Labour attacks Mike Russell for ‘dishonest claims’ of college funding increase

Education secretary Mike Russell
Education secretary Mike Russell
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EDUCATION secretary Michael Russell has failed to publicly 
answer accusations that he misled parliament by saying that funding to Scotland’s colleges was increasing, Labour MSP Hugh Henry has claimed.

The claim came after Alex Salmond was forced to apologise to MSPs for telling them four times that he was increasing funding for Scotland’s college sector this year, in what he said was “about as exact an answer as anybody has given to any parliament”.

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 telling Labour MSP Hamzala Malik in June that there was “no reduction” in college funding.

Mr Henry, Labour’s education spokesman, yesterday criticised Mr Russell for not appearing on the BBC’s Sunday Politics to explain the row over college cuts. The Scottish government had said Mr Russell was unavailable.

Mr Henry said: “It’s unfortunate the Cabinet secretary hasn’t come on the programme, as he twice made untruthful claims to parliament. We need to know why the wrong figures were given to the Scottish Parliament. Mike Russell knowingly gave the wrong figures twice.”

Mr Henry went on to say that Mr Russell and Mr Salmond had created a parliamentary “crisis where it appears that the First Minister and his Ministerial colleagues can make dishonest claims”.

However, Mr Russell said: “I am always happy to promote the Scottish Government’s outstanding track record in protecting and enhancing educational opportunities at all levels.”