Alex Salmond calls for line to be drawn under college funding affair

Alex Salmond and Mike Russell. Picture: PA
Alex Salmond and Mike Russell. Picture: PA
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EDUCATION secretary Mike Russell is under increasing pressure to make a statement to MSPs today to answer accusations that he misled parliament by saying that funding to Scotland’s colleges was increasing.

• Opposition parties are calling for new powers for Scottish Government to hire and fire college boards to be ditched

• Mike Russell criticised after chairman of Stow College board ‘forced’ to quit after spat with minister

• Mike Russell and Alex Salmond had to apologise on Thursday following misleading statements over college funding

Labour MSP Hugh Henry called on Mr Russell to make the statement as MSPs return to Holyrood just days after Alex Salmond was forced to apologise to parliament for saying four times that he was increasing funding for Scotland’s college sector this year.

Figures in the name of Mr Russell had contradicted Mr Salmond’s claims, admitting that revenue funding for colleges was actually falling this year.

The education secretary promised to write to the Presiding Officer to apologise after tellingLabour MSP Hamzala Malik in June that there was “no reduction” in college funding.

However, Labour’s education spokesman Mr Henry claimed that Mr Russell had yet to publicly explain his stance on the row,

Mr Henry said: “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.”

‘Move on’

First Minister Alex Salmond today called for a line to be drawn under the row over college funding

He said opposition parties should have the “grace” to accept he said sorry at the earliest opportunity and “move on”, Mr Salmond said today.

“They say that apologies are good for the soul – I made one last week and if I make a mistake I take responsibility for it and apologise,” Mr Salmond told BBC Radio Scotland today.

“If I picked up every single error from the opposition parties on a daily basis in the Parliament, then the Parliament would do nothing else but talk about its mistakes.”

He added: “Most Parliaments, in fact all Parliaments I’ve ever seen when this happens, accept that and move on. The Labour party seem neither to have the grace to accept things and certainly not the will to move on.”

The Holyrood row followed a controversial spat between Education Secretary Mike Russell and Stow College chairman Kirk Ramsay. The latter was forced to quit after it emerged he made a recording of a meeting on reforms of the sector.

His resignation came amid claims of bullying at the hands of Mr Russell.

The First Minister said today that the figures he provided for this year and next year were correct.

But he added: “What happened was that in the document I was given I forgot to add on the additional spending which had been allocated for last year.

“So it was actually a mistake where we underestimated the amount that had been spent last year in Scotland. It may be the first time that a Government has underestimated the amount of money by around £9 million.”