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Hey wee spender

Another customary outing at this time of year is by the Lifelong Learning Minister of the day to the annual gathering of the Association of Scottish Colleges, and Jim Wallace was no exception.

He was the first minister to have "broken the ministerial hoodoo," as he put it, of returning to address the conference for a second successive year. And, we can exclusively reveal, Wallace expects to be in the same post next June. "My appetite has been suitably whetted and I intend to go for the hat-trick," he declared.

Wallace made another unusual mark on the conference: he did not come bearing wads of cash, as was the style of most of his predecessors. He did make a string of significant announcements (FE Focus, page two), but it wasn't quite the same.

Perhaps that was why, just after his speech, the audience agreed overwhelmingly in an electronic poll that the outcome of the Executive's spending review was the most important issue facing FE. More than half the audience - 56.3 per cent, to be exact - judged this to be the case.

But one member of the electorate thought he'd better let Wallace know the sector has big ambitions. "That's not the vote," he said, "it's the size of the increase we require." The Minister laughed heartily - we think.

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