Cubie stands firm on infighting

December 10, 1999

The chairman of the independent inquiry into Scottish student finance, Andrew Cubie, will resist his report being hijacked by political infighting.

His inquiry was set up because of the rift between Scotland's coalition partners, Labour and the Liberal Democrats, over abolishing tuition fees.

But Mr Cubie, speaking at a Napier University conference on student employment, said responses to his inquiry showed there was as much, if not more, concern over students' living costs.

He said education was important not only for individuals but also for the development of an economically sound society. He urged supporters of the report's findings to protest "volubly" if the political debate on the inquiry's findings "just goes back to the trenches of where it was in May".

Henry McLeish, Scotland's minister for enterprise and lifelong learning, has proposed that the report go to a special cabinet sub-committee of an equal number of Labour and Liberal Democrat MSPs. This is seen as a bid to stave off a damaging split between the two parties, given the Liberal Democrats' continuing insistence that fees must be axed. Mr McLeish has dismissed speculation that Labour is preparing to backtrack on keeping fees.

Mr Cubie is expected to make his recommendations to the Scottish executive four days before Christmas.

"I am determined our report will be unanimous," he said.

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