AN SNP MSP has asked his party’s Universities Minister if the Scottish Government will approach Scotland's richest people and call on them to donate £1 million each to student hardship funds. 

Conservatives have accusd the SNP of a "total lack of understanding" of the situation.

Universities Minister Richard Lochhead told Holyrood’s education committee that he was “very concerned about the mental welfare” of young people, particularly students, during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

He added that there was uncertainty over the financial implications of students being unable to pick-up part-time jobs over the summer months amid the economic shutdown. 

Last month, the Scottish Government announced a £5 million student hardship fund to support those suffering financially during the pandemic.

The Sunday Times Rich List, published at the weekend, revealed 82 of Britain's wealthiest 1,000 people are either born, based or have their wealth tied up in Scotland.

READ MORE: Scotland's top 20 richest people revealed for 2020 - with 12 billionaires

Backbench MSP Alex Neil appealed to Mr Lochhead to approach “the 100 most wealthiest people in Scotland” and “ask each of them to put £1 million into a student hardship fund”. 

He added: “Surely the Scottish Government could raise £100 million from the richest?” 

Richard Lochhead said Mr Neil’s suggestion was “a good idea”. 

He added: “Let me reflect on that – I don’t want to speak for the First Minister about approaching the 100 most richest Scots. 

“I have been thinking along the lines of what more inventive avenues we can explore to raise money for this crisis.  

“I think an even bigger role now will be research funding, but also the idea of hardship funds for students. I will take away the idea  - I like these ideas.” 

The Scottish Greens have backed the calls, believing those who can afford to help out financially, should step forward. 

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Fears universities could be merged if they don't embrace new normal

Scottish Greens education spokesperson Ross Greer said: “Scotland is facing a financial crash and it cannot be the poorest who pay for it, like they did the last one. The country’s 82 richest people have increased their combined wealth by £5 billion in the last year.  

“Asking for £82 million from their collective £40 billion is modest indeed. They could hand over a million pounds each without batting an eyelid. We can't rely on charity to support those in crisis though.”  

He added: "The richest have long avoided paying their fair share in taxes. That's why the Scottish Greens secured income tax changes in 2018 which saw the highest earners pay more while most people pay a little less. 

“Coming out of this pandemic we must go further and ensure its those who can truly afford it who pay for the rebuilding of our society and economy." 

READ MORE: Coronavirus: Scottish universities will be 'open for business' after summer amid funding plea

Jamie Greene, Conservative education spokesperson, has criticised Mr Lochhead's reaction to the suggestion, branding him "out of his depth".

He said: “The minister’s enthusiasm for writing letters asking for donations to universities reveals the SNP’s total lack of understanding regarding the funding crisis faced by the university sector.

“The enormous financial black hole at the heart of our higher education sector is principally because of the SNP’s own policies.

“Indeed, funding bodies warned ministers about the precarious state of affairs in our universities long before the Covid crisis."

He added: “The entire sector is on its knees, and the SNP’s response is to help with some targeted letters.

“Mr Lochhead is wholly out of his depth and desperate to cling onto any unsustainable strategy that is presented to him.”