A HOTLINE launched by the Scottish Government for young people trying to secure a college place has come under fire for just "papering over the cracks".

The accusation came after Angela Constance, the Minister for Youth Employment, unveiled a national phone line for 16 to 19-year-olds looking for a place in training or further education.

The announcement came just a week after The Herald revealed Scottish colleges have thousands of people on their waiting lists.

Ms Constance said: "The Scottish Government has made a unique and explicit commitment to offer every 16 to 19-year-old a place in education or training through the Opportunities for All scheme.

"Thousands of young people are taking up such places every month, developing their skills and experience and improving their chances of finding employment.

"But we are aware not every young person has found something that is right for them.

"We are determined all our young people have a dedicated contact point where they can get advice on the place in education or training that is right for them."

Labour MSP Hugh Henry welcomed the measure, but described it as "too little too late".

He said: "The Scottish Government is just papering over the cracks in the poor planning and deep cuts to college budgets that have led to at least 10,000 young Scots being turned away from colleges at a time when youth unemployment is at an all-time high.

"It's truly disgraceful that thousands of Scottish teenagers who wanted to be in college and on the courses they wanted to study are instead being stuck on the phone.

"As a result, the Scottish Government is putting these young people's lives on hold in more ways than one."

Conservative MSP Liz Smith added: "Phone lines for prospective students waiting to hear news can definitely play a part in helping people gain advice and information.

"However, the key thing is to create jobs, and cutting college funds is absolutely not the answer to that.

"We have thousands of young people failing to secure the place in college they want, and at the same time a growing number of business leaders who tell us they cannot find young workers with the adequate skills."

Last week, The Herald revealed at least 10,000 students are on college waiting lists, with the final total likely to be significantly higher.

The Scottish Government said the issue could be explained by prospective students applying to multiple colleges to try to secure a place.

Ministers also defended the Government's record on funding further education, saying college money had risen to a total of £546 million this year and college numbers for 2012/13 would be maintained at 116,000.

However, John Henderson, chief executive of Scotland's Colleges, hit back, arguing the Government had ignored the significant cuts to the amount of money provided for teaching.

Mr Henderson said funding for teaching had fallen in cash terms by 8% in the last budget – a £33.5m drop – and just over 10% the previous year.

The Skills Development Scotland hotline on 0800 917 8000 will act as the first point of contact for a young person or their parent or guardian.

If the caller's needs are not addressed by the contact point, they will be put in touch with an appropriate local contact. Staff are available from 9am to 5pm Monday to Friday.