Scotland politics

Education Secretary Mike Russell sorry for college claim

Scottish Education Secretary Mike Russell has made a "full and unreserved" apology to MSPs for giving wrong information on college budgets.

He told parliament in June there was no cut in funding in 2012-13, when it actually fell by £9.3m

Labour said Mr Russell had "knowingly misled" parliament, and suggested the minister should resign.

Mr Russell's comments followed an apology from first minister Alex Salmond last week on a similar issue.

Referring to an answer he gave to Labour MSP Hanzala Malik on 28 June, the education secretary told parliament: "I said there was no reduction in funding for colleges in financial year 2012-13.

"However, when you include all budget revisions, the revised 2012-13 budget is £9.3m lower than the previous year.

"I should have immediately recognised the answer I gave was not right. I did not, I apologise for that to the whole chamber, and, in particular Mr Malik."

Labour education spokesman Hugh Henry said: "Mike Russell misled the Scottish Parliament in June, despite knowing the true figures since February. Why has it taken him five months to apologise?"

Mr Henry said that, under the ministerial code, ministers who knowingly mislead parliament were expected to resign.

"Mike Russell knew in June he had misled this parliament when he said there was no reduction in funding in 2012-13," said Mr Henry.

"He then knowingly misled the is parliament again last Wednesday when he said 'I have never said that there were no cuts'."

Mr Henry said: "He as knowingly misled this parliament not once but twice", asking: "Why has Mike Russell not offered his resignation?"

Mr Russell said the figures were given in "good faith", adding that the correct ones were given to the convener of Holyrood's education committee on 18 October, which he said would hopefully reassure MSPs his answer in June was a "genuine mistake".

He explained the inaccuracy arose "not on an overstatement of spending in 2012-13 but on an understatement of spending in 2011-12".

Mr Russell also said the figures for college budgets, first published in September 2011, had been revised several times to help colleges by adding extra funding.

The education secretary said: "My apology is full and unreserved. It is to the whole chamber, including Mr Henry. It should not have happened."

Last week, Mr Salmond apologised for telling MSPs during first minister's questions that resource funding for colleges was £545m in 2011-12 and £546m in 2012-13.

He later explained the figure of £545m for last year did not take into account changes to the budget, and should instead have been £555.7m.

Opposition politicians noted Mr Russell was seen "nodding vigorously" beside the first minister as he was giving the erroneous answer.

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