scottish parliament building
Credit: Geograph / Alan Findlay

The Scottish Government has ‘turned its back on students’, says NUS Scotland

By Odhran Gallagher

The President of the NUS Scotland has made a statement criticising the Scottish Government’s new budget for not adequately providing for students.

The Scottish Government’s 2023/24 budget has been criticised for not doing enough for students. The budget, which was set out by Finance and Deputy First Minister John Swinney on Thursday 15 December, made no new intervention to support students struggling with the cost-of-living. It allocated £46 million extra funding to Universities and Colleges in Scotland – out of keeping with inflation.

In a statement released in response to the budget, National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland President Ellie Gomersall said: “This is a government that has turned its back on students. The budget offers no meaningful support in response to the cost-of-living crisis Scotland’s students are facing.

“Student mental health is plummeting. Accommodation prices are through the roof. Students can’t afford the essentials – like heating or the cost of public transport. Despite their manifesto commitment to raise student support, the Scottish Government has left it stagnant, providing students with a real terms cut in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis.”

The NUS offered some praise for specific aspects of the budget, stating that: “We’re pleased that the Scottish Government have responded to our call to scrap peak train fares by announcing a pilot scheme, but this is a baby step in a cost-of-living crisis that calls for confident strides.

“This Budget was an opportunity for the government to use its full range of powers to achieve truly progressive taxation so that the richest can support those who don’t have enough to survive – including students.  

“35% of students have considered dropping out because they can’t afford to stay in education. That number will escalate the longer Ministers bury their heads in the sand and continue to delay their manifesto promises to students.”

The statement comes after NUS Scotland previously announced its Fighting for Students campaign in which they criticised education in Scotland for “being run like a business and leaving students and apprentices without the money they need to survive.”

As part of the campaign, it launched a petition which has now reached over 1,000 signatures demanding an increase in grants and bursaries, a student rent freeze followed by rent controls, and half-price bus and train fares for students and apprentices.” 

Scottish Labour Shadow Minister for Children, Young People, and Lifelong Learning, Martin Whitfield MSP has added to the criticism of the budget for its shortcomings affecting students. 

Speaking in parliament, the MSP said “I was contacted by a student yesterday who was forced to go to the Library the day before her exam because her flat was dangerously cold. Students across Scotland right now are struggling with the surge in fuel bills over this winter period and they need urgent intervention from the Scottish Government.”

Whitfield asked the First Minister whether her government would commit to supporting the ‘Fighting for Students’ campaign and concluded: “Scotland’s students don’t need warm words, but they do want to see real action.”


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