Funding - Budget can't save 'damaged' colleges
The impact of recent Scottish college sector cuts will not be remedied by the newly announced budget, opposition politicians have said.
Scottish finance secretary John Swinney has set the budget for the further education sector at #163;522 million for 2013-14 and has promised to maintain that level the following year. For 2015-16, he pledged to increase the budget slightly to #163;526 million.
Mr Swinney, who made the announcement in his draft budget speech last week, said this would "secure the position of our colleges for the remainder of this parliament".
Despite this, many in the sector remain angry that college budgets have been cut every year since 2010, when funding stood at #163;580 million.
Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesman Liam McArthur said: "College funding was slashed by #163;25 million this year and this budget made clear there will be no increase next year. We know that assistance for older learners who want to update their skills has taken a hit.
"Help for students with learning difficulties has also been squeezed. In essence, some of those students who stand to gain most from a college education are getting less and less from the government."
Neil Bibby, deputy education spokesman for Scottish Labour, said that Scotland's colleges were doing the best they could in very challenging circumstances but it was "absolutely clear that they cannot absorb these levels of cuts and maintain the scope and standard of courses".
"This latest announcement means the real-terms cuts continue and will do nothing to repair the devastating damage already done to our colleges over the last few years," he said.
Colleges Scotland chief executive John Henderson stressed that the sector was in as good a position as could be expected. He said that colleges could deliver with that level of funding, provided that no extra demands were placed on them.
Mr Swinney also pledged that more than #163;190 million would be invested over the next two years to implement reforms relating to the Children and Young People Bill, including an additional 125 hours of early learning and childcare for all three- and four-year-olds, and looked-after two-year-olds, worth around #163;700 a year to each family.
Mr Swinney added that #163;800 million of the government budget would go towards a total package of #163;1.25 billion to build 67 new schools by 2018. Early years would also continue to be a priority, he said.