Edinburgh, Fife & East Scotland

Protests in Scotland over education cuts plan

Protesters in Glasgow on Wednesday
Image caption The demonstrations in Scotland were organised by anti-cuts campaigners, but the National Union of Students said it supported the message

Scottish students have not paid tuition fees for a decade but there is still concern and anger north of the border about the future of higher education.

In central Edinburgh some 300 students protested outside the Liberal Democrats' Scottish headquarters.

The road was closed as they chanted slogans and listened to speeches before handing a letter to staff and marching back to Edinburgh University.

The Scottish government is currently preparing a green paper on the future of higher education.

It is due to be published before the end of the year but ministers have already ruled out a return to up-front tuition fees, leaving a big question mark over how the sector will be funded.

Thousands of students are taking part in marches, walkouts and protest events at universities and colleges across England.

Protesters in Scotland are fearful for the future of Scottish education and angry about moves at Westminster to increase tuition fees in England to £9,000 per year.

Jenna Spence, 20, a sociology student at Edinburgh University, said her vote for the Lib Dems in the general election had been repaid with a "kick in the teeth".

"We're particularly annoyed at Nick Clegg's pledge to vote against any increase in fees," she said, adding: "It's not actually translated in reality."

Demonstrations have also taken place in Glasgow, where organisers claimed some 350 students and school pupils marched to the city centre for a rally in George Square.

Brandishing banners bearing the slogan "no cuts", the protesters said they were angry not just about education policy but also about cuts to public services.

Lydia Brownlee, who, as an English student at Glasgow School of Art, pays a fixed-rate fee.

Image caption The biggest demonstration took place in central London

She had painted her face with a dotted line and scissors for the protest.

"I've moved up to Scotland to university and the system up here is so much better," she said.

"There's no pressure when you're going into university thinking, 'I'm going to come out with such a mountain of debt', whereas that is hanging over you in England at the moment."

Her fellow art student, Rosie Hood, added: "We're protesting against the cuts and against the increase in tuition fees.

"The rich might be able to pay it and the people who can make a lot of money when they leave uni might be able to pay it back.

"For so many students it's going to mean huge, huge loans that are going to hang over them for the rest of their working life and we don't think that's fair and we need to stop it."

'Increase pressure'

About 30 students also occupied the Royal College building at Strathclyde University.

The demonstrations in Scotland were organised by anti-cuts campaigners, but the National Union of Students said it supported the message.

Jennifer Cadiz, deputy president of NUS Scotland, argued that the UK government's plans to cut spending on some courses while increasing fees would have a big impact on Scotland.

"The staggering cuts of up to 80% will be passed on to the Scottish government over the next few years," she said.

"Increasing fees to up to £9,000 will saddle Scottish students studying in the rest of the UK with huge levels of debt, and can only increase pressure to increase fees for English and Welsh students studying in Scotland."

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