By Wendy Steele
Questions raised in the Scottish Parliament have exposed the extent of the debt remaining from the legacy of Graduate Endowment payments.
Official figures have revealed that almost seven in ten students, who graduated under the last Labour led administration still have outstanding debt hanging over them. The figures show that out of 23,062 graduates, a mere 7,220 have repaid their Graduate Endowment.

The Graduate Endowment, brought in by the former Labour-Lib Dem coalition, had previously seen students pay towards their education after they graduated.  The new figures show that overall 69% of students from this period are still struggling to repay the debt accumulated as they studied.

The scheme was eventually scrapped by the SNP Government, who described it as “backend tuition fees”.  Scottish based students who attend universities north of the border are currently allowed to study without having to pay up-front or back-end tuition fees. 

Despite the debt legacy, Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has signalled a return to back-end fees if Scottish Labour is returned to power. 

Ms Lamont’s stance has come in for heavy criticism from those in favour of free University education who highlight the pledge the Scottish Labour leader herself signed prior to the 2011 Scottish election campaign, which specifically committed her party to a “no tuition fees” policy.

As well as signing the National Union of Students Scotland’s ‘Reclaim your Voice’ campaign, the Scottish Labour Party Manifesto, which Ms Lamont helped draft, promised: “Labour will not introduce up-front or back-end tuition fees”.

Scottish Labour has now ditched the commitment, with Ms Lamont suggesting a return to the Graduate Endowment system with graduates paying some of the costs of their education after completing their studies being “the most obvious option” to claw back revenue.

However, Garry Quigley, who is student president at the University of the West of Scotland, is critical.

“Johann Lamont highlights the priorities of college funding and tackling our poor rates of widening access, and we agree that there must be a focus on educational opportunities for people from the most deprived backgrounds.

However, tuition fees are not the way to help and, in fact, would make things worse.”

The Scottish National Party has maintained a trenchant commitment to free higher education in Scotland, bringing a fresh funding package of £10 million with the aim of widening access for Scottish students hoping to tap the potential of those from poorer backgrounds. 

Alex Salmond’s party have stated that they plan on opening up access for a further 2000 more university places for those who may otherwise have been denied the opportunity.

Stewart Maxwell, SNP MSP for West Scotland and convener of the Scottish Parliament’s Education and Sport Committee, commented:

“These figures lay bare the appalling legacy the Labour Party has left on our students, with 69% of them still saddled with this debt.“

Mr Maxwell pointed to Ms Lamont’s U-turn as an example of a betrayal of Scotland’s students, comparable to that of Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems south of the border – who abandoned their pre-election pledge and introduced devastatingly high tuition fees.

He added: “We have a generous package of student support and are working to deliver a minimum income of £7,000 a year for the most vulnerable students. With the average debt being kept down – and the Scottish Government delivering the best funding package in the UK, with a minimum income guarantee of £7,250 for students from the poorest backgrounds from next year – Scotland is by far the best place in the UK to be a university student.”


2013-01-07 18:51

My oldest laddie who is 32 next month is still paying back this unfair payment to be educated. It is a damning indictment on the Labour party that they landed the future generation with debts amounting to thousands of pounds before they even get their feet on the ground.
Andy Anderson
2013-01-07 19:27

This New Labour policy of making students pay for part of their education. was (a) grossly unfair (b) damaging to the economy (c)undermining social equality efforts.
We must never allow New Labour to get away with their double dealing on this issue
2013-01-07 20:06

And depresing too Andy when you reflect that the guys who thought these jolly wheezes up, more than likely benefited from the self same free education! Nothing like pulling the drawbridge up behind you.

2013-01-07 19:40

My son who graduated in 2003 is also still paying this off and since up front tuition fees were still in place for his first year at uni, this is only 3 years of the endowment graduate fee that he is paying.

If Lamont ever got into power the students would be paying far more than my son as tuition fees have risen considerably since 2003. I can see some still paying off this debt when they are approaching retirement age!!

There are some who have not yet paid anything back as they have gone abroad to work and some of those have no intention of coming back to this country so their debt will always exist.

Lamont has forgotten how no fees and a good grant helped her considerably to go on to university. Many of us would never have got there if we’d had to pay up front tuition fees as we were from working class homes whose families could simply not have afforded it.
From The Suburbs
2013-01-07 20:44

Worth reading Alistair darling’s web chat.
Full of assertions and inaccuracies…/…
2013-01-07 21:33

I think now we will see these interviews with senior political figures – some sort of breakdown and additonal information on the back of the responses would be beneficial – that Newsnet could respond to and take the spin or mention what has not been said?

For example, he mentions the Oil is now a UK asset – not a scottish resource then. Does this mean then our water is a UK asset – and would be split accordingly?
2013-01-07 21:50


If we vote NO they will do everything in their power to make sure an independent Scotland will never be viable again. They will take asset stripping to a new level that will be designed to prevent a repeat of the current opportunity we have. I’m afraid this may be our one chance.

