Tag Archives: Scotland

Dear Mr Corbyn, hands off my tuition fees

I wish Leftist politicians would stop lumping me in with all the other, equally Leftist students in this depressing General Election. Specifically, I don’t like to hear Jeremy Corbyn talk about tuition fees as if all students are utterly appalled by them.

He did it last night during his relatively underwhelming Question Time performance. He reiterated his desire for national funding in education before making the false claim that “the number of people from disadvantaged backgrounds going to university has gone down”.

Naturally, he attributed this trend to the introduction of and rises in the cost of tuition fees. Though immediately after he said this, ‘Full Fact’ rebutted his nonsensical claim, saying:

“There are a number of ways to measure what a ‘disadvantaged pupil’ is, but on all UCAS measures young students from disadvantaged groups in England are more likely to go to university now than any other year on record.”

The reference to England is particularly interesting when you compare it to its historically hostile northern neighbour, Scotland. In May 2016, the Sutton Trust, a distinguished education agency, published a report entitled Access in Scotland, in which they found:

“The gap in university participation between young people from the most and least advantaged areas is higher in Scotland than in the other home nations. Scottish 18 year olds from the most advantaged areas are still more than four times more likely to go straight to university than those from the least advantaged areas.  In England, those from the most advantaged areas are 2.4 times as likely to go to university as those from the least, and three times as likely in Wales and Northern Ireland.”

Scotland, unlike the rest of the United Kingdom, does not charge its home students tuition fees. It seems that where tuition fees are implemented, the proportion of ‘disadvantaged pupils’ (of which I am one) attending universities actually increases.

By scrapping tuition fees, as the Labour Party plans at the cost of £8bn per year (according to the IFS), they propose not only a subsidy for the rich, but a strangulation on university funding, which relies largely on fees across both undergraduate and postgraduate study. It is unclear that, with existing cuts to teaching budgets already made, scrapping fees will not be adequately compensated for.

Research by ‘The Russell Group’ showed that between 1989 and 2005, ‘government funding did not keep pace with increasing student numbers, leading to a 40% fall in funding per student’. Even in light of compelling evidence, I do admit that funding caps have not been kept even with the rate of inflation, which has started to see decline in real term funding gains.

There is therefore a stronger argument for increases to fees than there is to scrapping them altogether. Fears over under-admitting students from poorer backgrounds simply haven’t been realised. The reality has been that tuition fees have increased ‘per student’ funding and improved the quality of education for the disadvantaged, with repayments organised on the basis of post-study income.

The system is fair as we look at things. Education cannot be free, as the Left often claim it ought to be. There is a bill to be paid, and it is a question of who pays and for whom. It is not acceptable for working taxpayers to pay for the education of students from wealthy families. And why should others pay for my degree? They do not benefit. I benefit. And thus, I should foot the bill for my studies.

My current student debt sits at £36,000 when additional, supplementary loans are factored in. I am classified by government as a ‘disadvantaged pupil’ by income measure. My journalism degree has just concluded, but when I was studying, I constantly reminded myself of the costs of study.

Tuition fees didn’t put me off or make me want to drop out in order to avoid large, growing debts. They actually had the opposite effect on me psychologically. Fees galvanised me, reminding me of the price I would pay and that I should strive to get as much out of university as I possibly could. I do not pretend to represent all students (especially as a Right-wing conservative), but I suspect I am not the only student who experienced this.

The Labour leader has repeatedly referred to his party’s manifesto as a careful and well-considered document that is both fully costed and a positive alternative for the country. Though as far as university funding is concerned, I don’t think students should see it this way.

Students may be dismayed by the prospect of sizeable debts, but they ought to consider the factors that I have outlined above. The national conversation about the costs of tuition tends to imply that scrapping fees is a policy that students universally agree with and one that will encourage poorer students to embark upon Higher Education. Neither claim is the case.

Mr Corbyn, hands off my tuition fees.


Nicola Sturgeon needs a legacy-defining moment, but won’t find one in independence

Realising that she has become the only major British politician without a legacy-defining moment, Nicola Sturgeon’s demands for a second Scottish Independence referendum are once again doing the rounds. This recognition must be especially difficult for her to stomach, since she came very close in 2014 to causing the biggest constitutional disruption to the United Kingdom in its history, only to be defeated two years later by an equally significant referendum result on our membership of the European Union.

In my view, Mrs Sturgeon has been hypocritical in her approach to both referenda. If independence was her goal, then an important step towards achieving that would have been securing a Leave vote back in June. The unfortunate contradiction in The SNP’s position on sovereignty is that, for it to reach the jurisdiction of Holyrood, it must first filter through Brussels, which, of course, isn’t sovereignty at all. This is perhaps one of the reasons for Ruth Davidson’s surge in popularity over the last twelve months. She is at least more believable than Scotland’s current First Minister, who doesn’t seem to be able to tell the difference between countries ‘working together’ and the ceding of parliamentary sovereignty.

Her rehashed insistence upon Scotland becoming independent is at least partly down to a feeling that she has been left behind, ostracised from considerable political change taking place around her. It is well known that politicians are vain, and there are good reasons for this. They must have the belief and self-assurance that they can enact important change and steer the country on a new course. It is not a job for the light-hearted. Mrs Sturgeon, coming off the back of two, humiliating referendum defeats, is desperate to reclaim some of the spotlight, and for her to have any truly meaningful political legacy, she simply must be able to persuade Scots to vote to leave British union.

