Mike Russell hit by vote of no confidence

Mike Russell has come under fire from angry college staff. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Mike Russell has come under fire from angry college staff. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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College staff have overwhelmingly backed a motion of no confidence in the Scottish Government and education secretary Mike Russell.

Members of the Educational Institute of Scotland (EIS) claimed yesterday that “significant cuts” by the Scottish Government were leading to “diminished colleges” that were providing students with fewer opportunities.

Figures last week revealed that the number of students at college had fallen by about 120,000 since the SNP came to power in 2007.

Labour education spokesman Hugh Henry said college staff had “seen the damage Mike Russell and the SNP government are doing to further education in Scotland”.

He added: “The deception and betrayal is causing unprecedented anger.”

The motion, passed at the annual general meeting of the EIS further education lecturers’ association (FELA), stated: “This EIS-FELA annual conference expresses no confidence in: the Scottish Government, the First Minister and the cabinet secretary for education and lifelong learning in their stewardship of the college sector, which has led to significant cuts, leading to a diminished colleges offering far fewer opportunities to young people and adult returners it serves.”

Figures from the Scottish Funding Council last week showed there were a total of 257,913 full and part-time students enrolled at college in 2011-12, down 121,320 from 2007-08.

But over the five-year period, the number of people studying full-time at college rose by 19 per cent, to stand at 81,373 last year.

The Scottish Government also highlighted the record number of 61,304 16- to 24-year-olds who were on a full-time, funded college course last year.

However, Mr Henry said yesterday’s vote at the EIS-FELA meeting in Perth “shows just how serious the situation has become in Scotland’s colleges”. He added: “They are clearly at the end of their tether with this SNP government.”

The Labour MSP continued: “College staff no longer have any faith in Mike Russell but sadly it will make no difference because Alex Salmond and Mike Russell are working hand in hand to destroy morale in Scotland’s colleges.

“Normally, when a minister has lost the confidence of a major part of his portfolio, the right thing is for that minister to consider whether they should continue. But it is now clear that misleading the Scottish Parliament, the public, students, lecturers and staff as well as damaging our colleges, doesn’t matter to this SNP government. Mike Russell simply has no shame.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government’s commitment to Scotland’s further education sector is clear.

“We have increased funding by £61 million over the spending review period, compared to plans in the draft budget statement, and we are giving the sector the necessary framework for better college governance through the Post-16 Education Bill.

“Colleges are improving the employability of young people and aiding economic development by focusing on full-time courses for young people.

“Recent figures clearly show that colleges are continuing to improve outcomes for learners, with more students completing courses and more staying on.”