3. As other members have done, I thank Mike Russell for his substantial contribution to the Parliament for many years, not least of which has been his commitment to Scotland’s constitutional future.
To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the impact of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union on the opportunities for young people from Scotland to live, work or study in the EU. (S5O-05124)
Our analysis makes it clear that the UK’s exit from the EU is extremely damaging for Scotland. Our further and higher education students, schoolchildren and young people will be particularly affected by the UK Government’s decision not to participate in the Erasmus plus mobility programme, through which, between 2014 and 2018, 13,957 participants from across Scotland gained valuable international experience. The UK Government’s replacement Turing scheme is a watered-down imitation, which offers no support for our adult learning or youth work sectors.
The Scottish Government welcomes the announcement that the UK will associate to the horizon Europe programme. However, even with that association confirmed, the overall loss of freedom of movement within EU countries will act as a barrier to young researchers and students, and will result in additional expenses for young people who are looking to further their careers or expand their horizons abroad.
As the minister said, one of the EU’s benefits for young people was Erasmus plus. For instance, the scheme recently assisted 56 young people from Royston Youth Action in my constituency to visit Finland, Austria and Estonia for what were life-affirming experiences; I know that lifelong friendships were forged.
I am deeply concerned that the UK’s Brexit will make similar visits far less likely in the future. Despite these difficult post-Brexit circumstances, what opportunities now exist to benefit young people who live in areas such as Royston?
The replacement scheme for Erasmus plus falls considerably short of what we have lost. In fact, it offers no provision whatsoever for youth work or projects such as those that are undertaken by Royston Youth Action, nor does it offer support for adult education or staff mobility. That loss of opportunity for our most vulnerable communities is deeply concerning.
Throughout our discussions with the UK Government, the Scottish Government has been clear that support for our adult education and youth work sectors is vital. My colleague, the Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science, has been working with Welsh and Northern Irish ministers to challenge the UK Government but we have yet to receive a satisfactory response on how it will address that substantial gap.
The Scottish Government has always been clear that mobility is about more than just higher education students, and Erasmus plus was the best way to enable people from across Scotland to take part. The UK Government scheme leaves our most disadvantaged learners with no support. The Scottish Government is currently in communication with the European Commission to see how we might maximise Scottish participation in the elements of the programme that remain open to us.