The Mail is reporting that students from England and Wales would still be charged tuition fees of up to £9,000 a year by Scottish universities following independence according to the SNP blueprint, despite it being against current EU law…
…Under the current funding system, EU students are entitled to ‘free’ higher education in Scotland while English, Welsh and Northern Irish youngsters pay up to £9,000 a year.
The anomaly has caused controversy as critics say the rest of the UK (RUK) are being discriminated against.
But if the UK were broken up and Scotland retained its EU membership, then – according to EU law – RUK students would also be entitled to degrees for which they would not have to pay, as they would be regarded as foreign EU citizens.
The lost income could amount annually to at least £140 million, according to latest estimates.
The independence blueprint published yesterday reveals the SNP plans to continue to provide ‘free’ degrees for native Scots – but only by keeping tuition fees for RUK students.
Critics say this policy runs against current EU law and is inherently unjust, because RUK youngsters would continue to be forced to pay to study here, while other EU youngsters would still be exempt from fees.
University bosses, who have vowed to remain impartial in the independence debate, welcomed the SNP’s approach last night and claimed it reflected legal advice they had received earlier this year.
But Mid Scotland and Fife Labour MSP Dr Richard Simpson said: ‘This would be an entirely discriminatory policy and I cannot see how it would possibly comply with EU law. If there is legal advice, we need to see it now.
‘If it were possible to charge EU students coming to Scotland, why aren’t they doing it already? The answer is that, legally, they can’t.’
Earlier this year, Alex Salmond said: ‘I’m not worrying about having more students studying in Scotland, but we can maintain the current arrangements, which are apparently fair; that’s the advice we’ve got.’
At the time, critics accused Mr Salmond of an unaffordable policy ‘predicated on denial’ of basic facts.
Do you see any justification in the SNP’s plans to continue charging students from the rest of the UK if they win the referendum on independence? Please share in the comments or on twitter…