European Union (Impact on Education of Withdrawal)

– in the Scottish Parliament on 16 March 2016.

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Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party

7. To ask the Scottish Government what analysis it has carried out of the potential impact on education in Scotland of the United Kingdom withdrawing from the EU. (S4O-05662)

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government believes that European Union membership is in the best interests of Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. We will focus our resources on continuing to make the strongest case possible for a vote to remain in the EU.

Last month, 103 university leaders across the UK urged the public

“to consider the vital role the EU plays in supporting our world-class universities”.

Eleven of the signatories to that letter were from universities in Scotland.

An analysis that was published by the Centre for Economics and Business Research in March 2014 estimated that, in 2011, approximately 336,000 jobs in Scotland were associated with exports to the EU, of which around 6,000 were associated with education.

Through the horizon 2020 programme, organisations in Scotland have secured €158 million in research and innovation funding. Other benefits of EU membership for our education sector include life-changing opportunities abroad for our students and researchers, and support for international collaboration—for example, through the Erasmus+ programme.

Photo of Christina McKelvie Christina McKelvie Scottish National Party

The cabinet secretary will be aware that it was our very own Madame Ecosse, Winnie Ewing, who helped to set up the original Erasmus programme. The cabinet secretary referred to students travelling and studying abroad. Is she as concerned as I am that a withdrawal from the EU might put at risk our participation in that programme?

Photo of Angela Constance Angela Constance Scottish National Party

Yes—I too acknowledge the work of the former Scottish National Party member of the European Parliament Winnie Ewing, and I share the concerns that the member has articulated. Scotland’s participation in the new Erasmus programme for 2014 to 2020 is in line with our aspirations to increase student and staff mobility and to promote Scotland as a learning nation.

Last year, 151 projects based in Scotland—in schools, higher education, vocational education and training, and youth and adult education—were awarded funds to a total value of almost €13 million, or 11.5 per cent of the UK Erasmus+ budget, so we are punching above our weight to secure a strong share of those funds.