THE full extent of the Scottish Government's cuts to student grants have been revealed in new figures.

Official statistics show spending on non-repayable student support fell by £35 million in the last financial year, from £100m to £65m.

The Scottish Government has come under increasing pressure in recent months to reverse its 2012 cuts to bursaries and grants, which mean some of the poorest students in Scotland leaving university with more debt.

Despite promising to introduce more grants for students when they came to power in 2007 as part of a manifesto pledge to "dump the debt" the SNP has instead increased the availability of loans.

Mary Senior, Scottish official for the UCU lecturers' union, said: "Bursaries and grants play a crucial role in making sure students go to and stay in university and any reduction is unwelcome.

"We strongly call on the Scottish Government to properly fund sufficient bursaries so they are available to students who need them."

Gordon Maloney, president of student body NUS Scotland, added: "We need to start looking at how we can get increased grants for the poorest students.

"Between now and the Scottish Budget early next year we'll be pushing hard for student support to increase to at least match increased living costs. For the poorest students these increases need to come in the form of grants."

Liam McArthur, education spokesman for the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said: "This shows the SNP government's underhand switch from grants to loans has saddled some of Scotland's poorest students with higher levels of debt."

And Scottish Labour's education spokeswoman Kezia Dugdale added: "Student debt is soaring under a party that promised to dump it altogether in its 2007 manifesto.

"The most worrying aspect of these figures is that they are impacting most heavily on the poorest students, a direct consequence of the SNP's cut to student support for those from the most deprived backgrounds."

Overall, the figures showed the level of student support provided to Scottish students increased by more than 25 per cent in 2013/14.

Some £735m was made available through free tuition, bursaries, grants and loans - with 137,295 students receiving support, an increase of 1.4 per cent on the previous year.

Education Secretary Michael Russell said: "These figures show we have stood by our pledge to students to continue to oppose fees by providing free tuition and sufficient support to make sure that higher education remains accessible."

Meanwhile, figures from the Scottish Funding Council showed participation in higher education at universities and colleges declined slightly in 2012/13.

The Scottish higher education participation rate - covering Scots between the ages of 16 and 30 - dropped from 56.1 per cent in 2011/12 to 54.7 per cent in 2012-13, largely due to a reduction in the numbers going to college to study Higher National qualifications.