Cubie members ready to act

February 4, 2000

Members of the Cubie committee may mobilise soon to urge the Scottish Parliament to implement their report in full.

This contrasts with the muted response from Andrew Cubie. He said the committee's recommendations were "clearly and properly back with our elected representatives" and it would be "inappropriate" for him to comment on the detail of the Scottish Executive's proposals.

"The executive has not gone as far as our report suggested should be the case, but overall,

I welcome the acceptance of significant elements of our recommendations and will watch the development of their implementation with considerable interest," he said.

However, committee members are known to be deeply disappointed that their unanimous proposals for Pounds 4,000 maintenance bursaries for the poorest students, with the richest graduates underwriting an endowment scheme, have not won government support. They are deciding on their public response.

The parliament has supported the executive's proposals by 68 votes to 53, following a stormy all-day debate. Opposition MSPs claimed the executive was not abolishing tuition fees for Scottish students studying in Scotland, but merely deferring them with its proposals for a Pounds 2,000 contribution from graduates whose salaries top Pounds 10,000.

A Scottish Executive spokesman said this week that there was no need for legislation for the decision to abolish fees from the coming academic year. But a bill is expected to be put before the parliament this summer for the other proposed changes, including the graduate endowment scheme, which are planned to be implemented in 2001.

(The European Commission is to hold an inquiry after claims that the executive decision is illegal under Brussels law.)

Conservative peer Baroness Blatch this week challenged the government to end the "discrimination" faced by English, Welsh and Northern Irish students who study at Scottish universities. She was speaking in the House of Lords yesterday.

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