In their election manifesto released today, the Scottish National Party said that they “will guarantee the continuation of free university education in Scotland and support the reduction of tuition fees across the UK.”
The previously unexpected indication of policy relating to tuition fees outside of Scotland, means that if Labour is supported by the SNP after the election, the government would likely have the numbers in Parliament that it needs in order to lower fees. The move is widely being seen as a continuation of the SNP’s strategy to “lock out” the Conservatives from power after May by securing some form of progressive alliance with Labour and other centre-left parties.
However, depending on how an ultimate funding settlement is reached, lowering fees in England could impact Scottish universities, as many have a substantial income from English students crossing the border. The party hasn’t announced any government spending to fill a potential gap in income for their universities, although it is likely that supportive votes in Parliament will come with string attached, aimed at ensuring that Scottish universities do not lose out from the policy.
The SNP manifesto also states that the party will “seek the reintroduction of the post study work visa, so that those we have helped educate are able, if they so choose, to make a contribution to our economy.”
Finally the party says in their manifesto that they will work closely with their universities to maintain their positions of global excellence. “We recognise and applaud the vital part played by our universities in creating world-leading research, including in areas of cutting-edge science and technology, and boosting both Scotland’s international profile and innovation base.”
Download the full 2015 SNP Manifesto here.