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Committee (2nd Day) (Continued)

Part of Scotland Bill – in the House of Lords at 3:00 pm on 2nd February 2012.

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Photo of Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan Lord O'Neill of Clackmannan Labour 3:00 pm, 2nd February 2012

The point I was going on to make is that some of the newer institutions are less well endowed in the round, have smaller numbers of alumni for a start, and are discriminated against in another way. Those institutions are not as attractive and are therefore unable to benefit from students from the rest of the UK or from abroad. Even within the system there are difficulties and inequities. There are imperfections in the two amendments, and the Government have to take the point that this Chamber is not happy with the way in which things have developed, nor with the unfairness that has been inflicted on children and families across the country. One part of the United Kingdom is able to benefit from devolution in this way and have free education at undergraduate level, while others in the same country are discriminated against when they come to Scotland to study or are deterred altogether, which I think is even more significant. Our universities and our Scottish institutions make a unique contribution to the mix.

I have had this discussion in my own family with my sons. They say, "We're not really interested in going to Oxbridge; we think Edinburgh and Glasgow are perfectly adequate to provide us with an education". One could argue that they might have got the emphasis a wee bit wrong, but that mood still prevails. However, we do not want children to grow up in some kind of Caledonian closet, where they will not be open to other relationships and cultures. My younger son, who went to Glasgow, learnt a lot from being in the same halls of residence and playing in the same football team as young men from Northern Ireland, whose cultural and social background was dramatically different from his own. Such people will not necessarily have the chance to come to our institutions and the Scots who go to our institutions will not have their company.

Money is at the beginning, the middle and the end of this situation, but there are other dimensions. When we started on the road to devolution, we wanted, as I said earlier, to create a better United Kingdom, not a United Kingdom that was inequitable because of the cynicism of separatists in Scotland who wished to use the mechanism at their disposal to discredit the concept of the UK. This is an opportunity for us to avoid that and to ensure that they can be exposed for the charlatans they are when they argue in favour of free education for some but not for the rest, not because they do not happen to be Scottish but because they just happen to live in the wrong part of the United Kingdom.