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Exempt colleges from the charities test

Recent comment has, quite correctly, highlighted the anomaly that the independent High School of Dundee has passed the charities test, while John Wheatley College (pictured) in the east end of Glasgow has failed.

But the solution to this dilemma is not, as some have suggested, to limit or sweep away ministerial involvement in further education colleges in order to make them "independent" and, therefore, more able to comply with the charities regulations. Other options must be considered to allow Scotland's colleges to retain their charitable status.

Scotland's colleges are a vital public service, providing learning opportunities to develop Scotland's economy, enhancing social and civic participation, and partici-pating as key players in the recently published skills strategy for Scotland.

Charitable status is worth up to pound;25 million, but most funding for the FE sector comes from the Scottish Government. It is therefore essential that democratic accountability is retained.

That is why the Scottish Trades Union Congress supports an amendment to the Charities Act, exempting colleges from the charities test. Exemptions have already been given to Scotland's national galleries, and colleges south of the border have a similar exemption from the English charities legislation.

The STUC is urging the Scottish Government to find a solution which ensures our colleges are responsive and accountable to its skills and economic development strategies. Relinquishing ministerial powers puts this in jeopardy.

Mary Senior

Scottish Trades Union Congress, Woodlands Road,

Glasgow

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