A candidate in the upcoming Scottish elections has welcomed a number of measures to support students in Renfrewshire North and West.

Natalie Don has highlighted how the SNP are committed to supporting students through the pandemic and into the recovery – by driving forward the Widening Access agenda and expanding student support.

A number of key commitments for students that a re-elected SNP Government will take forward include:

  • Protecting free tuition and maintaining the Education Maintenance Allowance
  • Implementing the recommendations of the Commissioner for Widening Access, including a review of funding for post-graduate students
  • Expanding student support over the next three years to reach the equivalent of the Real Living Wage – with as much as possible being done through grants
  • A student mental health action plan – including action to tackle waiting times and ensure equity of access
  • Within the constraints of the devolved settlement, fighting for a fairer deal for young workers against exploitative zero-hours contracts, unpaid internships and workplace discrimination
  • Advocating for Scotland’s inclusion in Erasmus+ – but also creating a Scottish programme of exchange to provide mobility and cooperation opportunities in higher education, vocational education and training, adult education, youth and sport

SNP candidate for Renfrewshire North & West, Natalie Don has welcomed the manifesto commitments for students.

She said: “The SNP have always fought to improve the lives of students and ensure that access to education is about the ability to learn, not to pay. The SNP abolished tuition fees in Scotland – and as long as we are in government, they will never be re-introduced. Full-time college students in Scotland also benefit from the highest bursary of anywhere in the UK, and we’ve also expanded the Education Maintenance Allowance, which was scrapped down south.”

“Record numbers of students from the poorest background are now attending university – but we need to go further. For many students, managing student finances was hard before the pandemic but with many jobs in sectors which are usually filled by students such as hospitality being hardest hit by Covid, this will undoubtedly have an effect on the job prospects of many students. This problem could also increase during the summer – students are not eligible for Universal Credit during the summer so when student support ends at the end of term, many students will find themselves in financial hardship if they cannot find employment. This could have a real impact on students’ ability to stay in university and I don’t want to see anyone dropping out because they can’t afford it.”

She added: “I am very pleased that the SNP manifesto commitment includes a review of funding provision for postgraduate students and an expansion of our student support package to reach the equivalent of the Real Living Wage over the next three years. I believe this will go a long way to ensuring that our students are properly supported.

“Aside from financial difficulties, I was glad to see that student welfare is at the heart of the manifesto with a commitment to a student mental health action plan. This has been a year like no other for students so we need to make sure that support is available going forward for anyone who needs it.”

“I am sure many students will also be pleased to hear about the creation of a Scottish programme of exchange. This will seek to recover some of the opportunities taken away from Scottish students following the UK Government’s unnecessary unilateral withdrawal from the Erasmus+ scheme after they dragged Scotland out of the EU against our will.”

“On the 6th May, vote SNP for a government who will enact bold policies to ensure our students have the support and opportunities they require.”