The SNP’s scrapping of tuition fees has allowed 270,000 Scottish students to graduate free of charge since the policy was introduced a decade ago, figures from SPICe have shown.

Today marks 10 years since the Graduate Endowment Abolition Bill was passed by the Scottish Parliament – removing the backdoor tuition fees introduced by Labour and the Lib Dems. This policy ensured that students in Scotland would not have to pay for tuition either during or after their studies. By stark contrast, Tory policy south of the border sees students charged up to £9,250 a year for attending university. The Welsh Labour government also charges students to study in Wales.

Since the fees were scrapped in 2008, Scotland’s universities have gone from strength to strength – climbing up the international league tables, improving access for those from the most deprived communities, and seeing more people apply to study.

Commenting, SNP MSP Sandra White said:

“As we reflect on a decade of free university tuition in Scotland, it is clear that this policy has been a resounding success – giving 270,000 people the opportunity to gain a qualification free of charge.

“The scrapping of Labour’s unfair graduate tax has been transformational for many people across Scotland – and stands in stark contrast to the Tory approach south of the border, which forces people to pay tens of thousands of pounds to get their degree.

“And just this week, the Scottish Government announced yet another significant investment in our universities and colleges, which will benefit from £1.8 billion in funding for the coming year, money which will help us achieve our aim of ensuring students from the 20% most deprived backgrounds represent 20% of university entrants by 2020.

“With more students applying thanks to the SNP Scottish Government’s unwavering commitment to free tuition, it’s clear that more and more people will graduate from our world-leading universities in the years to come.”

More Young People Setting Up for Success After School

School Leavers Across Glasgow Heading for Work or Study

School leavers in Glasgow continue to go on to positive destinations after finishing secondary school – with the latest figures showing 92% of youngsters in Glasgow going into further or higher education, employment or training three months after leaving school.

The total across Scotland has risen from 93.3% last year to 93.7% this year – showing that even more young people are finding fulfilling opportunities after leaving school. In Glasgow, the percentage of people going on to positive destinations has gone from 90% last year to 92% this year – and increased from 87% since 2011/12.

Of those in positive destinations, 36%  are at University and 31% are at college, while 23% have went direct to employment and training.

Commenting on the latest stats, SNP MSP for Glasgow Sandra White said:

“The Scottish Government continues to make education its priority this parliament – and these figures reflect just how important SNP action on education is for our young people.

“Being able to go on to a positive destination after leaving school – whether that is college, university, work or training – is a great boost for young people across Glasgow, improving their self-confidence and setting them up to make positive contributions to our communities as adults.

“That more young people across Glasgow are going on to positive destinations this year than previously – up from 87%  to 92% over the last six years – is fantastic news for our local community.

“Our young people need fulfilling work, study or training after leaving school to help ensure they don’t get left behind – and these positive figures for Glasgow and across Scotland show that they are benefiting from exactly that.”



Thursday 22 February 2018


The Scottish Government’s budget was passed this week in Parliament. This budget will protect low and middle income earners and deliver for public services and public sector workers.

The budget delivers progressive reforms to Scotland’s income tax system, with modest increases on higher earners, while 70% of taxpayers will pay less than they did last year and 55% will pay less than the rest of the UK. Opinion polling found that Scots back the SNP’s tax plans by 2 to 1.

The Budget will also deliver an additional £400 million for the NHS, an expansion in childcare, more spending on broadband, extra funding for our police and fire services, and a pay rise for hard-working public sector employees.

This is a budget for a stronger economy and a fairer society – with increased funding for the NHS and protection for low and middle income earners.

In the face of massive Westminster cuts, ongoing austerity and a damaging hard Brexit – this budget provides investment to seize the opportunities of tomorrow.

Trust Housing

IMG_0557I was delighted to sponsor the Scottish Ethnic Minority Older Peoples Forum in the Parliament this week.

The Older People Services Project is funded by the Big Lottery Fund and is developed and managed jointly by Trust, Hanover (Scotland) and Bield Housing Associations.

The purpose of the project is to encourage and maximise benefits and services uptake by older people from Black & Minority Ethnic (BME) communities, carry out research on their changing needs and aspirations and to set up BME Older People’s forum in Scotland.

The Older Peoples Services Project will help ethnic minority older people with access to benefits and services to improve their lives and deal with issues of isolation and loneliness. There will be a specific focus on raising awareness on the effects of isolation on health, wellbeing and respect and dignity.

Agent for Change

Good news from the Scottish Government – developers building new residential buildings near music venues will be responsible for taking appropriate measures to ensure local people are not disturbed by noise. I know that many music venue owners in Glasgow particularly those affected by this issue and whom I’ve been working with to change the current guidance will very much welcome this change.

New guidance on this Agent of Change principle will be included in the new version of the National Planning Framework and local authorities will be asked to implement it immediately.

Music venues should not have to make high cost changes or deal with expensive disputes because of new developments.  Developers will be responsible for identifying and solving any potential issues with noise, giving residents of new homes a better quality of life and allowing our music venues to continue to operate.

