OPPOSITION parties have called for a rethink over cuts in college funding before this week's vote on the Scottish Government's Budget.

Labour and the Liberal Democrats spoke out after Finance Secretary John Swinney said the issue was still under consideration and discussion.

Mr Swinney, now part of a majority SNP Government which does not need to win opposition support to pass its Budget, said he remains keen to achieve a broad parliamentary consensus around his proposals.

Last week, the Scottish Government announced extra cash for housing, job programmes and roads after looking at how it should spend additional money it will receive for 2011/12 as a consequence of Westminster spending decisions.

The Conservatives also led a debate in Holyrood calling on Parliament to "condemn the Scottish Government for forcing on the [college] sector deeply damaging financial cuts".

Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith told MSPs: "They are being asked to cope with funding cuts of £544 million to £470m, progressive cuts of £38m in year one, £50m in year two and £74m in year three. So by 2015 there is an annual cut of £74m."

Mr Swinney – who will bring his Budget (Scotland) Bill back to Holyrood on Wednesday for a final vote – yesterday said he is receiving opposition "pressure" over areas such as sustainable travel budgets and college funding.

He said he was "looking carefully" at those points.

Specifically on the issue of funding for colleges, he said: "It's an area that's still under consideration and discussion, but what I would say is that there has been material change in the Government's Budget since it was announced in September."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: "John Swinney has a real opportunity this week to show his support for Scotland's colleges and reverse his cut to this sector with the extra money he has from Westminster.

"Mr Swinney says that economic growth is the Scottish Government's number one priority but he is choosing to cut an area that is vital for tackling unemployment.

"Scotland's colleges help people from a range of different backgrounds get up and get on, and in this current financial climate they are vital for Scotland's economic growth."

Labour MSP Ken Macintosh added: "If John Swinney is changing his position on massive cuts proposed to colleges, that is welcome."