EARLIER this month, pupils across Scotland received their grades which determine their next steps after leaving school.

For many young people the hope would have been to have met the grades required for their conditional offer, allowing them to get to university.

For many, now should be a time when they are busy getting packed to move – purchasing their kitchen utensils, fairy lights (or was that just me?) and bedding to set them up for life in university halls.

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It is a time for young people to gain their independence and take new learning opportunities. However, for many, it will also be a very stressful time as they scramble to find affordable student accommodation.

This is especially due to reports that some purpose-built student accommodation is already being booked up.

When I was completing my undergraduate degree a few years ago, they were in the process of knocking down older accommodation on campus to build new student flats.

However, the difficulty for many students was that these new flats were outside their budgets. Fast forward a few years when my younger sibling was beginning his first year at university and his student loan from SAAS would not even cover his halls.

He was fortunate to have support from his family, but many young people will not have this good fortune. How can we expect our students to make the most of their university studies when they do not have somewhere to live?

Or when, in a cost of living crisis, their student loan does not even cover their rent fees?

“The rocks will melt with the sun before I allow tuition fees to be imposed on Scotland’s students” was Alex Salmond’s promise to Scottish students that tuition would remain free, allowing people from all backgrounds the opportunity for a higher education and reducing financial barriers.

If our students are not able to access accommodation and face homelessness due to unaffordable rent, then this fantastic policy of free tuition is almost wasted as it does not reach those who arguably need it most.

At this point, some may say to get a student job. This is difficult to do when you have yet to move to your new place of study and when you do not have your university class timetable so are unable to state when you are available for work. Not to mention the fact many employers expect students to work every single holiday – mid-semester breaks in February and October, Easter, summer and Christmas.

This is especially difficult as when is there time to complete assignments? When is there time to visit family? I was turned away from job interviews as I was not willing to work every holiday, wanting to have at least some time to spend with my family and elderly grandparents.

This doesn’t even just affect students from Scotland, it also makes studying in Scotland increasingly difficult for international students who wish to access a Scottish higher education.

Not only do these students bring in billions for the Scottish economy, they also bring diversity to our university communities and different ideas allowing us an opportunity to learn from each other.

International students already pay large tuition fees meaning unaffordable and scarce student accommodation may put many off making the journey to our nation.

A report earlier in this year found that during their studies, one in five international students experienced homelessness – double that of home students. A statistic that does not make a welcoming invitation.

Scotland was previously known for its world-class education system. In the 16th century, there was even a time when Aberdeenshire had three universities – two in Aberdeen and one in Fraserburgh – when England only had two. Independence will allow us to, once again, have full control over all aspects of our nation, including education.

But independence will not happen before next month, and this housing crisis emergency must have an immediate solution to support the next intake of students.

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Like our young people gaining their independence when moving to university, Scotland will also make mistakes and learn valuable lessons as we transition into becoming an independent country.

But from our previous time as an independent nation, it is clear we have a history of higher education to be proud of. A reputation put at risk if we don’t take immediate action to nurture the talents of our young people.

With independence, we will be able to make our own decisions and support all in our society, including ensuring sufficient and affordable accommodation for all of our students.

Christina Hendry is the co-convener of the Alba Party Youth