A SCOTTISH minister has warned of the financial risks the loss of European Union funding could inflict on Scotland’s further and higher education sectors.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, the Further and Higher Education Minister, said the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) had estimated that in the academic year 2015-16, EU funding of £11.6 million was made available to the college sector.

The First Minister last week published Scotland’s Place in Europe, which sets out proposals to keep Scotland in the European Single Market, retain freedom of movement and equip the Scottish Parliament with powers it needs to serve Scotland’s interests post-Brexit.

It also detailed the benefits of EU membership for the further and higher education sectors, including world-class research and development and access to top teachers and and students.

Somerville said: “EU funding has long been intertwined with the very fabric of how our colleges are funded. “These vital European funds help deliver high quality college courses that benefit students, the economy and wider society.

“EU support has also significantly contributed to the modernisation of our college estates, providing the state-of-the art facilities learners need. In 2015-16 alone, EU funding was estimated to be worth £11.6 million to Scotland’s colleges. Together with funding from the SFC, this supported around 4,200 full-time equivalent college places.”

She added: “The loss of EU funding would deal a serious blow.”