Angus Robertson: No Scottish Government – of any persuasion – would harm Scotland like this

Scottish higher education is respected around the world, except by decision-makers in Westminster.

They are suggesting that European students should have three years leave to remain in the UK post-Brexit – despite a Scottish degree famously taking four years. With more than 13,000 EU students studying north of the Border and over 96 per cent expecting their degree to last more than three years, this is a real problem. In a country facing a population shortfall of 500,000 in the years ahead, we need to welcome people here, not deter them from coming in the first place.

At the present time, Scotland has proportionally more EU staff and students than the rest of the UK, with around nine per cent of all university students being from other EU countries, while a whopping 27 per cent of full-time research staff and 75,000 college enrolments between 2012 and 2017 were EU nationals.

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On average, around ten per cent of Scottish universities’ research income comes from the EU. Scotland has benefited from 558 million euros from the Horizon 2020 programme, 64 million euros from the Erasmus programme, and an estimated £57 million of funding to our colleges from the European Social Fund.

Seat of the Enlightenment: Brexit is a threat to Edinburgh's proud tradition of education (Picture: Greg Macvean)

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Brexit: ‘Best in the world’ reputation of Scots universities in jeopardy

This matters in a country that prides itself on education. With 47 per cent of the population having a university, college or vocational qualification, people in Scotland are amongst the most educated in Europe: five per cent above the UK and 16 per cent above the EU average. With four Scottish universities in the world’s top 200, we rate second highest per head of population globally. Our 19 higher education institutions contribute £11 billion every year to the economy.

Brexit is bad enough for higher education across Scotland, but is particularly challenging for a centre of learning like Edinburgh. There are campuses across the city and Lothian including: Edinburgh University, Heriot Watt University, Edinburgh Napier University and Queen Margaret University as well as Edinburgh College, West Lothian College and the Scottish Rural College. All are centres of excellence, with a tremendous range of courses, high teaching standards, student satisfaction and facilities.

Since the Brexit referendum, there has been a consensus across Scottish further and higher education about the serious risks they are facing. Universities, colleges, trades unions and the Scottish Government have had a unified approach to protect Scotland from the worst effects of Brexit.

They are right to work together because of the real risk to attracting and retaining EU students and staff, continuing vital research as well as the Erasmus study abroad scheme and work experience being under threat.

Sadly the UK Government and the Scottish Conservatives are doing their best (worst) to undermine higher education, both with their damaging Brexit obsession and also policies like ending free university tuition in Scotland. If the UK ‘precious union’ was a caring family of nations and a ‘respect agenda’ was more than just words, the UK Government would have made arrangements to introduce visa arrangements as standard to fit degree lengths in Scotland. They also wouldn’t be playing with the damaging fire of a no-deal Brexit. Edinburgh and Scotland was cradle of the Enlightenment in Europe. No Scottish Government of any mainstream persuasion would be prepared to damage our intellectual heritage and the learning of future generations in the way that Westminster is currently doing. Yet another reason for decision makers in Scotland to be in charge of Scotland’s future.

Sport like this is too amazing for words

Last weekend must go down as showcasing some the most exciting sport in a long, long time. I must confess I wasn’t expecting that from cricket and tennis.

Cricket is many things, but rarely is it described as exciting.

I’ve always had a soft spot for it as I played as a junior for Edinburgh’s Grange Club, but I have never followed the county or international game.

This weekend I watched the World Cup final between England and New Zealand. Even if you are not a fan I would suggest watching the highlights.

There is too much drama to do it justice here. Trust me.

Congratulations to England and their fans, as well as commiserations to the Kiwis in equal measure.

At Wimbledon, the five-hour thriller between Novak Djokovic and Roger Federer has to be one of the all time classic mens finals.

Momentum swung back and forward between the tennis greats before the Serbian champion retained his title.

One day before Simona Halep stunned Serena Williams and the centre court public with a victory in the women’s final so emphatic that no-one saw it coming.

All of the matches were followed by interviews with the players in both sports showing tremendous grace and respect for their opponents.

What a great advert for sport.