Johann Lamont’s Scottish Labour party have been described as having “neither principles nor policies” after Labour MSPs refused to support a motion calling for the Scottish Parliament to back access to education “based on ability to learn, not ability to pay”.
Despite the abstention of Labour MSPs, the Scottish Parliament’s voted to support calls for free Higher Education in Scotland.
The refusal of Scottish Labour to support the motion comes despite a pledge by the party that they will not introduce up front or back-end tuition fees still appearing on their website.
The SNP is the only major political party in Scotland never to have voted for tuition fees, a commitment the party maintained yesterday. In addition, the Scottish Government is writing into law widening access agreements with universities.
Labour made an explicit commitment in their 2011 manifesto to no upfront or backdoor tuition fees – and signed pledges prior to the last election. However despite the motion using almost the same wording as Labour’s pledge, Labour MSPs refused to back it.
The SNP has described Labour’s U-turn as the party’s very own “Nick Clegg moment”, a reference to the controversial promise scrapped by Lib Dems as soon as they gained office.
Before the election Labour MSPs signed NUS Scotland’s ‘Reclaim your voice’ pledge, committing the party to not introducing tuition fees in Scotland.
Commenting after the vote, SNP MSP Stewart Maxwell said:
“This was the Labour Party's 'Nick Clegg' moment in Scotland.
"I was proud to support the motion today and reaffirm the SNP's position that no person should be priced out of their education.
“In contrast, with their failure to back this motion Labour have broken their promise to students - despite still having the 'no price tag on education' pledge on their website.
“Students in Scotland will be appalled at Labour’s betrayal of them, and no wonder – this is a repeat of Nick Clegg’s shameful behaviour south of the Border following the 2010 election.
"Labour no longer back free tuition but have not told us what they would introduce - they are a party with neither principles nor policies.
“The SNP have maintained free higher education and the number of Scottish students studying in Scotland is on the increase - and we are writing into law Widening Access Agreements with our universities. Meanwhile students south of the border are being driven away by the sky high fees – this is what Labour wants to inflict on Scotland with their Cuts Commission.
“It is only the SNP that remains entirely committed to the principle and policy that education should be based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay - and clearly it is only the SNP that will continue to stand up for our students.”
The text of the motion Labour refused to back today reads:
S4M-05652 Michael Russell: Tuition Fees—That the Parliament believes that access to higher education should be based on ability to learn, not ability to pay and will not introduce upfront or backdoor tuition fees.