Minister Richard Lochhead: We will work with other parties to stop Brexit

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Credit: The Glasgow Guardian/Scottish Government

Georgina Hayes & Bronagh McGeary
Editor & Deputy News Editor

Today the University of Glasgow hosted a Brexit Summit on Colleges and Universities, organised by MSP and Minister for Further Education, Higher Education & Science Richard Lochhead. The event was followed by a joint statement from various institutions in the education sector, including UCU, Universities Scotland and Colleges Scotland, as well as the Scottish Government itself. The summit was covered on The Glasgow Guardian’s Twitter account (@Glasgow Guardian) as it happened, and a full summary of the event will be published later today.

Following the summit, The Glasgow Guardian spoke to Lochhead on the impact of Brexit on the teaching of foreign languages, a People’s Vote and how high a priority indyref2 is in the face of Brexit. Read the full interview below:

Glasgow Guardian: There was lot of focus on STEM in the perspectives today. What is your stance on the teaching of language after Brexit? Language students have been declining rapidly in secondary education and university. What would you like to do to protect this?

Richard Lochhead: “There are a number of sectors of teaching that will be hit hard by Brexit. STEM is one but languages are very important as well. Staff might feel there’s a hostile environment and [this] could impact the teaching of languages. That’s a real concern. Likewise the ability of students to go on exchanges [is under threat], which is part of learning a new language – that could be potentially hampered as well. These issues illustrate how Brexit will cause harm to many different areas of student life and learning.”

GG: Should you actually be pushing languages, though, as we are becoming more isolated if we leave the EU – should this not be high importance?

RL: “Yes, I agree that we will need to make extra special effort to be outward-looking and part of the international community, and not follow the rest of the UK in being isolationist. [There’s a] need for a greater focus on teaching of foreign languages. So that’s a very good point.”

GG: Is a general election the only realistic way there could be a People’s Vote?

RL: “After negotiations, the fate of Scotland in terms of its relationship with Europe will be in the hands of Parliament. The Scottish Government will clearly support every effort to stop Brexit happening in first place, and ensure this is not a choice between a very bad deal and no deal.

“Clearly, at the moment there is not a majority in the House of Commons for the draft deal Theresa May put forward, therefore hopefully anything can happen. All scenarios are on the table. A general election is a prospect, or the Scottish Government wants to see other parties working together – any MP in Parliament [we will work with to] form a majority to stop Brexit from happening.”

GG: Are you happy to form an agreement/coalition with Labour, or does that contradict SNP’s long-held independence priority?

RL: “There is clearly intent [to work with other parties] – we are fully supporting and instigating working with the Labour Party and other parties in the national interest of stopping Brexit, or at least if Brexit goes ahead maintaining membership of the single market.”

GG: Is stopping Brexit a higher priority now for the SNP than independence?

RL: “Well clearly the Scottish Government’s view is that Scotland should be an independent country and that’s the SNP’s policy, but the immediate priority is obviously to make sure the impact of Brexit doesn’t damage Scotland. The First Minister has said in terms of a next independence referendum, once we have clarity on Brexit, a decision will be taken as to the timing of any indyref2.”