The Scottish Office is facing the unpalatable choice of treating young Scots less favourably than young English or underwriting an extra tranche of student support. One of the public funding priorities in the Department for Education and Employment's consultation paper on lifelong learning is to guarantee free full-time education for under 18s.
But Scots school-leavers can gain higher education entrance qualifications before 18. When asked whether the DFEE guarantees would extend north of the border, a spokesman said that Scotland would have its own version. But the delays that beset the green paper, downgraded from a white paper, are also affecting Scotland, whose consultation paper is expected in "late spring".