University places

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Your headline “Scots students losing out to English at home universities”, (13 June), perpetuates the myth that Scots are somehow in competition with English students for places at our universities.

Places for Scottish students at home universities are ring-fenced, guaranteed and strictly capped by government, which foots the bill for these places in line with its pledge on tuition fees. Universities which recruit above or below their allotted quota of home students expect to be fined.

Many of us would like to be able to admit many more home students, but it is fundamentally not in our gift.

No Scottish student can therefore ever “lose out” to a Rest of UK student or international student.

Fee income from rUK and international students – whose numbers are not capped – is now integral to the sustainability of the Scottish higher education sector and helps to subsidise the world-class teaching which is a hallmark of all our universities.

Niall Scott

Director of Communication, University of St Andrews

The latest report from Ucas tells us that “English students have a better chance of getting into university in Scotland than Scottish ones”. At St Andrews, we are told, “Scots youngsters with straight As are routinely turned away”.

So much for the proud boast of the SNP on free education. The potential access to higher education of these high-­flying young Scots hinges not on their ability to learn nor their ability to pay, but on the inability of the universities to offer them a place as a result of the cap on admissions for Scottish students imposed by the SNP.

What happens once the cap has been reached? Could a situation arise where applicants from England who have poorer qualifications than their counterparts from Scotland are granted admission simply because they can be asked to pay fees? That would surely be an unacceptable consequence of the policy of “free” tuition.

But we need to remind ourselves that there is no such thing as “free” tuition. University tuition for Scots – and students from the EU – is funded by the taxpayer.

I wonder if the taxpayer is fully aware of the full ramifications of the policy and, if so, is happy to see “Scots students losing out to English at home universities”?

Colin Hamilton

Braid Hills Avenue, Edinburgh

Poor managers

30,000 Scots job vacancies “lack qualified staff to fill them”? (Your report, 13 June). Rubbish, rubbish, rubbish! 30,000 Scots job vacancies lie empty because of management looking only for candidates able to jump straight into the job with zero training other than the passwords to the computer systems.

Decades ago employers prided themselves on their in-house training. But now false economies and an over-­reliance on employment agencies have left many mentally flabby when it comes to the recruitment process: so many managerial staff not knowing what they want from a new employee; so many Investors In People plaques little more than frippery.

Mark Boyle

Johnstone, Renfrewshire

Teacher crisis

Aberdeen city council for the first time ever is facing having to close schools next term as it is tackling the worst teacher shortage ever seen in the city.

The local authority has tried everything from recruiting abroad to giving golden handshakes and even re-training existing staff, but this is not solving the problem, while the SNP administration have sat on their hands hoping the problem would go away.

This now requires urgent intervention by the SNP government to provide funds to fill the vacancies with teachers on a fixed-contract basis and provide them with free accommodation and attractive termination bonuses to see their contract out, otherwise Aberdeen city schools will have to close.

Dennis Forbes Grattan

Bucksburn, Aberdeen

A fair question

Not only is it fair that Jeane Freeman be called to answer questions at any inquiry into PFI, it is essential. The SNP minister for social security, in her pre-MSP life, was a civil servant intimately involved in driving the now-questioned PFI projects forward. Those calling for her appearance are entirely correct.

Alexander McKay

New Cut Rigg, Edinburgh

Worrying plans

Whatever the First Minister may claim, the difference between a Named Person and a “state guardian” is a matter of semantics – and it is perfectly obvious her scheme is compulsory.

Appointed for every child in Scotland from the moment it is born, this is an example of state intervention in family life that is unprecedented anywhere in the world.

They must ensure the child is “safe, healthy, achieving, nurtured, active, respected, responsible and included” but few monitors, far less parents, will know what these vague words mean.

Holyrood is a byword for the illiberal policies and the kind of highly centralised control associated with a one-party state – warning flags should be waving over these open-ended powers

(Rev Dr) John Cameron

Howard Place, St Andrews

Gullane’s growth

Most people would agree that we need to build more houses in Scotland, and the Scottish Government has set out clear planning policy and guidance, at a national and local level, on how this can be achieved in a sustainable and environmentally positive fashion.

Unfortunately, in seeking sites to meet the government target for housing, East Lothian Council is overlooking fundamental criteria laid out in planning guidance.

My specific concern is for the historically important village of Gullane, where three greenfield sites outside the current village boundaries have been earmarked for development.

All three sites fail to meet key planning criteria of the East Lothian Local Plan, the South East Scotland Strategic Development Plan and Scottish Government planning guidance. During a recent meeting in Gullane Village Hall, councillors from East Lothian Council seemed to suggest the development of these fields is inevitable, despite the fact that none of the sites currently benefit from planning permission or form part of the local development plan zoned for residential development.

This argument is not about “no more houses in Gullane”. The population of Gullane has already grown by 70 per cent over the past 30 years, mainly through infill development. While that has sometimes been painful, it has been accepted by residents that this is the way forward rather than developing outside the boundaries of the village.

The ex-Fire Training College (another recent loss of employment to the village) is also already earmarked for development – a brownfield site that will bring around 120 new houses, a substantial increase for a village the size of Gullane. But developing the Fire School site is accepted as being the right thing to do with the land and buildings that would otherwise stand empty.

The real issue is when the most profitable development sites represent the worst planning outcomes for the areas in question. The great frustration here is that this fact is recognised and explicitly made in East Lothian Council’s own planning guidance, but they now appear to be ignoring both their own and Scottish Government policy.

It is hoped that reason and respect for planning law will still prevail – and that if East Lothian Council fails to change course and start following proper process, the Scottish Government will intervene.

Alan Fraser (MRICS)

Broadgait, Gullane