THE Scottish Government has clawed back a £46 million uplift promised to Scotland's universities and colleges in the most recent budget. 

Higher and Further Education Minister Graeme Dey said the money had "been identified as a necessary saving in Financial Year 2023-24."

Opposition parties rounded on the decision. 

Both the Scottish Tories and Labour described it as a “betrayal.”

The Liberal Democrats claimed it showed the Scottish Government’s budget was clearly in “a chaotic state.”

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Last December, the then finance secretary, John Swinney hailed the cash boost for education.

He told MSPs: "We must have a skills, training and research environment that enables our people and businesses to realise their potential. For that reason we have increased the resources available to the College and university sectors by £26 million and £20 million to support this process."

In a letter to Holyrood’s education committee, Mr Dey confirmed that this increase would now not happen.

He said: “We have had to make difficult choices in meeting new pressures on the Education and Skills portfolio since the 2023-24 Budget announcement. 

“This means that funding for colleges and universities in the current year will return to the previously announced Resource Spending Review flat cash settlement." 

Professor Dame Sally Mapstone, Convener of Universities Scotland said they were "extremely disappointed" by the decision. 

"It was far from what was required to meet students’ increasingly complex needs, or to sustain Scotland as a powerhouse of research and innovation, but it was a welcome step in the right direction."

She added: “The Scottish Government needs a plan for universities, staff, and students. It cannot keep expecting to have world-class universities on the cheap.”

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Shona Struthers, CEO of Colleges Scotland, said the cut would be the equivalent of each college in Scotland losing £1m. She said the decision was "completely inexplicable."

“Ministers are relying on colleges to provide hundreds of thousands of students with training and education each year but with less and less funding - it simply can’t be done any more.

"Colleges are needed more than ever to mitigate poverty in communities across the country, provide life-changing opportunities for people, and create the future workforce which will tackle the climate emergency.

"Removing funding previously planned for colleges is the wrong approach in delivering any of these ambitions.”

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Scottish Conservative shadow cabinet secretary for education Stephen Kerr said: “This is a total betrayal of our education sector. Once again it simply does not wash that education is the SNP’s top priority when cuts like this are the reality.

“Millions in funding that had been earmarked for our college and university sectors has now been brutally snatched away from them by the SNP.

“At a time when our college and universities are already under severe financial pressure, losing this money that they will have budgeted for the year ahead is a hammer blow to them."

“The SNP have serious questions to answer here," he added. "They must urgently come to Parliament and explain why they have taken the decision to rob the education budget of this funding, which appears to have come completely out of the blue.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat education spokesperson Willie Rennie said colleges were already in a difficult position.

"This further cut won’t help them educate more people and ready them for our economy, which is desperate for skilled and educated workers," he said.

"The SNP Government budget is clearly in such a chaotic state that they are pulling funds well into the financial year.  This is no way to run a government and no way to educate young people."

Scottish Labour education spokesperson Pam Duncan-Glancy said: “After throwing further and higher education into chaos by failing to provide answers over funding, this SNP government has now decided to withdraw the funding altogether.

“This is a complete betrayal of Scottish students and staff who work in education here."