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Glasgow University dominates education background of MSPs

IT produced the Tory statesmen John Buchan and Andrew Bonar Law, and Labour's John Smith and Donald Dewar.

For generations Glasgow University - and its famed ­debating society - has churned out conveyor belts full of ­politicians for Westminster.

But now, a decade-and-a-half after devolution, its alumni, including the SNP deputy leader Nicola Sturgeon, have started to dominate the Scottish Parliament like no other educational institution.

An analysis of the education background of MSPs by The Herald shows fully one-quarter of them have, in one capacity or another, studied at Glasgow University.

That is slightly more than the proportion of MPs in the House of Commons - 24% - who went to Oxford or Cambridge.

There are only about 75,000 graduates of Glasgow University in Scotland, less than 1.5% of the population. Yet politicians drawn from that group hold 25% of Holyrood seats, 33 in total and nearly as many as the entire opposition Labour Party.

Many, including Ms Sturgeon and her SNP cabinet colleagues Fiona Hyslop, Alasdair Allan, Linda Fabiani, stem from a single generation of politically active students from the 1980s and early-1990s

Pat Kane, remembers them well. The musician and commentator, who was a student with some politicians in the 1980s, said: "This was the high dudgeon of Thatcherism. It was a highly politicised time to be at university."

He does not believe the ­Glasgow University effect at Holyrood is a problem. "Glasgow has always had more lads and lasses o pairts," he explained. "I'd say its political clout is a backhanded testament to the sociology of the university."

All but 34 MSPs have gone to university - or a college that has subsequently become one - even if they have not all graduated. Our study is designed to show connections to institutions rather than academic achievement. Edinburgh University, attended by 19 MSPs - nearly 15% of the total - is the next most influential in Holyrood after Glasgow. Some members, of course, went to both institutions.

Part of the reason for the impact of both universities in the Scottish Parliament may be that they offer law degrees: some 14 MSPs declare a degree or qualification in that subject. Only politics and economics were more studied, by 19 members.

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