Boris Johnson accuses SNP of 'failing Scotland' after PMQs confrontation over Erasmus replacement the Turing scheme

Boris Johnson has accused the SNP of “failing Scotland” after being confronted at Prime Minister’s Questions over his Erasmus replacement, the Turing scheme.

The Prime Minister was challenged by SNP deputy Westminster leader Kirsten Oswald on why the UK Government was “taking opportunities away” from young people with the ending of the Erasmus+ education programme.

Ms Oswald was standing in for SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford after “technical issues” caused by a power cut across Skye and and North and South Uist affected thousands of homes.

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She told the Commons: “Yesterday, the Prime Minister published his plans for an Erasmus replacement without any consultation or discussion with devolved governments.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. Picture: House of Commons/PA Wire

"The replacement scheme offers lower living support, no travel support, no tuition fee support.

“Why is this Tory Government taking opportunities away from our young people?”.

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Mr Johnson praised her “delightfully concise question”, but insisted the Turing scheme was an improvement, despite evidence showing the initiative will cost students more.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons. Picture: House of Commons/PA Wire

He said: “She is wrong about the difference between the Erasmus and the Turing project because the Turing scheme unlike the Erasmus scheme, which overwhelmingly went to kids from better-off homes, the Turing project is designed to help kids across the country of all income groups get to fantastic universities around the world.”

Ms Oswald, the MP for East Renfrewshire, suggested Mr Johnson was not being honest and urged him to U-turn and re-join the Erasmus scheme.

She said: “That’s just not the case. We know we can’t trust a word the Prime Minister says on this.

"He told us there’s no threat to the Erasmus scheme, but he clearly won’t match EU levels of support and it’s not just us saying it. His own Scottish colleague told the BBC last week young people won’t benefit from Brexit.

Boris Johnson published his plans for the Erasmus replacement yesterday without any consultation with the devolved governments.

“They’ve saddled a generation with tuition fee debt, now they’re closing the door with Erasmus. It’s no wonder that students are choosing the SNP and independence for a prosperous future.

"So Prime Minister, will you think again, will you do the right thing? Engage with our EU friends and re-join Erasmus.”

Mr Johnson dismissed the concerns and responded by urging voters to reject the SNP May’s Holyrood elections.

He said: “I think students should choose the Turing project because it’s fantastic and it reaches out across the whole country and I believe by the way they should reject the SNP because it’s a Scottish nationalist party, because it is failing the people of Scotland, failing to deliver on education, failing on crime and failing on the economy.

“And I hope very much that the people of Scotland will go for common sense and instead of endlessly going on about constitutional issues, instead of endlessly campaigning for a referendum, which I think is the last thing the people of this country need right now, I think people want a government that focuses on the issues that matter to them.”

The Turing scheme will be launched in the UK and will cover much of the opportunities offered by Erasmus, but both Scotland and Wales’s governments have claimed it is a “lesser imitation of the real thing”.

Last month European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen said it was "not possible" for Scotland to rejoin the scheme as it was part of the UK.

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