The Tories are letting young people down but the SNP will continue to lead the way

Last week marked a decade since the SNP government scrapped university tuition fees in Scotland. The SNP’s policy of free university education, based on your ability to learn not your ability to pay, has enabled around 270,000 Scottish students to graduate free of charge since 2007.


Compare that to the appalling situation in England under the Tories, where young people are now starting out their working lives burdened with absurd levels of student debt – thanks to tuition fees of £9,250 a year, the abolition of maintenance grants, and student loan interest rates at 6.1%.

Successive Tory, Lib Dem, and Labour UK governments have sold young people out, and their right-wing policies have utterly destroyed the principle of free education in England.

It’s no wonder then that after years of hiking up tuition fees – while telling Scotland we were wrong to support free education – both the Tories and Labour are finally having to admit the situation they have created is unacceptable and urgently needs to change.

But the burden of huge tuition fee debts is only one of many problems that young people now face as a result of years of Westminster failure, and a Tory government that seems determined to rob young people of opportunities, and consign our generation to a future of high debts, low incomes, unaffordable house prices, and poor pensions at the end of it.

The Tories are right to be concerned that they lack support among young people – but they need to face up to the fact that it’s because they’ve let young people down so badly.

As we celebrate the Year of Young People in Scotland, I’m proud that the SNP government is committed to giving young people a voice and tackling the challenges we face head on.

From introducing the baby box and expanding free child care, to tackling the attainment gap in schools and protecting the Education Maintenance Allowance – the SNP are determined to ensure that everyone gets the best start in life, and proper support throughout their education.

In employment, the SNP are taking action to ensure that young people have the opportunity of a decent job with a decent wage.

In government, we’ve met our commitment to reduce youth unemployment by 40% four years early, we’ve enabled around 200,000 young people to undertake a Modern Apprenticeship, and we are introducing a new Jobs Grant to help unemployed 16 to 24 year olds back into work.

At Westminster, SNP MPs are campaigning to change the law so that 18 to 24 year olds are entitled to a real living wage. And we’re pressing the UK government to ban exploitative unpaid trial shifts and zero hours contracts – to ensure proper protections at work.

On housing, the SNP is investing to build another 50,000 affordable homes by 2021, so that the dream of home ownership isn’t out of reach for future generations. And we have introduced greater protections so that the thousands of young people renting homes have security, and aren’t ripped off with unfair letting fees.

And while the Tories block attempts to introduce votes at 16 for Westminster elections, the SNP government has already lowered the voting age for Scottish Parliament and local government elections – boosting engagement in politics and giving young people a say in their future.

For young people, the difference between the progressive SNP government in Scotland and the regressive Tory government at Westminster couldn’t be starker. While the Tories are letting young people down, the SNP will continue to lead the way and stand up for our interests.