EDUCATION secretary Michael Russell will apologise to MSPs today after he was accused of misleading the Scottish parliament over the funding of Scotland’s colleges.
The Scottish Government confirmed on Monday night that Mr Russell, who was been under increasing pressure from opposition parties, would appear before Holyrood on Tuesday.
Alex Salmond was forced to apologise to parliament last week for saying the Scottish Government was increasing funding for Scotland’s college sector this year.
Official figures contradicted Mr Salmond’s claims, showing revenue funding for colleges was falling.
Labour MSP Hugh Henry called for a statement from Mr Russell as MSPs return to Holyrood today.
He will use a Holyrood question to ask when Mr Russell “became aware that there would be a reduction in college budgets” for 2012-13.
The education secretary has also written to the presiding officer to apologise after telling Labour MSP Hamzala Malik in June that there was “no reduction” in college funding.
A spokesperson for Mr Russell said last night: “The education secretary will put his apology on the record in parliament, in front of all MSPs, in response to Mr Henry’s topical question. It would be discourteous to MSPs for Mr Russell to do otherwise.”
The row exploded during last week’s First Minister’s Questions after Labour leader Johann Lamont asked whether Mr Russell had been right or had misled parliament on college funding.
Mr Salmond replied: “He was correct. The resource funding position for colleges is £545m in 2011-12 and it is £546m in 2012-13.”
However, revised final figures showed the budget falling from £555.7m in 2011-12 to £546.4m in 2012-13, a drop of £9.3m.
The First Minister yesterday said that opposition parties should have the “grace” to accept he said sorry at the earliest opportunity and “move on”.
But Mr Henry said: “This SNP government has been disguising its cuts to Scotland’s colleges until Alex Salmond and Mike Russell were finally caught out last week, and the Scottish public deserves a full explanation.
“The First Minister was shamed into coming clean but we have still heard nothing from the man who is implementing those cuts. Now Mike Russell will be forced out of hiding to answer education questions.
“He has to explain whether his inability to be clear about these college cuts was down to incompetence or deceit.”
Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith said: “It’s time for Mike Russell to come in front of the Scottish Parliament and clear up this issue.”