Call to fund universities by taxing high earners

Scottish universities could be funded by taxing high earners more, former Labour education spokesman Des McNulty has said.

Mr McNulty, who lost his seat in May's election, said Scotland will need to pay for its world-class universities.

Unless universities are given substantially more money, they will be at a disadvantage when it comes to recruiting and retaining the best staff, the former Clydebank and Milngavie MSP said, adding that a 1p increase in the higher tax rate in Scotland can raise 68 million.

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He said: "Scotland already has the right to vary the basic rate of taxation by up to 3p, albeit in practice this was allowed to lapse. Why not press for the right to increase a higher-rate tax and use it to pay for our universities?" Mr McNulty said the measures could be included in the Scotland Bill.

He also criticised the timing of Labour's decision to match SNP plans for free education during the election campaign.

He said: "Adopting me-too policies made us look as if we lacked any strategy or thinking of our own, when there was an alternative I believe we should have put before the country."

Marco Biagi, SNP MSP for Edinburgh Central and a member of Holyrood's education committee, accused Labour of never being truly committed to education based on the ability to learn.

He said: "They introduced tuition fees. In contrast, the SNP has maintained our commitment to education based on ability to learn and we will continue to do so.

"With U-turn after U-turn, Labour were prepared to say anything in the hope of getting elected, without any idea how they would deliver. Des McNulty has shown just how empty Labour's campaign really was. Even the alternative he presents today requires powers in the Scotland Bill that Labour has opposed."

The SNP government has promised to pay for higher education with public funds.