Query over whether colleges have the cash to get down to business

July 2, 1999

The Scottish Parliament's enterprise and lifelong learning committee has flagged up further education as a key priority, writes Olga Wojtas.

Convenor and Scottish National Party MSP John Swinney has called for background papers on further education to be sent to members during the summer recess, with a meeting expected before the parliament resumes in September.

The committee will look at the impact of legislation and may itself initiate legislation.

Mr Swinney said it was an important part of policy to recognise the direct link between business and economic development and further and higher education.

But Nationalist MSP Margo MacDonald said: "Given the severe financial difficulties of most colleges of further education in Scotland, is it not a matter of some urgency for this committee to find out their state of readiness?" MSPs could pontificate about the courses they wanted colleges to provide, but these would simply be "pious thoughts" if the colleges did not have the resources, she said.

Labour MSP Allan Wilson said the committee should link all those involved in formulating and implementing training policy, including colleges, local authorities and local enterprise networks.

"I see that as both a short-term and long-term objective of the committee," he said.

Labour MSP Elaine Murray urged the committee to examine the commercialisation of academic science.

"Is everybody just dashing along the road to a science park without thinking about how successful it will be in creating new industries?" she asked.

"We need to analyse the situation and examine how successful such initiatives are."

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