Nicola Sturgeon slams UK's departure from Erasmus scheme
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Scotland’s Constitution Secretary Mike Russell argued the devolved nations “were not told the truth” about Brexit by the Government and said Scotland should try to rejoin the student-exchange scheme.
Speaking to Holyrood’s Finance and Constitution Committee yesterday, Mr Russell said: “Let’s not give up.
“There may be all sorts of possibilities we can look at but it is a loss, it’s a substantial loss.
“I would want to continue to argue.
“We’ve got lots of friends in the European Parliament who are very, very keen that we continue to have some association.
“We can see Ireland is taking Northern Irish young people under its wing and they will be associated with the scheme through Irish institutions and organisations.
“We need to continue to think about what we can do.”
He went on to claim the UK Government did not tell the devolved nations “the truth about it”.
Mr Russell added: “The UK Government knew perfectly well the view of the devolved governments on this matter and we were not told the truth about it.
“We were never shown the value for money assessment was undertaken, and right up until virtually the end, we believe that the UK Government was intending to stay in or at least trying to stay in.
“It was shocking.”
Mr Russell told MSPs he and Welsh Government Brexit minister Jeremy Miles had urged the Government to remain part of the exchange programme.
A group of around 150 MEPs wrote to the European Commission asking it to consider allowing Scotland and Wales to take part in the scheme.
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However, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen refused the bid arguing, Scotland and the Senedd could not diverge from the decision “made in London”.
In her letter, she said: “The commission is aware of the Scottish Government’s statement on the UK decision not to associate to Erasmus+ and my colleague Mariya Gabriel has met Mr Richard Lochhead MSP, the Scottish minister for further education, higher education and science, who was keen to explore options for Scottish participation.
“However, as one constituent nation of the UK, association to Erasmus+ is not possible for Scotland, separately.
“The only possibility for the UK is to associate as a whole, or not at all.”
While not being part of the Erasmus scheme, the Government has announced the Turing scheme which will provide funding for an estimated 35,000 students across universities, colleges and schools.
However, Mr Russell lashed out at the Turing scheme, claiming it “does not deal with youth work and youth issues”.
He said: “The Turing scheme does not deal with youth work and with youth issues, which is a huge part of the Erasmus plus scheme and very, very important to Scotland.
“There’s a process now of telling people essentially what it’s going to be about, but there’s been no meaningful consultation about what it should be – even right down to naming it.
“This thing just appeared.
“Clearly work was being done on it and we were not being told about that work.
“It doesn’t give you huge confidence in it.”
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