THE SCOTTISH Government has been criticised over a lack of progress on creating a replacement to the Erasmus student exchange programme.

In their manifesto for the 2021 Holyrood election, the SNP hit out at the UK Government for dropping out of the scheme saying young people had been "robbed" of opportunities by the "Tory Brexit."

They promised to "create a Scottish programme of exchange to provide mobility and cooperation opportunities in higher education, vocational education and training, school education, adult education, youth and sport."

READ MORE: Brexit: Lecturers and students pile on pressure over Erasmus

However, parliamentary answers provided to the Liberal Democrats show that there is still no timetable for the new programme. 

Liam McArthur from the party described the lack of action as a "farce." He said the Scottish Government were “worse than the Brexiteers when it comes to enabling study abroad.” 

A spokesman for Education Minister Jenny Gilruth said the government was currently "engaging with stakeholders."

He added that it was “breathtaking that the Lib Dems would seek to take aim at the Scottish Government over Brexit.”

The Erasmus scheme was one of the casualties of Brexit, with the UK Government concluding that it was too expensive to remain part of the programme.

They have since created their own alternative called the Turing scheme - named after mathematician and computer scientist Alan Turing - which provides funding for around 35,000 students in universities, colleges and schools to go on placements and exchanges overseas.

However, there are a number of distinct differences. Unlike Erasmus+, the scheme will not fund reciprocal staff and student exchanges. 

Between 2014 and 2018, Scotland received around £8 million to support these kinds of “mobility” initiatives via Erasmus+.

In 2022, the Welsh Government launched the £65 million Taith learning exchange programme, with more than 5,000 exchange opportunities lined up.

READ MORE: Wales places thousands on new European programme while Scots scheme yet to begin

Last April, the Lib Dems asked the government if there was a timetable in place for a consultation on a proposed Scottish scheme. They were told there was “no confirmed timetable.”

Asking again this month, they were told further information would be provided "in due course." 
Mr McArthur said: “It’s not just leadership contests that the SNP can turn into a farce. 

“In Wales, thousands of young people are now able to take part in exchanges that allow them to study in countries across Europe. Sadly, their counterparts in Scotland are being denied those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for learning and building relationships. 

“If the SNP were even slightly concerned about maintaining ties with Europe this would be a perfect way to show it. Instead, they are no further forward than they were a year ago. 

“Scottish Liberal Democrats have been clear that as passionate pro-Europeans, we want to see our economic, social and educational ties to Europe rebuilt. At the moment, the SNP are doing even worse than the Brexiteers when it comes to enabling study abroad.” 

READ MORE: Erasmus Scotland: MEPs want Scotland back in

Ms Gilruth’s spokesman said: “It is simply breathtaking that the Lib Dems would seek to take aim at the Scottish Government over Brexit, which the people of Scotland, including Mr McArthur’s constituents, overwhelmingly rejected. 

“Perhaps this is unsurprising given the history of the Liberal Democrats working to prop up the Tories. 

“Brexit means that Scotland’s young people have lost out on opportunities to broaden their horizons through schemes like Erasmus. 

"The UK Government also chose not to associate to Erasmus+, which has resulted in support for our most deprived communities being cut and opportunities for all our learners reduced. It is crystal clear now that the only way Scotland can rejoin Erasmus+ is as an independent nation. 

“Meantime, in recognition of the importance of educational mobility, we are developing a bespoke Scottish Education Exchange Programme. 

“We are engaging with stakeholders in higher and further education, schools, community learning and development, youth and sports and listening to their views, priorities and requirements for a Scottish Education Exchange Programme.”