Thursday, 28 February 2008

Scrapping the Graduate Endowment

Voting in the Parliament today to scrap the Graduate Endowment (the tuition fees which the Lib Dems claimed to have done away with before introducing this as a back-end payment of fees) was meant to be almost as tight as the budget.

And it was. The bill - with only Jeremy Purvis' amendment - passed with 67 votes (SNP/LD/Green/Margo + A.N. Other - either by accident or design) to 61 (Lab/Con). The other is bound to be an interesting name (what odds Cathy Craigie again?! [- EDIT in fact Elaine Smith, which still doesn't answer if it was accidental or not!]) but my main question is this: who's in a right-wing alliance now?

It was an interesting debate too. In the end though, it appeared that even Labour - who along with the Lib Dems in that shady coalition introduced the fees - and the Tories saw the logic of the Government's argument, and offered up amendments which sought not to detract from the bill but to dampen the spirit that it was put forward in. Their amendments - which called for independent inquiry of the funding of universities - were added to find a way in which these parties, one of whom doesn't seem to know the meaning of the term "consensus", could back the Government without losing too much face, given their opposition to the bill at previous stages.

It is with some dismay then, that I write this. For on the issue of student welfare members of the Labour party - notably Richard Baker MSP, former leader of the NUS in Scotland - look to have student issues at their core. Yet, for party political reasons, they couldn't find it within themselves to vote for the removal of the fees which they themselves introduced and which contribute heavily to the mountain of debt students find themselves in.

To hear Rhona Brankin's interventions today - aimed at mocking the Scottish Government's promise to end student debt - served only to draw attention to the fact that students in Scotland have found themselves in worse debt because of the Labour-led coalition's introduction of the graduate endowment. The SNP pledged to end student debt, and scrapping the graduate endowment is the first stage of that. Just as they promised to replace the council tax, freezing it was the first step in that.

But when opposition politicians constantly want to portray themselves as the solution to Scotland's problems, and that those problems are the making of the new Scottish Government, there's something far wrong with their mentality. Labour and the Lib Dems had 8 YEARS to fix the problems that they are now identifying in opposition. Instead they exacerbated the problem of student debt by lumping a further sum on our students. The Scottish Government has acted to alleviate that burden. And if vulnerable groups really are the fiefdom of the Labour party, then they'd do well to remember that in votes such as this.

So Labour managed to find a way to vote against it. As did the Tories. At least students now know which parties are standing up for their interests in Parliament - and it isn't them.

Rant over - this has been much more partisan than my usual blog - but its been an issue I'm all too familiar with. It's a no brainer for support either - and yet again I'm baffled by the position of the Labour party.


Scottish Toryboy 2 March 2008 at 10:50  

I love how the Lib Dems are taking credit for the abolition of the graduate endowment, especially considering they, with Labour, introduced the bloody thing.

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