Ministers and officials regularly meet individual principals and representatives of the principals convention. I last met college principals on 16 March, when I had the great pleasure of attending the launch of a concordat between the Scottish Agricultural College, Oatridge College, Barony College and Elmwood College.
The minister, like all members, knows that the Scottish budget for the forthcoming year is being reduced by 2 per cent as a result of a reduction in revenue funding from the Westminster Government. However, the Scottish Government’s reduction in revenue funding to the college estate in Scotland is 10.4 per cent in one year. Will the minister explain why it was decided to reduce college funding by such a disproportionate amount in relation to the overall reduction in the Scottish budget? The minister will be aware that Borders College, among other colleges, is in the dreadful situation of considering compulsory redundancies. When she made her request to colleges with regard to redundancies, did she explain the difference between the overall reduction in the Scottish budget and the reduction in the budget for colleges by the Scottish Government?
I am glad that Mr Purvis recognises the implications of the reduction of £1.3 billion in the Scottish Government’s budget by his Westminster Government. However, he fails to acknowledge that, south of the border, colleges are facing a 25 per cent reduction in their teaching grant over four years. Given the commitment by the Scottish Government and the Scottish National Party to try to remove the fear of compulsory redundancies, I would have thought that Mr Purvis would take the opportunity to encourage everyone in the Parliament to unite behind our attempts to secure that prize.
I understand Cathie Craigie’s point. She should be aware that colleges the length and breadth of Scotland have given a commitment to maintain student numbers. Of course, given the difficult economic times, there is increased demand on our colleges. Ultimately, they are at the front line of the economic recovery. I would have thought that Ms Craigie would welcome the fact that, despite the backdrop of the £1.3 billion that has been lost to the Government, we have record levels of student support and a guarantee to protect student numbers.