The Turing scheme will downgrade opportunities for our young people – we must re-join Erasmus+
The Turing scheme includes just a fraction of the benefits provided to students under Erasmus+, with free tuition and travel expenses scrapped, and the cost of living allowance slashed by a fifth.
As we look towards a recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, our young people want their horizons broadened.
When the SNP Scottish government announced its Budget for the coming year, there was a significant focus on investing in our young people - in apprenticeships, help for first time home buyers and funding for further and higher education.
At the same time, the UK Tory government has seemed hell-bent on narrowing their opportunities.
The damaging impact of Brexit on young people isn’t just the view of the SNP - Boris Johnson’s own colleague Andrew Bowie stated bluntly on the BBC last week that our young people will not benefit from Brexit.
In 2016, the people of Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain within the European Union – but nonetheless we were dragged out against our will. The UK is diminished by its new bargain-basement Brexit status, and it is galling for people in Scotland to be part of this race to the bottom we didn’t vote for.
Scotland has been removed from the Single Market – which is seven times the size of the UK market – and future generations will be deprived of all the opportunities our European neighbours enjoy, and which we took for granted until now.
The Prime Minister and his Brexiteer cheerleaders seem determined to limit the opportunities of future generations in an insular Brexit Britain
The Prime Minister’s cavalier attitude to the Brexit negotiations was the cause of concern and disappointment to many in Scotland and beyond. His inability to recognise the value of our EU membership came into sharp focus during talks about Erasmus+.
European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen, confirmed the EU offered the UK Government “full association” to the Erasmus+ programme but “the decision was made in London not to pursue UK association”. This is deeply disappointing.
Boris Johnson had the opportunity of Erasmus+ on the table - an incredible initiative which has enriched the lives of so many Scots - yet he chose not to cast it aside.
Even more galling was the speed with which UK government broke promises on what they described as their replacement scheme. It is now clear that their plans represent a significant downgrade which will leave Scottish students in a significantly poorer situation – the latest example of the long-term damage of Boris Johnson’s bad Brexit deal.
The replacement Turing scheme includes just a fraction of the benefits provided to students under Erasmus+, with free tuition and travel expenses scrapped, and the cost of living allowance slashed by a fifth.
The SNP has time and again expressed concerns about the lost opportunities resulting from the move away from Erasmus+. I raised the issue with Boris Johnson directly at Prime Minister’s Questions last week. But regrettably the UK government continues to bury its head in the sand, and put financial barriers in the way of our young people.
Rather than ripping away their right to live, work, study and travel across Europe, Boris Johnson should reconsider, engage with the EU and seek to re-join the Erasmus scheme.
The Prime Minister and his Brexiteer cheerleaders seem determined to limit the opportunities of future generations in an insular Brexit Britain that Scots have rejected time and again at the ballot box.
But all this sorry saga has shown people in Scotland is that we could do so much better if we chose a different path.
As an independent country, Scotland has the opportunity to secure our place in Europe as an equal partner - offering a pathway back into the Erasmus+ programme.
The choice on the table for our younger people is simple - a future dictated by Boris Johnson, or an independent future where decisions about Scotland are taken by the people of Scotland.
Kirsten Oswald is the Scottish National Party MP for East Renfrewshire and SNP deputy Westminster leader.
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