Opposition parties want SNP college Bill delayed
Labour, the Tories and the Liberal Democrats joined forces to urge the Scottish Government to put the Post-16 Education (Scotland) Bill on hold.
The legislation includes provisions for college regionalisation, which could lead to colleges merging or working together more closely.
It also aims to widen access to higher education and seeks to set an upper limit for tuition fees for university students coming to Scotland from the rest of the UK.
Labour branded the proposals “a real dog’s breakfast”, and said the legislation was “not fit for purpose”, while the Tories described it as a “bad Bill”.
MSPs on Holyrood’s Education and Culture Committee have been scrutinising the legislation.
Neil Findlay, Labour’s spokesman on skills and learning and the committee’s deputy convener, said: “This Bill is a real dog’s breakfast.
“Witness after witness criticised different aspects of the Bill and many issues remain unclear and unanswered. In its current state, the Bill is not fit for purpose.”
Tory education spokeswoman Liz Smith, who is also a member of the committee, argued: “This is currently a bad Bill.”
She said many people in the college and university sector were “confused” about whether the proposed legislation “will actually deliver the desired outcomes”.
The Conservative MSP added: “What matters most is the ability of both further education and higher education institutions to deliver better quality education - I have not been persuaded that this Bill can do that.”
Liberal Democrat Liam McArthur raised fears the Bill would not deliver on its aims.
Mr McArthur, another member of the Education Committee, said: “Widening access, improving governance and ensuring colleges and universities deliver high quality education to students of all ages are aims I fully support.
“However, there is widespread evidence that this Bill will not help achieve this and gives ministers powers they don’t need.
“These concerns must be addressed before this Bill can be allowed to proceed.”
A spokesman for Education Secretary Mike Russell said: “The opposition parties are engaged in an unholy alliance.
“They would force Scottish students to pay exorbitant fees, restrict access to higher education and would inhibit our attempts to get more young people into employment.
“The proof of our reforms is in the pudding. Colleges are delivering the valuable skills training our young people need, universities are beginning to take steps to widen access and our actions to tackle youth unemployment are delivering results.”