The Glasgow Guardian held an interview with a source from the European Commission, where it was revealed that the only way Scotland can take part in Erasmus+ is if the UK as a whole remains in the scheme.
Since the UK decided to leave the EU student mobility has remained one of the contentious issues, particularly in the devolved nations. The UK government rejected Erasmus+ membership in favour of setting up its own alternative, the Turing scheme. In a joint statement from the Scottish and Welsh governments, they said the scheme “is a lesser imitation” to Erasmus+ and both governments are attempting to rejoin.
The EU does allow third-party nations to join the scheme; currently, there are six non-EU member states as part of the scheme including Lichtenstein, Serbia and North Macedonia however the EU has confirmed that Scotland won’t be the seventh.
Officials from the European commission have told The Glasgow Guardian: “The UK turned down an offer to continue participating in Erasmus+ on equal footing with EU member states by associating to the programme and decided instead to set up an alternative scheme. The commission regrets the decision of the UK not to associate with the new Erasmus+ programme for 2021-2027. We are aware that this decision goes against aspirations and hopes in Scotland. However, following the Erasmus+ Regulation, association to Erasmus+ is not possible for regions or, in the case of the UK, its constituent nations. The only possibility for the UK is to associate as a whole or not at all.”
Despite this assertion from the Commission that “constituent nations” cannot join the scheme in line with Erasmus+ regulation, the EU has allowed Northern Ireland to remain part of the initiative due to a commitment from the Irish government to fund their place. When questioned on this discrepancy, a source from the EU commission told The Glasgow Guardian: “The commission is aware of the scheme between Ireland and Northern Ireland which is purely an arrangement between both entities as the rules for registering students at national universities is a national competence outside the scope of EU law. The Commission also takes note of the specific situation with regard to people from Northern Ireland, who, under the terms of the Good Friday (Belfast) Agreement, can assert their right to Irish nationality.
The Scottish government was approached for comment but they would not comment beyond the previous joint statement with the Welsh government which ended by stating “we will now explore how Scotland and Wales can continue to enjoy the benefits offered by Erasmus+”, a prospect the EU has clearly refuted.