It has delighted the National Union of Students. Who have said: “The Scottish Liberal Democrats have worked very hard for students on this issue” and “This is great news”.
It will help tackle a crisis faced in Scotland’s colleges from 1st April this year. They can’t afford to wait for a new government. They need action now.
The changes we have negotiated from the Scottish Government will give thousands of students access to bursary support. That will mean they can take up their studies and find ways into work. This is worth £15m.
We have also secured funding for more than a thousand new places directly at colleges. This will help colleges who are facing severe financial pressures. This is worth £8m.
We have also secured funding for additional modern apprentices and for training opportunities that rely indirectly on colleges. Tavish Scott raised the issue of apprenticeships in renewable energy at FMQs in the autumn. This is tackled in the Budget changes we have secured. This is worth £2m
We are also very pleased that we have secured funding for a second year for our idea of a Post Office Diversification Fund. This benefited fifty post offices in the last year and can now benefit more this year. The fund helps post offices introduce new strands of business (such as hot food) by paying for the capital costs of equipment or conversions. It will help them stay open, serving their communities.
Of course, this Budget and the changes we have secured will not solve all of the problems that Scotland faces. Colleges and communities still face enormous challenges. Much will have to wait until after May. Our plans for government envisage a spending review and budget revisions very quickly after the election. We have already spoken with the Permanent Secretary’s senior officials in order to brief them on our intentions to move rapidly in government.
But the steps we have secured today mean a better Budget for Scotland that would have been the case without the Scottish Liberal Democrats.