Lamont’s ‘bring in tuition fees’ speech – “Tory blue” or “asking pertinent questions”?


On the day Nick Clegg used his fifth anniversary as leader of the Lib Dems to raise the prospects of well off pensioners no longer being entitled to certain benefits, north of the border, Johann Lamont gave an equally eye-catching speech in Glasgow to mark her first anniversary as Scottish Labour leader.

Ed-Miliband-Johann-LamontJust months after she gave her now famous speech in Edinburgh questioning the feasibility of certain universal benefits she did it again yesterday, this time raising questions over the sustainability and affordability of universal free university tuition.

In a speech in her native Glasgow, she said:

“University education is costly, and faces competing claims on limited public resources.

“Whilst it was possible to sustain a system of publicly-funded higher education in an environment of relatively low participation, this is not viable in an era of mass participation without a very serious diminution in standards and quality.”

Whilst ruling out up-front tuition fees as a “barrier” for many people in accessing higher education, Lamont nevertheless concluded:

“But we also have to recognise that, currently, the tuition-fees policy is being paid for by colleges.

That is simply not sustainable and I think we need to have an honesty about how we perhaps make sure that those with the broadest shoulders bear the greater burden.”

And her solution?

“The most obvious option,” she argued, would be a return to a graduate endowment under which graduates start to make repayments after finishing their degrees and once their earnings hit a set level.

Responding to the speech, the SNP went on the attack with accusations Lamont had revealed her “Tory blue” colours.

Education secretary Michael Russell explained:

“There is barely a scintilla of difference between her plan to abolish free education and the disastrous fees regime introduced by the Tories south of the border. Figures out just last week showed a drop of more than 6.3% in the number of people accepted to English universities; Scottish universities, in contrast, were up almost 2%.

If Johann Lamont had her way more than 3,300 students accepted to university this year would not have gone. That is the reality of what Labour are now proposing. Thousands of students denied the opportunity to go to university.”

Opposition also came from the NUS with its president in Scotland, Robin Parker, concluding:

“The idea that introducing charging for university is somehow progressive, when it puts off the poorest students in Scotland, just simply makes no sense. And it would certainly make no sense to the many college students who aspire to go on to university.

“Johann Lamont highlights the priorities of college funding and tackling our poor rates of widening access. And we agree that there must be a focus on educational opportunities for people from the most deprived backgrounds. However tuition fees are not the way to help, and in fact would make things worse.”

But if Lamont is looking for more favourable coverage of her speech, she has only to look at the Herald’s editorial today which praises her for asking “pertinent questions”.

In its assessment of her first year as leader, the paper notes:

Her central argument, fleshed out yesterday in a keynote speech to mark her first anniversary as leader, is about the profound inequality in Scottish society.

There are questions about the affordability of Scotland’s free personal care regime for the elderly at a time when the government is having to spend £60m a year on free prescriptions for everyone. Her home turf is in education, having worked as an English teacher in deprived areas.

She questions the underfunded council tax freeze, while schools are having to cut staff, despite the gap in attainment between the highest and lowest achieving schools. She challenges cuts to college budgets, which hit the poorest hardest, while part of the price of free tuition for university students is the £75m a year the government is obliged to shell out on EU students who come to Scotland to study.

Ms Lamont is right to raise the issue of whether this policy is sustainable in the long term “in an era of mass participation without a very serious diminution in standards and quality”. Is she not merely saying what university principals in Scotland are thinking as they seek to maintain their institutions’ places in the world rankings?

Her core argument is that, as undergraduates are drawn predominantly from more affluent backgrounds, the current policy is regressive, especially when access is narrower in Scotland than England, despite the latter’s tuition fees.

Ms Lamont does not have all the answers but she is asking pertinent questions.

See also:

Lamont questions future of universal freebies – mature politics or political suicide?September 28th, 2012

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  • LB

    So lets see.

    1. Government pays for fees. Government gets the money back by taxing people.

    2. Student pays for fees. Student pays the money back from earning more.

    Labour solution

    Student pays for fees. Government penally taxes them when they do well.

    Heads the student losses, tails the government wins.

    Meanwhile, why have you hidden 4,700,000 million pounds off the books? That’s fraud.

  • robertcp

    Depressing. Lamont is very right wing. If this spending is not sustainable, why not suggest increasing taxes? That really would be radical!

  • robertcp

    Depressing. Lamont is very right wing. If this spending is not sustainable, why not suggest increasing taxes? That really would be radical!

