Michael Russell: RUK students would pay tuition fees in an independent Scotland

Michael Russell, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning
Michael Russell, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning
Michael Russell, Scottish cabinet secretary for education and lifelong learning

How would independence affect research funding that St Andrews / Scottish universities receive from both the UK Research Councils and the EU?

With independence, we will seek to maintain a common research area with the rest of the UK including existing shared Research Councils. It is in the interests of both Scotland and the rest of the UK to continue to benefit from productive collaboration between Scottish institutions and colleagues working elsewhere in the UK. This would involve continuation of access to Scottish expertise, facilities and the excellence of Scottish researchers.

The best research already operates across boundaries, be that disciplinary, institutional or geographical with the Research Councils already regularly engaging in international collaborations.

Would St Andrews continue to be able to receive EU energy subsidies for projects like the Guardbridge biomass centre?

Following a vote for independence, Scotland would continue to be a member of the EU as set out in Scotland’s Future [the Scottish government’s white paper on independence] and therefore, EU funding and subsidies for projects would continue.

If Scotland were not given easy access back into the EU, would Scotland be able to make-up the lost funds from the UK and EU?

As set out in the Scotland’s Future document, the Scottish government’s position is to continue EU membership.

There is a legal framework within the EU treaties by which Scotland can become an independent member state of the EU from the date of independence. This legal route is set out on page 221 of Scotland’s Future and explained in further detail in Annex 5 of the supplementary briefing paper ’. Both documents can be accessed at the following links:

If Scotland was able to smoothly rejoin the EU, would UK student fees go down to zero? Are you concerned about the sharp, adverse effect this would have on university endowments across Scotland?

The Scottish government enabled Scottish universities to charge RUK students tuition fees in response to the introduction of fees of up to £9,000 per year elsewhere in the UK.

We have explicitly acknowledged on page 199 of Scotland’s Future that “objective justification” is the basis of our approach to maintain this policy in an independent Scotland as part of the EU.

Our policy is based on the residence of students, not their nationality. We believe that Scotland’s distinct characteristics in relation to the rest of the UK, such as our relative size, shared land border and language, will enable us to continue with our current policy in a way which is consistent with the principles of free movement across the EU as a whole, and compatible with EU requirements.

Do you foresee a possible shift in the student body to American and other international students, who are paying £16,000 annually, if UK, Scottish, and EU students all attend university for free (receiving a lower than cost subsidy from the Scottish government)?

The Scottish government would maintain the current tuition fee policy to charge RUK students to study in Scotland.


  1. Total nonsense I’m afraid. The current ‘get-out’ clause is that you cannot discriminate between states, but there’s nothing to stop you discriminating within a state. The UK is currently one state. In the event of independence, Scotland might be a separate state if it were admitted to the EU (which is highly likely) and would thus not be able to discriminate against UK students. This is real garbage from the SNP I’m afraid.

  2. There have been independent legal opinions produced which support the Scottish government’s position on the question of charging rUK students tuition fees, although the EU law issues are potentially complex. The reality is however that fees for rUK students post-independence are a total certainty as if necessary there are various ways in which the Scottish government could circumvent the EU rules, for example by charging all students fees, but then allowing Scottish domiciled students to claim this money back etc. That would not contravene EU law. I myself firmly believe in free education and I don’t want to see anyone charged tuition fees. The problem here really lies with the westminster government and its ridiculous policy of charging up to £9,000 fees to students in England, Wales and NI, which are likely to be increased even further. Given this policy it is simply impossible for the Scottish higher education system to have a situation where rUK students can study here for free. This would put intolerable pressure on places at Scottish universities. Competition for places at St Andrews, which is already fierce, would become even stiffer.

    The solution to this problem lies with parties at westminster who need to abandon their reckless tuition fee policy, which in the long-term is going to cost more, and places financial barriers to education which I strongly believe should be free at the point of access to anyone with the ability to pursue it. Let’s have free university education across the UK, and then this issue goes away.

  3. Its stupid to not even consider the possibility that Scotland would have to leave the EU… The EU Comission has said that would happen a couple of times


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