West College Scotland has not received its fair share of investment for years, and the college capital budget is being cut. As far back as 2017, the Scottish Funding Council’s estate survey identified the need for significant investment in both the Paisley and Greenock campuses, and potential plans for new fit-for-purpose buildings. However, the Scottish Government’s infrastructure strategy to 2025 gives no indication at all that there will be funding for estate development in Paisley or Greenock. When will the Scottish Government invest in a modern campus for West College Scotland students in my region?
I assure Neil Bibby that the Scottish Funding Council considers the securing of funding for replacement of the West College Scotland campuses to be a high priority. Indeed, in recent times, the college has been given more resources to progress an outline business case for those improvements.
It is well documented, and recognised, that capital budgets have been under pressure for many years. We certainly believe that the college has a strong case, and we hope that further progress can be made as soon as the resources become available and the outline business case is progressed.
For the final time, I thank you very much, Presiding Officer.
I have met representatives of West College Scotland and have corresponded with the Scottish Funding Council about the proposed new campus in Greenock. Can the minister provide an assurance that every effort will be made to assist West College Scotland to provide a facility for future generations that can also help to stem the population decline that Inverclyde has experienced over the past 30 years, and which it continues to face?
Stuart McMillan is perfectly correct to highlight the important role that West College Scotland plays in the local economy and region. I hope that the next Parliament and Government continue to treat as a priority the college and its outline business case for improving the campuses. As I indicated in my previous answer, further funding has been made available in recent times to take forward the business case. In addition, the SFC is developing a medium-term estate strategy for the college sector, in which, I am sure, West College Scotland will have a prominent place.
I declare an interest as an alumnus of what is now West College Scotland in Greenock.
The next session of Parliament will see the 10-year anniversary of what has become college regionalisation. Will the minister and other members ensure—subject to whichever party forms the next Government—that Parliament engages in scrutiny to ensure that that work results in the reality that was anticipated for the regionalisation programme?
Jamie Greene is, of course, testament to the excellent college sector in the west of Scotland, and has illustrated that today with his excellent question.
On the role of the college regions, Jamie Greene will be aware that the Scottish Funding Council is undertaking a fundamental major review of the cohesion and sustainability of further and higher education, and is focusing on the college regions as part of that wider project. It is absolutely essential that Parliament scrutinises closely the outcome of the SFC review, because it will be fundamental to the future of Scotland and our further and higher education sector.