Those who think voting NO is a vote for the status quo are in for a nasty shock if they “win”.
2013-01-07 22:11…/…

Territorial waters dispute ruling
2013-01-08 10:42

Wings Over Scotland has a transcript and review:-…/

2013-01-07 21:56

This man never really answered one question that was put to him, His answers were typical of a Westminster politician. no substance,As for Cameron today he shrugged off the independence debate with contempt, I got the impression he could’nt care less.
Jim Johnston
2013-01-07 22:32

What kind of imbecile comes up with a question like this.
“Question from Bill Laver: The SNP claim 90% of North Sea oil and gas revenues by virtue of geography but like EU Membership there is no Westminster/Holyrood agreement to back up this claim. As a UK asset that would need to be negotiated over in the event of Independence, then on a population basis Scotland may only be entitled to 10% What is your view on the share of North Sea oil and gas revenues that an Independent Scotland would legally expect ?”

Darlings answer is equally that of an imbecile. SHOCKING TO THINK THE NUMPTY WAS CofE, God help us.
2013-01-07 23:49

Actually I thought he non-answered many of the questions quite well like the oil split which will be open to some negotiations and the percentage is based on production at the time. However the answer can be taken as affirmation to the question posed or just a generic answer, which is all it was.

He was flat wrong in the voting rights for the ref. ex pats cannot vote in the referendum unless they have an address in Scotland and are on the electoral role in Scotland. Unlike a GE.

It was good of him to reaffirm that BTogether will not be making any further devolution proposals if there is a no vote and will that it would be business as usual in the 2015 GE with Brit Lab/CON/LD just having their own manifesto(which is not even a promise to implement anything anyway.) Good to remind people of this going forward.

2013-01-07 22:05

Voting NO I think would mean Scotland as we know it ceasing to exist. Westmidden will make sure we never get another chance.

Vote YES
2013-01-08 01:59

Jim Johnston, Mr Laver is wrong. The SNP claims 90% of the Oil revenues not from geography but from International treaties signed in Geneva in 1964 and London in 1968.

1. Continental Shelf Jurisdiction Act Geneva ’64, where the underwater mountain range, the Continental Shelf was agreed as the dividing line between UK and European/Scandinavian waters re Oil and Gas exploration.

2. Continental Shelf jurisdiction Act London ’68 – Scottish lawyers wanted it made clear where Scottish and English law would apply to disputes concerning Oil and Gas companies.

A straight line drawn from Berwick to the Continental Shelf – known as parallel 55degrees 50North – became the accepted dividing line between Scottish and English waters.

On Independence all revenues from Oil and Gas fields (or any other ‘fields’) in Scottish waters will accrue to the Government of Scotland – which will then be solely in Edinburgh.

VOTE YES Next year
2013-01-08 09:35

Sorry to go against the grain but I keep saying it.

Education isn’t free, so who should pay for it, the person who is benefiting from it? Or everyone else?

If i want a car should i pay for it myself or should the taxpayer pay for me?
2013-01-08 13:54

Do you mean higher education or just education in general?
2013-01-08 14:03

1. Everyone benefits from an educated populace.
2. Graduates, or average, earn more and therefore pay more tax.
2013-01-08 15:29

And everyone benefits from lower taxes to a much greater extent. Why? because there would be more resources available to produce things that people demand. Remember when the government diverts resources into free universities it is taking away resources from a productive area of society.

It’s true that education can be beneficial to the country. There’s no reason why the taxpayer needs to pay for it though, i don’t have to tell you to eat for you to know it’s a good idea do i?

In fact the best way to ensure that (A) the right people are going to university (people with high grades who can substantially improve their earning potential), and (B) the price of university and value for money is kept in check, is to make the people using the service pay for it.

I will say one final thing and that it, if you must fund higher education, the best way to do it would be a basic education voucher that can be redeemed for any education based course.
2013-01-08 16:17

Hi Robbo
If I scan around the world, the “low tax” economies are not the ones that I would like a self-determining Scotland to emulate. I much prefer the view that education – basic, secondary, further and higher – all improve the “value” of the society we live in. I mean value in an holistic way – not just the cost.
I’m very proud of belonging to a party that is committed to no University fees – not up front and not back door.

2013-01-08 14:19

I can see your point if you don’t consider yourself to be living in a community.
Those of us who do regard ourselves as being part of a community can see the mutual benefits to be derived from having an educated workforce.
This is how the Nordic social democracies have by and large ridden out the storm created by neoliberal failures.
Education is an investment by the community for it’s future prosperity.

2013-01-08 12:47

Re Jim’s point on Blair’s theft of 6000 miles – with the connivance of Scottish Labour and Tory MPs – that doesn’t and cannot apply to Oil and Gas and indeed will be ‘negotiated’ away come Independence.

It can’t apply because the ‘Oil and Gas’ demarcation lines are their via International Legislation which no individual Government can over ride – not even the once mighty Westminster Government.

VOTE YES Next Year

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