on in the glorious centre of UK government.

      2. Mike Sivier Post author

        What does that have to do with whether the FM or PM is lying or not? Nothing.

  5. Mark

    I respectfully disagree. Abolishing tuition fees opens up education for everyone and I myself benefited from that. I would suggest that a barrier to people taking up courses might be the difficulty in funding themselves and earning a living once enrolled on a course and the coalition has made that a frightening prospect with their relentless austerity programme.

    1. Mike Sivier Post author

      You realise that, in order to abolish tuition fees, the Scottish SNP government closed many courses that less-advantaged people would have taken, as well as reducing the number of grants available?
      From what you’re saying, it seems likely that people were supposed to think they way you have.

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