  • robertcp

    Depressing. Lamont is very right wing. If this spending is not sustainable, why not suggest increasing taxes? That really would be radical!

  • robertcp

    LB, what 4,700,000 million has been hidden off the books?

  • robertcp

    LB, what 4,700,000 million has been hidden off the books?

  • LB

    State pension

    State second pension

    Civil service pension

    Not on the books.

    All we have is an estimate from the ONS

    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171766_263808.pdf page 4

    It’s a CONTIGENT liability. Contingent means the government doesn’t have to pay it.

    Remember, tax revenues, 0.55 trillion. Add on the other debts, take off the assets that you could sell to get money, and you will find the state has run up debts 14 times its taxes.

    It’s also spending 0.73 trillion a year. 30% more than taxation.

    So after you’ve raised taxes from 50% to 80%, how are you going to pay the debts?

  • LB

    State pension

    State second pension

    Civil service pension

    Not on the books.

    All we have is an estimate from the ONS

    http://www.ons.gov.uk/ons/dcp171766_263808.pdf page 4

    It’s a CONTIGENT liability. Contingent means the government doesn’t have to pay it.

    Remember, tax revenues, 0.55 trillion. Add on the other debts, take off the assets that you could sell to get money, and you will find the state has run up debts 14 times its taxes.

    It’s also spending 0.73 trillion a year. 30% more than taxation.

    So after you’ve raised taxes from 50% to 80%, how are you going to pay the debts?

  • LB

    There is a simple explanation for a lot of poverty. Perversely, its the welfare state.

    If we take a median wage earner, 26K a year, then 40 years ago that would correspond to 700 a year based on average wages.

    Now if we back test taking the NI on 700 a year, putting it into the FTSE, then at the end of the year, you make or lose money depending on whether or not the FTSE goes up or down. You also add in a small percentage for dividends. Next year, wages go up (or down), you add the equivalent of NI into the fund, make or lose on the FTSE, plus some dividends.

    Repeat this for 40 years, and you would have had a fund worth 550,000 pounds. The reason is the capital growth, and compound interest.

    The state pension, if bought privately from profit making companies would cost 130,000 pounds.

    That’s 420,000 pounds taken from the retirement of someone earning 26K a year.

    That’s the real reason for inequality. People on 26K a year aren’t being allowed to save because the state its taking money from them to redistribute it. End result those that spend less than they earn, will get richer. Those that can’t won’t.

    Remember too that the state pension won’t be paid, because the state owes so much. That’s what a contigent liability means for you and I.

  • LB

    There is a simple explanation for a lot of poverty. Perversely, its the welfare state.

    If we take a median wage earner, 26K a year, then 40 years ago that would correspond to 700 a year based on average wages.

    Now if we back test taking the NI on 700 a year, putting it into the FTSE, then at the end of the year, you make or lose money depending on whether or not the FTSE goes up or down. You also add in a small percentage for dividends. Next year, wages go up (or down), you add the equivalent of NI into the fund, make or lose on the FTSE, plus some dividends.

    Repeat this for 40 years, and you would have had a fund worth 550,000 pounds. The reason is the capital growth, and compound interest.

    The state pension, if bought privately from profit making companies would cost 130,000 pounds.

    That’s 420,000 pounds taken from the retirement of someone earning 26K a year.

    That’s the real reason for inequality. People on 26K a year aren’t being allowed to save because the state its taking money from them to redistribute it. End result those that spend less than they earn, will get richer. Those that can’t won’t.

    Remember too that the state pension won’t be paid, because the state owes so much. That’s what a contigent liability means for you and I.

  • robertcp

    Thanks. They are paid from current taxation but I agree that this will be an issue later this century.

  • Daggs

    “There is barely a scintilla of difference between her plan to abolish free education and the disastrous fees regime introduced by the Tories south of the border.”
    A policy that would not have passed through the house of commons if not for the votes of MP’s representing Scottish constituencies. Who happily voted fees onto English students knowing fees would not apply in Scotland.

  • LB

    So are the borrowings, and PFI, and ….

    It all passes the duck test. If it looks, quacks and waddles like a duck, its a duck.

    They all look like debts in that they have a payout that needs to be paid.

    So look at the consequences. But first you need to look at what is happening to the borrowing part, which is just the method by which the spending can be kept up.

    QE 375 bn, of which 345 bn has gone on Gilts. The same size as the deficit over the same period. No one is lending to the state, apart from the state to itself.

