The Chief Secretary clearly has not read the UCAS figures, which show that more Scottish young people than ever before are accessing a place in higher education, including more from a deprived background than ever before.
This ruling does not come as any surprise. We already know that England has the highest tuition fees in the industrialised world. It confirms what we have been saying for a long time—this is not saving public money in the long run. This Government remind us regularly of how economically brilliant they are, but we can clearly see that they have been shifting their fiscal responsibilities on to a Government 30 years in the future. The real issue is that these short-term accountancy gains are won off the back of our young people. Average student debt in England is more than £50,000, and continuing to charge fees of more than £9,000 per annum is morally wrong. Since we know that three quarters of student loans will be written off eventually, will the Government follow Scotland’s lead and slash student fees or, better still, abolish them completely?
What assurances can the Chief Secretary give to students trying to pay off debt with spiralling interest rates that the interest on student loans will be capped at a far lower level? For those young people who currently have debts with no possibility of repayment, will this Government do the right thing and write off the portion of debt that will never be repaid, and write it off now?