Salmond unveils ‘free tuition’ monument at Heriot-Watt

Alex Salmond has faced criticism after unveiling a monument at a university honouring his commitment to free higher education

November 18, 2014

On his penultimate day in office, Scotland’s First Minister unveiled the commemorative stone at Heriot-Watt University inscribed with his March 2011 statement on university costs: “The rocks will melt with the sun before I allow tuition fees to be imposed on Scottish students.”

Weighing nearly a tonne, the stone was carved and designed by stonemasonry apprentices at Historic Scotland’s National Conservation Centre in Elgin.

Mr Salmond, who is standing down after seven and a half years in office, described the abolition of tuition fees as his government’s “single biggest achievement”.

“It is without doubt now a commitment writ in stane,” said Mr Salmond, who added that it was “fitting and humbling” to have the “wonderful” monument created by apprentices.

But Liz Smith, the Scottish Conservatives’ young people spokeswoman, claimed that free tuition had “done nothing to widen access” and instead placed pressure on universities to recruit fee-paying students from elsewhere, “freezing out” Scottish learners.

“That’s hardly a legacy worth celebrating,” said Ms Smith.

Apprentices Gregor Alcorn and Ross Kennedy spent four days carving the stone and another two colouring the lettering.

Steve Chapman, Heriot-Watt’s principal, said: “We are delighted to host this stone, a beautifully crafted piece and a monument to Alex Salmond’s tenure as First Minister and his strongly held commitment to access to education for Scottish students.”  

chris.havergal@tesglobal.com

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