Source: The Scottish Government
In the SNP manifesto, launched by leader Nicola Sturgeon on 20 April, the party said it would “guarantee the continuation of free university education in Scotland and support the reduction of tuition fees across the UK”.
The SNP is predicted to make major gains in the general election and could hold the balance of power after 7 May.
The pledge makes it more likely that a Labour government could lower fees, even if it does not hold a majority.
Speaking at the manifesto launch, Ms Sturgeon said that, in the event of a minority-led House of Commons, the SNP would seek to “advance progressive policies that will benefit people in all parts of the UK”.
“If the SNP emerges from this election in a position of influence, we will exercise that influence responsibly and constructively,” Ms Sturgeon said. “And we will exercise it in the interests of people, not just in Scotland but across the UK.”
Since Ed Miliband has pledged to make up the shortfall for universities by restricting tax relief on pension contributions for the highest earners and clamping down on tax avoidance, Labour’s policy would likely mean a funding boost for the Scottish government under the Barnett formula.
However, the lowering of tuition fees in England could have a significant impact on the revenue of Scottish universities, many of which draw substantial income from rest-of-UK students. Scottish institutions are unlikely to be able to charge more than their English counterparts, and the SNP is yet to state whether it would direct any funding received under the Barnett formula to higher education.
The SNP manifesto also states that the party will “support sensible immigration policies that meet our economic needs and, as a priority, we will seek the reintroduction of the post-study work visa”.
The document adds that the SNP will “continue to work closely with our universities to maintain their position of global excellence”. This includes “supporting ambitious collaborations between universities, businesses and others”, in part through a network of eight innovation centres, the manifesto says.