The student vote is vital for a number of obvious reasons: they are young, in the early stages of political awareness, intelligent and articulate, sceptical, new media savvy – and the future belongs to them.
The tuition fees debate has captured the imagination of students and catalysed student protest in a way that has not been seen for many decades. The young have a powerful sense of justice, and of right and wrong, something that many lose as the pressures of adult life and career exert their often insidious grip on the conscience, sometime recovered in late maturity, sometimes never …
And bluntly, the tuition fees debate affects their interest very directly, both economically and socially, and has the power to cross family political allegiances and traditions.
A political party that cannot capture the imagination of the young and appeal to their idealism must question its policy and thrust: a nationalist party that cannot legitimately secure the allegiance of the youth of its nation by appealing to its intellect and emotions is not worthy of the name. If we do not want an independent Scotland for our young people, who hold the future in their hands and their hearts, what do we want it for?
Let’s get a few facts straight -
The commitment of Scotland to free education is fundamental to its history and its national character, and charging for education is alien to Scots.
The establishment of fee paying educational institutions is, and always has been, an attempt to buy privilege, while paying lip service to excellence. Fees automatically discriminate in favour of the those with money, are inextricably related to class and perpetuate and widen class divisions.
The smokescreen of the poor but worthy parents struggling to raise the money to educate their children is a self-serving myth, but a myth rooted in a small reality. A minority undoubtedly do this, but they shouldn’t have to, and the majority give up and accept their allotted subordinate role in the system. The same myth and same tiny reality exists in relation to the poor student taking second jobs and scrimping and saving to go to university. Some do, but they damage their education in so doing, and shouldn’t have to do it. A significant proportion give up the unequal struggle, and some never undertake it.
This myth is also deeply rooted in the American psychology – of the poor boy working his way through college. The American reality is that of a privileged elite buying their education, perpetuating their class, and dominating the professions and the entire political and economic system, regardless of inherent ability. It is a trick they learned from Britain, where the domination of money and privilege in securing an Oxbridge education ensures the dominance of Oxbridge graduate in our deeply flawed and unequal society.
Every analysis and all the statistics support that. Look at Parliament, the House of Lords, the Law, the City, the banks, medicine, the churches, the media and the upper echelons of the armed services if you doubt it. The figures are unchallengeable, and the inequity unspeakable. Only in sport and the performing arts does the the model fail, and the reason why is clear. Mediocrity and incompetence can be concealed in almost any profession, but in sport and the arts, there is nowhere to hide, although the administration and control of these direct contributors often falls into the hands of the elites.
If you doubt any of this, look at the background of those who regularly spout the self-serving poor boy, poor family myth – they are invariably the privileged, usually privileged over several generations. They must perpetuate the lie to defend that privilege – equality of education is deeply threatening to their class.
What can be said with absolute certainty is the the ConLib policy on education will limit access to higher education to the rich and privileged, with few exceptions and that is what the Tories intend it to do, aided by the criminal folly of the their LibDems partners.
Just as their distaste for the public services manifests itself as concern for the nations finances, so does their distaste for equality of opportunity hide behind the need to balance the books. This is a predominantly rich and privileged Government, containing a few token self-made men and women, conducting an ideological class war against ordinary people and their legitimate aspirations under the cloak of the national economic interest.
THE CURRENT SITUATION
1. It is Scotland’s responsibility to offer free education to Scottish students and students permanently living in Scotland.
2. It is not in Scotland’s economic interest to offer free education to students from Europe or the rest of the UK, however, present EU legislation compels us to offer free higher education to EU students – the Umbria/Cumbria rule. It does not, however compel us to offer free education to students from the rest of the UK, since the UK is regarded as the state by the EU.
3. It is in Scotland’s interest to attract paying students from the rest of the world, and ideally we would also like EU students to pay.
4. The demands from the UK that Scotland should offer free education to Students from England in the interests of ‘fairness’ is nonsense – it would negate the whole purpose of devolved government’s freedom to decide how its money should be spent in areas of expenditure over which it has discretion. If English students didn’t pay, some other area of Scotland’s expenditure would suffer, and in the light of the draconian fees (up to £9000 per annum) that the ConLib UK government is imposing, there would be a flood of English students to Scottish universities at the expenses of places for Scottish students.
WHERE THE REAL PROBLEM LIES
The real problem is twofold. Firstly, it lies with the fact that the UK government not only wants to charge students for their higher education, it intends to radically increase the charges.
Secondly, the UK government has not yet come to grips with the reality of devolved government in Scotland. Blair and the Labour Party, and the British Establishment thought it would be an event, not a process, one that would kill the aspirations of the Scottish people for independence.
But the contradictions within the devolved settlement – which is being extended under Calman – will ironically prove right the diehard unionist critics of devolution like Lord Forsyth and Tam Dalyell. It is a process that will lead inevitably and inexorably to full fiscal autonomy and ultimately to full independence, however long it takes, and however many reverses and staging posts there may be along the way.
Sooner or later, the Scottish people will be free of the crippling burden of UK defence and deterrence policy, enslaved as they are to US foreign policy – a policy that has led to half a century of perpetual conflict and war by America on the rest of the world, and the associated crimes against humanity that are more widely recognised every day, by Americans as well as the rest of the world.
(If you doubt the above assertions, watch the John Pilger documentary, ‘The War You Don’t See’ – see link)
Wikileaks has rendered an incalculable service to humanity by releasing that which the military/industrial complex that dominates the US and the UK wishes to keep hidden, so that they can continue in the lunatic policy of eternal war as the operating principle of their respective states, masquerading as free democracies.
The Scottish National Party must speak with a clear, unequivocal voice on the issue before May 2011.