RUTH Davidson came under attack yesterday after it emerged university students would face a £6,000 tax following graduation under her Holyrood election plan to raise £100 million for Scotland’s colleges.

The Scottish Tory leader was accused of sneaking in the proposal in “secret” by Labour, while the SNP called on her to release full details of the “troubling” scheme.

“For all the clever spin, Ruth Davidson is just another Tory,” said Iain Gray, Scottish Labour’s Opportunity spokesman.

“Every Scot deserves a world class education and the skills they need to access the jobs of tomorrow.”

Gray said the Tories were making an empty promise to deliver more college funding through the levy in the next parliament as no revenue could be raised until a new law was passed which approved the introduction of the tax.

“There would be no new money for colleges in the next parliament because this Tory plan would require a law to be passed before they could impose these fees – and then it would be four years until their policy raised any revenue,” he said.

The SNP’s Gordon MacDonald called on Davidson to spell out full details of the policy – explaining what graduates would need to earn before the tax was levied, whether it was a one-off payment or an annual charge and whether the levy would apply to all graduates.

“The Tories’ latest announcement in calling for an end to free higher education in Scotland is deeply troubling,” said MacDonald.

“Not only are these plans a threat to opportunity and ambition for young people in Scotland, they’re badly thought through – with no detail about which students would have to pay to learn, or when or how they would be charged.”

MacDonald also rounded on

Labour, arguing the Tories had picked up on a previous Labour policy -–the graduate endowment charge of £2,289 – which the SNP scrapped in 2008 after they came to power at Holyrood the previous year.

“It seems as though the Tories have just rehashed an old Labour policy in a potentially reckless move which could price some aspiring university applicants out of the market – all for the sake of raising a quick buck.

“The SNP in government scrapped tuition fees – saving students here up to £27,000 compared with the costs of gaining a degree in England. Only a vote for the SNP in May’s election can protect Scotland’s proud tradition of free higher education.”

The Tories announced the colleges policy last week, saying it would be funded “in its entirety” by a graduate contribution.

The party did not say how much the “contribution” would be or when the graduates would have to pay it.

Yesterday, figures confirmed by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) to Labour revealed that to raise £100 million, the Tories would need to set their graduate tax at £6,000.

The figures were worked out on the basis of previous estimates by Student Awards Agency (SAAS) on the number of students liable to pay the graduate endowment in 2007. These indicated that 47 per cent of all “potentially liable” graduates were actually liable to pay.

The calculation assumed the number of full-time Scottish and EU-domiciled students graduating in May/June 2016 is 33,500, and 50 per cent are actually liable to pay. Payment in the first applicable year will come from 16,700 graduates. To raise £100m, the 16,700 graduates would have to pay £6,000 each.

Unveiling the policy last week, Davidson pledged more than £100m extra cash for colleges during the next parliament to help them reverse a fall in student numbers.

She claimed colleges had endured “appalling treatment” from the Scottish Government, with statistics for 2013-14 showing the number of students at colleges had fallen by more than 140,000 since 2007-08.

She said funding would come from a graduate contribution and paid by those “earning a decent wage”.

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “Given the scale of SNP cuts to further education, we believe colleges need extra funding so we can boost our skills base and grow the economy in Scotland.

“As has been the case for some years, we also believe that a graduate contribution can help to find resources. We will set out plans to improve education in our manifesto and they will be fully costed. That stands in marked contrast to Scottish Labour which is quite cynically conjuring imaginary money out of thin air.”

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