Without seismic victory (and no, The SNP claiming a vast majority of Scottish seats at the last General Election is not enough), she will go down as a noisy loser, who talked the talk but who was, in the end, unable to walk the walk. I should say that in principle I understand the desire for independence. As somebody who considers himself a prominent and fairly central Leave campaigner last year, anybody should be intrigued by the opportunity for their country to govern itself. The question, though, is on what terms independence will be delivered.

Even after the country’s historic EU vote, I do not think that Scottish people will vote for a cessation of Britain’s union. The economic case for doing so will have been immensely weakened by a shocking fall (only partially recovered) in the value of oil in the 18 months following 2014’s initial Scottish Independence vote, and by a weakened pound, cited by Remain voters incessantly as evidence that the Brexit vote was a mistake.

I also think that Scottish people have been made aware of The SNP’s rather cynical obsession with membership of the European Union, which, unlike Westminster, seeks to further integrate legislative power and remains opposed to any real devolution. This should act as a warning to Scots who are told that upon leaving the United Kingdom, Scotland will seek to re-establish itself as merely another EU province, only this time, lacking the presence that it had as part of the UK and faced with enormous pressure to abandon its currency and adopt the Euro.

So I think that Mrs Sturgeon should be careful what she wishes for. She is undoubtedly a talented politician, catching eyes during the televised leadership debates in the lead up to the 2015 General Election. But what she is not is a figure that has made an impressionable mark upon British politics. Yes, she has provided Scottish nationalists with an avenue through which they can pursue their patriotic utopia, but her insistence that she can change the political weather (almost Trumpian in nature) and take advantage of Brexit will not inspire like she may think it will. She can rustle feathers in Westminster all she likes, and between now and the next Scottish Independence referendum she will, but inevitably her vision for a Scotland detached from the United Kingdom will not be realised. And I think her desperation suggests that she knows this.

 


The SNP’s nationalist pursuit has nothing to do with independence; it’s a glorified vanity project

If you picked up a newspaper earlier on in the week (I’ve had to delay this piece as incidents in Paris made the issue a less pressing one), you will no doubt have read about David Cameron’s disappointment over rejections to his Sunday trade proposals. A bill to extend trading hours on Sunday has officially been put on hold by the government after it was blocked the Scottish Nationals on the grounds that it would ‘drive down Scottish wages’.

Forgetting of course that the Scottish nationalists are more than happy for mass migration (both EU and external) to continue on a completely unsustainable scale; a political policy which also results in the driving down of wages. Why is no sufficient distinction made to justify this?

What a disastrous and thoroughly disagreeable charade the Scottish National Party has become.

A disorderly group of greedy, inward-facing politicians bound together by a hatred of the rest of the United Kingdom and rather bewildering support for the European Union. One has to wonder whether the Scottish Nationalist movement is simply an affair built out of boredom or vanity; rather than to achieve any substantive political purpose.

Those who back the idea of Scottish ‘independence’ (I’ll explain the inverted commas in a subsequent paragraph) clearly have a limited or skewed knowledge of Scottish history, and those who do will know all too well why preserving the Union is of paramount importance.

Scotland’s attempts at seventeenth century imperialising, while valiant and understandable, proved catastrophic at a time when fellow European nations (including the Kingdoms of England, France, Spain and Denmark) were leading the way in terms of their respective colonial endeavours, particularly across the Atlantic Ocean.

A 2,000-manned invasion of Panama, named New Caledonia for only a short period, in 1698 was Scotland’s last, and decisive attempt at empire-building. The country’s imperial efforts were denounced as failings, and the nation entered financial collapse. Scotland’s economy wilted and, were it not for the English, would not have been salvaged, as she simply couldn’t compete commercially or fiscally with her European neighbours.

And so, in 1707, the Act of Union passed by both England and Scotland (who had been sharing a monarch since 1603 anyway) was announced to combine the countries into one; ruled by an autonomous Westminster parliament, coupled with new powers transferred from the crown. And the rest, as they say, is history.

Now of course, a failed exhibition in the seventeenth century doesn’t necessarily mean Scotland would be economically or diplomatically incapable of national independence; that would be an absurd suggestion. My problem, though, is that Scotland’s EU-supporting ‘nationalists’ simply aren’t offering it, as much as they’d like to think they are.

European federalism proposed publicly by the Brussels Commission seems to me to be much more prominent an obstacle refraining Scotland from independence than lack of Westminster devolution, and I’m shocked that the SNP still blindly assume that EU membership is what a prosperous Scotland needs.

Within the Treaty of Rome (1957) on page 2, a clause calling for the determination to achieve ever close union between EU member states is written quite plainly and clearly. It’s a rather vague assertion, admittedly, but what it does represent undoubtedly (and history proves this) is the abolition of national sovereignty. Something the Scots allegedly hate.

A recent study conducted by an independent organisation known as ‘Business for Britain’ (which can be viewed here) found that European Union laws and regulations shape a staggering 65% of UK law. A Scottish National Party endorsing such intrusion doesn’t sound to me like a group too keen on independence at all.

So, if independence isn’t the true objective…what is?

My only guess is that this whole agenda is, fundamentally, nothing more than a glorified vanity project. Something for a select bunch of ignorant Scottish politicians to put their names to, and one which I fear many Scots will fall for. I was intrigued by (and, in truth, surprised) at just how close 2014’s referendum result actually was.

A second referendum hasn’t been ruled out by the SNP, and will no doubt be offered up within the next couple of decades. I just hope that the people of Scotland come to their senses a second time and decide not to entertain what is tabled as an opportunity for independence; but what, in reality, is nothing more than a vain and selfish demonstration of disloyalty.