Progress towards an all-Britain "super association" for colleges has hit further obstacles. Scottish colleges are threatening to throw a spanner in the works of the proposed Association of British Colleges by insisting on no more than a federal relationship with it.
Less than a year after the formation through merger of their own single representative body, the Association of Scottish Colleges, the colleges say they are reluctant to pay a further set of subscriptions to an organisation based in London.
The ABC is due to be formed in August from the merged Colleges' Employers' Forum and the Association for Colleges. Tension has been high during negotiations.
Scottish colleges say they plan to object to the proposed name of the new association on the grounds that the ABC will not be the main organisation representing institutions in Scotland and in Wales, which already has a representative body, Fforwm. They are likely to argue the new title should not include the word British.
The Scots' action will be interpreted by some south of the border as upsetting the balance of power in the merger negotiations, which have seen the CEF and AFC sides jostling for prominence.
Just under 30 Scottish colleges which belonged to the AFC are understood not to have renewed their membership on expiry in February. The CEF has never had members in Scotland, where employers had their own organisation, now absorbed in the ASC.
Mike Webster, principal of Perth College and ASC vice-chairman, said: "The feeling is they don't have the right to call themselves British when they are not the key organisation representing the Scots and Welsh. In Scotland we would have wanted to see the merger take place and then negotiate a relationship at UK level for Westminster lobbying purposes."
Bill Greenock, principal of Clydebank College and a Scottish representative on the AFC council, said no Scottish college could afford two subscriptions. He said: "We had hoped ASC would pay a kind of block membership to the merged body to retain some kind of scaled-down service, and we would get together to discuss issues that transcend boundaries."