Development and consultation on the next National Planning Framework (NPF4) will begin in 2018, and it is expected to be adopted in 2020.

A Chief Planner letter has been sent to all planning authorities highlighting existing guidance on noise issues and asking them to ensure decisions reflect the Agent of Change principle.

You can access the letter here


IMG_0554Purple Friday is LGBT Youth Scotland’s annual fund and awareness-raising campaign and I was delighted to take part in a photo – opp with my colleagues to highlight the campaign.

The campaign was established to shine a spotlight on LGBT Youth Scotland’s essential work with young people and give allies an opportunity to declare their support for LGBTI equality and inclusion in Scotland.

This year’s theme is #EverydayHero and here I am with MSPs spanning all the party’s in the Scottish Parliament.


02.18 HISHealthcare Improvement Scotland (HIS) were in Parliament this week exhibiting their services and I took the opportunity to have a quick chat with them.

The purpose and aims of HIS are to support and provide better health quality and social care for everyone in Scotland.

They work with people at every level of the health and social care system making sure improvements in care are informed by the experiences of people who deliver and people who use services.


New funding will support research into the causes, diagnosis and treatment of Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME).

Funding of £90,000 will be provided for a Scottish university to host a new Ph.D studentship focussed on improving understanding of ME – a condition characterised by long-term fatigue and other symptoms that can make it more difficult for a person to carry on their daily life.

The studentship, jointly funded by Scottish Government and Action for ME, is in response to calls from ME organisations for increased research into the condition.


The Scottish Government has announced schools will be allocated £3 million this year to support pupils learning additional languages with Glasgow City receiving £301,000.

A lack of language skills has been estimated to cost Scottish businesses hundreds of millions of pounds a year in lost exports.

The Scottish Government funding will enable every primary school pupil to start learning an additional language in Primary 1 and a second additional language by Primary 5, and for language learning to continue to the end of S3. This includes Mandarin, Gaelic and British Sign Language as well as European languages.

There has been a sustained increase in language Highers and skills-based qualifications in recent years and the Scottish Government’s continued investment will build on this success, ensuring the workforce has the right skills to make the most of international economic opportunities.

Best Bib n Tucker

02.18 Best Bib n TcukerIt was lovely to meet up with representatives from Best Bib n Tucker CIC in Parliament this week, a local Edinburgh Community social enterprise.

They have developed a range of professionally produced protective clothing, including bibs, smocks and tabards particularly for adults but also for children who have additional needs at meal times.

They also provide training with workshops in sewing, photography, health, employability and the environment. These all tie in with the groups aim of improving the local communities’ health, environment and connection to friends.

The work they do goes some way in alleviating loneliness and isolation whilst teaching and learning new skills.


The Joint Programme Board overseeing the integration of British Transport Police (BTP) in Scotland into Police Scotland has agreed to review the timetable.

A longer timetable will allow for enhanced engagement with officers, staff and their representatives on key issues, including pay and conditions.

A detailed re-planning exercise will now take place over the coming months to ensure robust delivery plans are in place for all of the key elements of the programme and to establish a new delivery date.



More Cash for Local Services Thanks to Progressive Taxation Reforms

Glasgow Council is set to receive a significant funding boost as a result of this year’s SNP Scottish Government budget – with local services in Glasgow benefiting from an extra £27.4m.

The SNP’s progressive reforms – which will see 55% of taxpayers pay less in income tax than if they lived in the rest of the UK – guarantee a £27.4m rise in Glasgow City Council’s resource budget, providing extra funding for schools, roads and housing.

The Scottish Budget also provides additional spending on our NHS – which will see an extra £400 million in funding to help protect our health service from Tory austerity.

Commenting, SNP MSP Sandra White said:

“This extra funding for Glasgow council – an additional £27.4m for the coming year – is a great settlement for our communities.

“The SNP’s progressive reforms on income tax, seeing 70% of people pay less than they did last year, and 55% pay less than they would if they lived south of the border, are vital for allowing this funding increase despite continued austerity being imposed by the Tories at Westminster.

“This progressive budget also provides extra funding for our NHS, education and broadband, and more money for our economy, research and our environment too – as well as protecting free university tuition, free personal care for the elderly, free school meals and free prescriptions.

“While the Tories propose cutting over £556 million from public services in order to pay for their tax cuts for the wealthiest – the SNP Government delivers for our councils and protects the vital local services in Glasgow that we all hold dear.”



Thursday 8 February

Womens Votes

100 Years since the first women were allowed to voteMarking the centenary of Women’s right to votes, female MSPs gathered in the chamber prior to the debate this week.

In contributing to the debate I spoke about Janie Allan a Glasgow woman who was at the forefront of the suffrage movement in Scotland. Janie was instrumental in re-founding the Glasgow branch of the National Society for Women’s Suffrage as the Glasgow and West of Scotland Association for Women’s Suffrage and served on its executive.

