Colleges fear rush decision over Scottish fees

May 14, 1999

The Scottish Parliament in Holyrood is free to determine its spending priorities within the Pounds 14 billion Scottish block of funds and has the power to abolish tuition fees.

But there is disappointment in higher education over the apparent rush by MSPs towards a fixed position. Alice Brown, professor of politics at Edinburgh University and a member of the Consultative Steering Group that produced the parliamentary blueprint, said a cut-and-dried deal is against the spirit of the parliament.

"I hope that the issues of forming a government and education policy do not hinge on whether you are for or against tuition fees," she said.

Tom Kelly, chief officer of the Association of Scottish Colleges, said: "We had hoped that if there was to be a debate on tuition fees, it would be wider and more reasoned - on student support and entitlements as a whole."

The CSG proposed that committees, which could call expert external advice, would have a key role in monitoring legislation before it was passed, and Professor Brown said the tuition-fees argument between Labour and the Liberal Democrats could be resolved by the education committee. It was only one strand to be considered in future policy for further and higher education.

"The whole way that we approached the legislative process was that it might take a bit longer, but it should be well-informed legislation," she said.

But whatever MSPs decide, legislation is unlikely to be imminent, because the Holyrood Parliament does not gain any legislative powers until July 1 and it is expected to go into summer recess later that month.

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