Wednesday, November 03, 2010

For heaven's sake, Vince, we don't have tuition fees in Scotland!

Ok, I'm going to be nice. Partly because I can refuse the Almighty Vince nothing - but he's going to have to give me a bit more than this in the future.

This is the e-mail he's sent out to Party members this afternoon. I will give him the floor for now and then I'll have my tantrum at the end.

Dear Caron,

The Liberal Democrats have always championed our universities. We have long fought for a fair deal for students.

Now in Government we are in a position to turn that campaigning into real action.

The higher education package I am announcing today will promote high-quality university teaching and research. It will guarantee fair access for all, regardless of background. It will deliver a progressive, sustainable funding structure.

The key points are -

1) The poorest 30% of graduates will pay less for university - access to higher education will always be based on ability, not ability to pay.

2) Graduate contributions will be capped - we have rejected Lord Browne’s proposal to allow universities to set charges as high as they wish.

3) Maintenance grants and loans will be improved - almost one million students will receive more overall maintenance support than they do now.

4) Student loans will be extended to part time students - no longer will they be ignored by the system.

Our plans are fair for students, fair for graduates and affordable for the nation. Please click here to read the full details of our proposals.

These plans represent an important first step to improving higher education in Britain and making sure that it remains open to all.

I hope you will join me in the coming months in getting this message out to people across Britain.

Excuse me, Vince, but haven't you forgotten that we, er, don't have tuition fees in Scotland, something that's down to the Liberal Democrats?

And did you not realise that on 9th October our Scottish Conference rejected a call for a scheme which involved a graduate contribution? The Holyrood front bench argued strongly and passionately against the amendment which proposed the graduate contribution.

This e-mail was sent to members in Scotland, many of whom were not at that Conference. They might be under the misapprehension that the Scottish Party has adopted a graduate contribution scheme when nothing could be further from the truth.

Even though things are different up here, we know that we will probably get grief over the decisions that Vince has made in England regarding tuition fees. The e-mail does have some of the facts about how the Liberal Democrats have made a bad situation better. However, the main line of attack will be "you broke your promise".  There is nothing in there that helps with that. Not one thing. Please don't tell us that what we're getting today is what we've been campaigning for for years because that just isn't true. It is the height of uncharacteristic insensitivity to suggest to party members who are feeling a bit bruised by this process that we're getting what we wanted all along.

I know that Vince didn't write this e-mail himself, and whoever did is probably running around like crazy doing 17 jobs at once, but tonight's effort was probably the worst of the bunch so far. I'm hoping that the new President will sort this out as a matter of urgency. We need stuff that we can really use. What we're getting is like sending us out to do battle with a sharpened banana.

Update: Jo Swinson has made a better job of it over at Lib Dem Voice, but still that doesn't even mention that it's not applicable to Scotland.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Vote SNP, you know it makes sense.


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