PLANS by Labour leader Ed Miliband to cut university tuition fees in England would leave Scottish higher education facing a multi-million funding gap.

Under the proposals, a future Labour government in Westminster would slash annual tuition fees from £9,000 to £6,000 from 2016.

Because legislation here means Scottish universities would have to reduce their fees accordingly they could lose up to £37 million a year.

A spokeswoman for Universities Scotland, which represents university principals, said: "If tuition fees come down to £6,000 in England the reduction will also take effect in Scotland which means universities here would see up to £3,000 less per year for every student they educate from the rest of the UK.

"In announcing this policy the UK Labour Party has indicated it would make up the shortfall for English universities in public funding which will be very welcome reassurance for our colleagues in England. However, Scotland would also need to find a way to address the funding consequences of reduced fees."

The warning came after Mr Miliband said a Labour government would pay for the fee cut from £9,000 by reducing tax relief on pensions for those earning over £150,000 per year. The commitment would not be negotiable in any post-election coalition deals, Mr Miliband promised.

In a speech in Leeds, Mr Miliband said higher fees had been a "betrayal of an entire generation", leaving students with average debts of £44,000.

And he attacked Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg for his U-turn on tuition fees, saying that Labour wanted to restore faith in political promises.

Mr Miliband said reducing tuition fees would save taxpayers £40bn by 2030 - and promised that universities would not lose any income. An extra £2.7bn in grants a year is expected to replace the reduction in fees.

The Labour leader also promised to increase non-repayable maintenance grants by £400 per year to cover students' living costs.

But these grants are only available to families with a total income below about £42,000 and there have been concerns that young people from middle-income families do not have access to sufficient student loans.

Universities UK warned that limiting the fees to £6,000 per year would create a £10bn funding gap over the next five years, threatening "significant damage" to the higher education system.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said cutting fees was "completely financially illiterate".

And Chancellor George Osborne added: "Ed Miliband's sums don't add up because the universities would get less money and there would be fewer students so it's bad for students, bad for universities, bad for the taxpayer and bad for the British economy."

Scotland's policy of charging fees to rUK students followed the introduction of fees south of the Border.

The SNP Government is opposed to fees and does not charge Scottish students to go to university, but there were fears keeping universities free for all UK students would see a flood of fees refugees applying to study north of the Border pushing out Scots.

As a result Scottish universities were allowed to charge rUK students, but only as much per year as the annual fees in England and Wales. Universities which benefit most from rUK fees in Scotland and would therefore stand to lose by any change in fee levels are Edinburgh and St Andrews.