College Operational Expenditure Budget 2024-25 (Impact on Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 22 February 2024.

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Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Conservative

2. To ask the Scottish Government what assessment it has made of the potential impact of the £58.7 million reduction to the college operational expenditure budget for 2024-25 on the Ettrick, Roxburgh and Berwickshire constituency. (S6O-03111)

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

The Scottish budget allocates funding to the college sector as a whole. Indicative funding allocations for colleges are expected to be set out by the Scottish Funding Council in spring 2024, as is normally the case. Once allocations are published, each college will know its position and will therefore be able to consider any impact, although I know that individual colleges are already working on their projections based on a working assumption that there will be flat cash, or a slight reduction in funding. The SFC is endeavouring to deliver a core teaching funding allocation that is as close as possible to the core teaching funding that colleges received in 2023-24.

Photo of Rachael Hamilton Rachael Hamilton Conservative

Colleges such as Borders College in my constituency play a vital role in communities by upskilling future generations. As a direct result of the resource spending cuts, students will now see their learning opportunities diminish, with colleges having to make tough choices about what subjects they can offer, which staff they can keep and, crucially, how many students they can offer places to. The minister can make all the excuses that he wants, but it is clear that the Scottish National Party has either forgotten about the importance of colleges or just does not care about them. Which is it, minister?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

We have the usual crocodile tears from the Tories. Let us not forget where the budget problems are coming from: Westminster. We are involved in detailed and direct discussions with the colleges about future budgets and their impacts, as is the SFC.

Through the reform agenda, there is detailed engagement with colleges on the long-term future to try to ensure that future provision meets the needs of employers, the economy and learners, not only at national level but more locally, and that we take account of the fact that delivering in areas such as the Borders can come at a greater cost than delivering in other parts of the country. A considerable amount of work is going on directly with colleges.

The Presiding Officer:

Let us keep our questions and answers concise, please.

Photo of Emma Harper Emma Harper Scottish National Party

Despite a challenging and difficult financial climate that has been created by irresponsible and reckless Conservative fiscal policy, I welcome the fact that the Scottish Government has increased investment in the education and skills budget by £128 million.

In respect of college budgets, can the minister share how the starting position for 2024-25 compares with the end position for 2023-24?

Photo of Graeme Dey Graeme Dey Scottish National Party

As I said a moment ago, the aim is for the funds available to colleges at the start of the 2024-25 financial year to be very similar to the funds that were actually invested in colleges in the current financial year. That is despite an incredibly challenging set of financial circumstances.

We are doing everything that we can to support our colleges and universities, recognising their extraordinary impact on our economy and society and the pivotal roles that we see for both sectors.