JIM Murphy yesterday tried to reach out to disaffected Labour supporters by promising a £160m package for education and helping young people from Scotland's poorest families.

The East Renfrewshire MP used his speech to the Scottish Labour conference to announce a series of commitments aimed squarely at those who deserted Labour in the referendum because they saw the SNP as more progressive and more committed to social justice.

Murphy told delegates in Edinburgh that if the party returned to power at Holyrood in 2016, it would spend £58m reversing SNP cuts to student bursaries and establish a £65m Future Fund for 18 and 19 year-olds not in education or an apprenticeship.

He said Labour would also create a £1.4m scholarship for students from sub-Saharan Africa in honour of the late Nelson Mandela and would give Scottish Universities £37m to offset the impact of Labour's promised cut in tuition fees south of the border.

The money would come from £200m in Barnett formula consequentials which Scotland would receive as a result of UK Labour reducing pension tax relief for those earning over £150,000.

He said Labour would help degree, HNC and HND students from households earning under £34,000 complete their studies by raising their Young Student Bursary from £1,750 to £2,792.

While the Future Fund would help around 40,000 young people a year by giving them a one-off £1600 towards training or a business start-up.

Murphy said it would be a "powerful incentive to employers to take on young people who come with £1600 of training support attached".

Despite backing student tuition fees under Tony Blair, Murphy promised to maintain to the SNP policy of free tuition for Scots students.

Murphy also used his speech to warn a vote for the SNP in May could "save" David Cameron and lead to another Tory term of austerity.

He said: "This is the closest election in my lifetime, the votes of Scotland will matter in a remarkable way.

"All the recent polls show it is all within the margin of error. So let's make sure that Scotland never becomes the error in David Cameron's margin."

NUS President Gordon Maloney said: "This is great news and a very welcome marker for how Scottish Labour would improve the financial help offered to the poorest students in Scotland.

"It's clear our work to bring student poverty up the political agenda is beginning to pay off.

"However, we must see additional investment regardless of the outcome of May's UK election, and regardless of whether we see £9,000 fees reduce in the rest of the UK.

"With the revenue raising powers available to the Scottish Parliament now and in the future, we want to see bold political action taken to ensure the necessary funding for student support."

Shadow Scottish Secretary Margaret Curran closed the conference with an announcement that Labour would create a £2.3m fund - paid for by the 50p top rate if income tax - to help tackle violence against women by boosting spending through the country's 46 Women's Aid centres.