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Tory scrap with SNP

The SNP claimed last week ahead of a Holyrood debate on top-up fees that spending on higher education in England and Wales would grow at twice the rate of that in Scotland over the period from 2000-01 to 2005-06 - before top-up fees are introduced.

Party research based on Government figures had shown that HE funding in England would increase by 38 per cent in those five years, from pound;5.8 billion to pound;8.1 billion, and in Scotland by only 19 per cent, from just over pound;1 billion to just under pound;1.2 billion.

The SNP research simply added to the confusion over the figures since data released last week by the Higher Education Statistics Agency showed total public spending, including tuition fees, rising from pound;6.04 billion to pound;6.34 billion in 2004-05.

Murdo Fraser, the Tories' lifelong learning spokesman, accused the SNP of "blatant hypocrisy" since England could do what it liked and there was nothing an independent Scotland could do about the knock-on effects.

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