Sunday, 23 December 2012

Johann Lamont Must Apologise to Scotland's Students


Johann Lamont has been challenged to follow Nick Clegg’s example by personally apologising to the students she has betrayed over tuition fees.

NUS Scotland’s Reclaim your Voice campaign asked Parliamentary candidates to sign up to three specific pledges – one of which was a specific commitment to “no tuition fees.” All Labour candidates – including Johann Lamont – signed up to this. In addition, page 25 of Labour’s 2011 manifesto promised “Labour will not introduce upfront or backend tuition fees”

Despite these explicit commitments, just over a year later the Labour leader has given the strongest signal yet that – like Nick Clegg - she intends to betray the trust of students and introduce a charge on education.

Labour’s inconsistency on this issue has a long and disreputable history.
  • In 1997, Tony Blair promised ahead of the Westminster election that Labour had “no plans to introduce tuition fees” – and then reintroduced fees after the election. 
  • Labour’s 2001 manifesto stated “We will not introduce top-up fees and have legislated to prevent them”. After the election, Labour introduced top-up fees. 
  • In 2011 – having voted against the abolition of the graduate endowment in the Scottish Parliament - Iain Gray ruled out any return to tuition fees or graduate endowments in their 2011 manifesto. 
  • All Labour MSPs – including Johann Lamont – added their name to NUS Scotland’s Reclaim your Voice campaign, committing them to no tuition fees. 
  • Less than two years on, this policy has seemingly been reversed with Johann Lamont again changing Labour’s position this week.
After Nick Clegg broke his word to students south of the border by being part of a coalition that increased tuition fees to up to £9,000 a year, he took the humiliating step of personally apologising to students.

With Johann Lamont having seemingly adopted his approach to student fees, she has now been challenged to follow suit with her own apology to students in Scotland.

Commenting, SNP MSP George Adam said:

“Like Nick Clegg, Joann Lamont and her party promised students that they would oppose tuition fees - and like Nick Clegg she and her party have in short order simply ignored their previous commitment and abandoned Scotland's students.

“Nick Clegg eventually had to apologise for betraying students in the way that he did. Johann Lamont should now follow his lead and do the same?

“The fact of the matter is that Labour’s policy on tuition fees has been all over the place, and the only consistent aspect to it has been that the needs of students have been the very last thing on their mind.

“Only the SNP is truly committed to standing up for the principle of education based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay.

“Tuition fees inevitably drive away potential students from poorer backgrounds and are absolutely the last thing that Scotland’s society and economy needs in these difficult times.

“As with the Lib Dems, this is a serious credibility problem for Johann Lamont. If we cannot trust a word she has said on higher education as recently as the last election, why should we believe a word she says on anything else?”
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