Crichton University Campus

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:58 pm on 22nd March 2007.

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Photo of Murray Tosh Murray Tosh Conservative 12:58 pm, 22nd March 2007

As a former member for the South of Scotland, I would have wished to participate in the previous debate on the subject that was held some weeks ago, which was initiated by Dr Elaine Murray but, as members will recall, personal circumstances prevented my being in Parliament. I am therefore grateful to Alasdair Morgan for facilitating a second debate in which he, as other members have done, made an excellent and forceful speech.

I read the Official Report of the previous debate and found much in it with which I agreed strongly. Members made clear then—and have made clear again today—the importance of the Crichton campus and the University of Glasgow's participation in it. They have also focused on the impact of the decision on the south-west's economy, and have highlighted in particular the importance of many courses in sustaining local services including, as Alex Fergusson pointed out, local government services; in providing opportunities for people who not only live in, but move to, Dumfries and Galloway; and in ensuring a sense of equity.

I understand why, in the previous debate, Allan Wilson cautioned members against making inappropriate regional comparisons. The UHI is, indeed, based on a different model, and any comparisons that are made between and among regions must depend on such factors' being taken into account. Nevertheless, in the previous debate, Dr Murray made some very telling comparisons—that have since been circulated by, among others, Mrs Hilary Grieve on behalf of the Crichton Trust—about the investment that appears to be available to sustain higher education in the south-west of Scotland and that which is available in other areas. By drawing such comparisons, we are not knocking what has been done for UHI; instead, we are demanding that resources be made available equitably throughout the country.

I also acknowledge the point that Allan Wilson made in the previous debate about the difficulties that are faced by the Executive in telling universities and the Scottish funding council how to operate their budgets; indeed, Dr Murray made that point again in this debate. However, we must point out that the funding this is made available to the funding council and the universities is public money that is provided by taxpayers. The people who discharge the responsibilities that have been given to them are, through ministers, accountable ultimately to the people who have been elected by taxpayers.