Labour Will Keep Free Tuition

3 March 2015, 08:11

A Scottish Labour government would keep university tuition fee-free, Jim Murphy will say today.

The Scottish Labour leader will confirm the party's policy when he meets students in Glasgow later.

Mr Murphy will also announce a funding package ``to ensure Scottish universities are properly supported alongside Labour's plan to reduce tuition fees in England''.

Labour leader Ed Miliband last week pledged to cut university tuition fees south of the border to £6,000 a year by autumn 2016 if his party wins the general election.

But the SNP hit out at Labour's record on tuition fees and said students in Scotland "won't be fooled'' by Mr Murphy's "shameless hypocrisy'' on the issue.

Speaking ahead of the event in Glasgow, Mr Murphy said: "Under Scottish Labour there will be no university tuition fees in Scotland.

"I want young Scots to be able to train to be doctors, teachers, lawyers, engineers, scientists and much more no matter their background or how much money their parents have.

"That was why Donald Dewar abolished tuition fees in the first place.''

The Scottish Labour leader said free tuition is only part of the plan to give working class children the best start in life, highlighting the party's plan for a £125 million fund to close the attainment gap.

He went on: "The fact that just 220 of the poorest kids in Scotland get the grades they need to study at our best universities is a moral scandal.

"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.

"Scottish Labour has set out an ambitious £125 million programme to give working class kids the best start in life. We will use this money to support the children who are being left behind by the SNP Government in Edinburgh.

"We have also listened to the concerns of universities and that's why we will use the extra money coming to Scotland to plug any immediate funding gaps as a result of any fees reduction in England.

"Scotland has some of the best universities in the world, specialising in medical research that saves lives and is vital to our NHS. We won't allow that to be put at risk.''

The SNP said the Scottish Labour leader and his party cannot be trusted on fees.

SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell said: ``In a leadership which has been dominated by gaffes and U-turns, this is perhaps the most hypocritical announcement from Jim Murphy yet - and is clearly an attempt to distract attention from the series of embarrassments he has suffered in recent weeks.

"Unfortunately for Mr Murphy, this episode has boomeranged only to throw his own dreadful record on tuition fees into the spotlight - showing exactly why he can't be trusted on this or any other issue.

"Labour introduced tuition fees - and then abandoned students further when they introduced top-up fees. As a result, students south of the border now face fees of up to £9,000 per year.

"Mr Murphy himself voted to impose tuition fees - describing the idea of free tuition as 'incoherent, indefensible and unrealistic'. His announcement today is all about panicked attempts to grab headlines - and nothing to do with defending the principle of free education.''

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