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Scottish independence would lead to “uncertainty for students”, claim opposition

Scottish independence would would bring academic and career uncertainty for students in Scotland according to both main opposition parties, in answer to claims by the Scottish National Party’s Westminster leader, Ian Blackford MP, in his exclusive interview with The Student

The Leader of the Scottish Conservative party, Douglas Ross, the MP for Moray and Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, Ian Murray, the MP for Edinburgh South, also speaking exclusively to The Student, each dismissed as unrealistic Mr Blackford’s model of a European Union-based independent Scotland. 

Mr Murray described Mr Blackford’s hopes as “platitudes and clichés which mean nothing to anyone”.

He detailed the SNP’s idea as an “incredibly difficult” move and Mr Ross agreed. 

“They can’t guarantee an independent Scotland would get back into the EU because the level of debt in this country is above what it would need to be to be accepted into the EU and there’s still major question marks over Scotland being readmitted as an independent country” said Mr Ross.

Mr Murray went further and said that even if Scotland were accepted by the EU it would not necessarily benefit students.

“Ian Blackford talks very clearly about the post-study work visa for English students. 

“He’s not able to make that commitment. Because a Scotland in the European Union doesn’t have its own immigration rules. 

“Those rules are set by the EU. Therefore, that relationship at the border at Berwick would be set by the rules between the EU and the UK.” 

He stressed that the change in the border would also have a serious effect on Scottish students.

“Eighteen to twenty-four-year-olds move, in very large numbers, from Scotland mainly to London to find work post being a student. 

“That market would then be removed, or it wouldn’t be as easy to have.”

Mr Murray opposed Brexit but he argues that Mr Blackford’s aim to overcome it by taking an independent Scotland back into the EU would not solve the issue. 

“That means then that the definition of Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the UK [would be] exactly the same as the relationship at the moment that he’s railing against between the UK and the EU.” 

SNP’s lack of clarity about borders is not their only problem, said Mr Ross, who also supported Remain until the Referendum vote.

He pointed out that independence supporters did not even know what currency would be used.  

Neither Mr Murray nor Mr Ross was convinced by Mr Blackford’s commitment to maintain a good regime for students from England. 

“The Scottish government already made the decision 10 years ago to discriminate against English students by charging them full fees.” Said Mr Murray. 

“If you came from France you paid the EU rate which is close to zero. 

“If you came from Newcastle, on the train for 25 minutes, you paid the full-whack.” 

He believes that discrimination against English students would continue after independence.  “I want education to be free at the point of use.”

Mr Ross strongly agrees. Scottish Conservatives now take a different view to their English colleagues.  

“I announced, when I became Leader, in this election for the first time we will support no tuition fees in higher education in Scotland.” 

But Mr Ross thinks that the pandemic should be the centre of the political stage right now, rather than Mr Blackford’s hopes for independence. 

“It’s students and young people that are going to pay the price for this pandemic, that are going to be living with this for longest and that’s why I think another divisive independence referendum, separating Scotland from the UK, would be so damaging for everyone but crucially younger people.” 

Image: via photoeverywhere.co.uk