I also took the opportunity to highlight Hanna Sheehy-Skeffington one of Ireland’s most ardent promoters of women’s rights. She was an influential figure during the suffragette movement, tirelessly campaigning for the equal status of men and women in Ireland. There is also a family connection with Hanna being my granddaughters great, great, great grandmother. An inspirational role model.

You can read my full contribution here:

#Share Aware

02.18 #ShareAwareHuge congratulations to my colleague Gillian Martin MSP on her campaign to boost internet safety for young people which I wholeheartedly support.

Parents should speak with their children to make sure they know how to stay safe online and understand the risks of posting certain information – and I am glad to be involved in the campaign to raise awareness of this serious issue.

I would also encourage pupils across Glasgow to take part in a nationwide film competition that aims to raise awareness of the dangers related to sending nude photos online. This is a great initiative that gives children across Glasgow the opportunity to engage with these dangers in a creative manner.

We must all do what we can to help protect our children when it comes to their online activity.

Mental Health

02.18 Childrens Mental Health WeekChildren’s Mental Health Week 2018 is running from 5 – 11 February. Children’s Mental Health Week theme this year is encouraging children, young people and adults to celebrate their uniqueness. It’s all about #BeingOurselves!

Charitable organisation Place 2 Be launched the first ever Children’s Mental Health Week in 2015 to support children and young people’s mental health and emotional wellbeing. Now in its fourth year, they hope to encourage more people than ever to get involved and spread the word.

I stopped by their stall in the Parliament this week to chat with them about their work with young people and what work they are doing to support children and young people.

You can find out more about Place 2 Be and Children’s Mental Health Week at

Stand Up to Racism

02.18 Stand Up to Racism ConferenceOn Saturday I was asked to take part in the Stand Up to Racism conference at the Unison Offices on Bell Street.

We covered many areas including welcoming refugees and migrants, defending EU nationals rights and freedom of movement, racism, Islamophobia and anti Semitism.

It is heartening to have so many people come together to articulate on these issues and lend their support to the campaign however it is also appalling that we should be in a position where we are having to defend other human beings rights. 

Celtic Connections Showcase Scotland

02.18 Celtic Connections Showcase ScotlandApproaching its 19th year, I was delighted again to address this year’s Creative Scotland event Showcase Scotland at Celtic Connections which introduces international and worldwide audiences to new music.

Its aim is to secure performances for Scottish based artists on a global scale – creating new audiences for existing artists and introducing new artists to existing audiences.

This year there was a very close partnership with Culture Ireland maximising international exposure for Scottish artists who share so much in common.

And of course this is the 25th year of Celtic Connections and the Year of Young People what better way to celebrate than the success of the Scottish Government funded Youth Music Initiative.

Afghan Interpreters

Afghan interpreters who worked for the British army will receive support to attend Scottish universities and colleges after the Scottish Government announced a change in residency criteria.

Locally employed staff interpreters from Iraq who had settled in the UK were entitled to support as they had been given indefinite leave to remain.   Afghan interpreters, however, had been given five years’ leave rather than indefinite leave to remain, and were therefore not previously eligible for student support.

I’m delighted that the Scottish Government has taken action to help Afghan interpreters who served with UK forces build a new life in Scotland.   This discrepancy was caused by the fact that Afghan interpreters were given temporary, rather than indefinite, leave to remain – unlike Iraqi interpreters. That UK government decision left Afghan interpreters ineligible for student support.   I’m glad that, after I raised this issue, the Scottish Government has taken action and will allow these brave interpreters to access education. 

Widening Access

02.18 Widening Access Glasgow UniGood to meet up with representatives from Caledonian University, Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow University (pictured), Royal Conservatoire and Strathclyde University this week at a parliamentary reception organised by Universities Scotland.

The event was highlighting widening access to higher education following the publication of Working to Widen Access last month. Whilst most institutions are making progress to ensure that people from the most deprived areas of Scotland have access to higher education there will always be room for improvement.

Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP, Minister for Further Education, Higher Education and Science and Universities Scotland Convener Professor Andrea Nolan OBE, were keynote speakers.

All 19 higher education institutions were represented by both practitioners and students, sharing their personal stories about how they have been working to widen access and why it’s important that everyone should be able to benefit from higher education.


Scotland’s population projections show there is an ‘overwhelming case’ for Scotland to have the power to tailor its own migration policy, External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop has said.

With the number of deaths expected to outweigh the number of births for every year until 2040, action is required to maintain and grow Scotland’s working age population to help support the welcome fact that people are living longer.

A new Scottish Government discussion paper on migration looks in detail at the impact that falling migration levels would have on Scotland’s economy and what a devolved migration policy could look like.

The paper sets out ways in which the Scottish Government could be given a greater say on UK migration policy in support of Scotland’s needs, as well as options for a Scotland-specific migration system.

You can read the discussion paper here:


Please note there will be no Ebrief next week due to recess. The Ebrief will resume on Thursday 22 February.