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Scotland does exceptionally well from Erasmus+. Proportionally, more students from Scotland than students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland study abroad under the programme, and more Erasmus students from across Europe come to Scotland than they do to anywhere else in the United Kingdom.
Ending our participation in Erasmus would be a huge step backwards. It would be a disaster for our universities, whose campuses enjoy the diversity and internationalism that the programme brings, and it would be a disaster for our students. The ability to study abroad, learn about new cultures, develop self-confidence and improve language skills should be championed and certainly not abandoned.
Boris Johnson has claimed that Erasmus will continue as normal. That is cold comfort, given that his party voted against continuing with the scheme during the progress of the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill. Does the First Minister agree that Scotland and our European neighbours reap huge cultural and educational benefits from Erasmus and that it is incumbent on the UK Government to legally guarantee the continuation without delay?
Yes, I agree. If the Tories’ assurances on Erasmus were worth anything, they would not have voted against legally protecting the scheme when they had the opportunity to do so last week. Safeguarding the future of our participation in Erasmus is essential. I believe that that has broad support around the whole country, including in the chamber.
It is important to note that the programme supports not just students but schools, youth groups and sports clubs. It provides them with the opportunity to learn and grow from time spent abroad. That is why the Scottish Government continues to put to the UK Government that it must urgently confirm its intention to participate and set out exactly how it will operate.
Our preference, of course, is for the whole of the UK to remain associated with Erasmus, but we are considering what routes are available that would allow Scotland to remain a member of it in the event that the UK Government chooses to abandon the programme.