    It’s never going to be able to tax 375 bn when its overspending by 30%. There isn’t 30% growth available either.

    So what’s going to happen?

    The state will default on the pensions. The state will steal private and company pensions ‘for the public good’. The state will tax even more heavily but not provide services in return.

    OK, now what effect does that have?

    1. Companies will move
    2. The wealthy will move (and even more so, move their assets)
    3. New companies will be incorporated off shore.

    Then as benefits get withdrawn, you will end up with destitute pensioners, riots from the young denied their giro.

    All because of a fraud.

    Or do you have a clue as to how with a 130% spending habit (of income), and 1400% of income in debt, that you can make ends meet, plus provide services?

    I don’t bar one thing. Move to funded pensions, plus a guarantee for the state pension. That way lots of money becomes available for investment. However, even that won’t be enough.

  • glynbeddau

    Your coverage of this convinces me that the purpose of this Blog is not to put a Left Foot Foward but a Labour Foot/Yo the extict you fail to completely criticize. The Scottish Labour Leader who is indistinguishable from from the Westminster Tories and their LibDem helpers.

    Its clear if you want a Tory Goverment in Scotland elect a Labour one

  • Newsbot9

    Of course your far right can’t tell the difference. Back in reality, while she’s wrong, there remains a difference between the centre and the right!

  • Newsbot9

    Yes yes, you keep arguing that if you kill the poor off, you can being in cheaper Helots.

    And that’s right, you want to be able to manipulate pensions with stock manipulation. And no, you end up with a fund of far less, since you’re ignoring fees and the fact that Britain’s economy is in a death cycle.

    You are personally stealing from people with your economic policies, yes, but your sums are trash. You keep pretending that people on 26k can’t save because they benefit from measures which save them cash, when in reality it’s your capitalism which has stopped them earning, if wages were the same percentage of GDP as the 1970’s, about 48k!

    And no, you don’t pay tax here and don’t have a state pension, thus. You keep on arguing that the peons can’t have a pension because it doesn’t suit you!

  • Newsbot9

    His slush fund, no doubt,

  • Newsbot9

    Well, let’s see, you could pay? Nope, it’s the lower 75% and their 15% or so of the wealth who you expect to pay for you, rather than the other way around, leech.

    Tax isn’t 50% either, you’re not in a Nordic country. Keep lying!

  • Newsbot9

    Nope, there’s never enough for your greed. Abolish pensions, making a loss-making slush fund for you to pay for qith a guarantee that the 99% will never see a penny, and you’re not satisfied with ripping the poor off!

    You call, explicitly, for riots so you can suppress them, and the poor. You call, explicitly, for poor elderly people so they die off sooner. You encourage tax evasion, you encourage companies to stiff the UK.

    You are a criminal and a fraud and need to to be sent back to your home country, after your assets have been seized as profits of crime.

  • LB

    Ah yes, blame others. As a state worker, you’re responsible for the crimes.

    Just as all bankers are responsible for all banking losses (slight problem, 2.5 billion paid out, 35 billion in profits for penal rates of interest. State’s profiteering)

    All BBC workers must be paedophiles.

    All problems are caused by Jews.

    Isn’t that what you’re saying? Yep, you want a scapegoat.

    They aren’t going to pay your pension because they, the state, are bust.

  • Newsbot9

    Except, of course, I’m not a “state worker”, you’re tilting at windmills again.

    Keep making excuses for the trillions your banker constituency has stolen. How DARE they pay tax, as usual your outrage is aimed at reducing your tax burden.

    And no, I’m not you, anti-Semite. You’re the one who is the collectivist, insistent on your class-based “rights”, and insistent that everyone else must pay you, and not the 99%.

    Go home, stop plaguing Britain.

  • LB

    So how long before you think it tips?

    The state’s already spending 30% more than taxes.

    The borrowing since the financial crisis, QE, has pretty much all gone on lending to the state. 345 bn out of 375 bn spent on Gilts. The main reason why there hasn’t been any growth.

    NI receipts still exceed payouts, but that just means that the debt is still growing. The pensions debt has small up front payments, but huge back end payments.

    The problem is that most people in the UK have no savings. Lots have very little savings. Low wages, benefits, and high taxation have meant that most of their money goes on living, They are completely dependent on the state.

    That’s the nightmare about it. Lots of people are going to be screwed. They have already been screwed. 20p in the pound payout.

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