MSPs have called for a national agency to be set up to ensure Scotland’s participation in the Erasmus+ EU youth exchange and training programme can continue after Brexit.

A report by a Holyrood committee urges the UK Government to retain its programme country status in the scheme beyond 2020 as part of the Brexit deal

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However, if Downing Street is “not able or willing” to negotiate this, the report urges the Scottish Government to explore setting up its own alternative.

The Culture, Tourism, Europe and External Relations Committee recommends Ministers examine whether the framework for a national authority and managing agency could be set up using “existing institutional structures” such as the British Council or Education Scotland.

Scotland received nearly €21 million in Erasmus+ funding last year. The cash went to 159 Scottish organisations including universities, colleges, schools, youth groups and training providers. More than 15,000 young people have taken part in Scotland since 2014.

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Committee convener Joan McAlpine said: “There is much more to Erasmus+ in Scotland than university exchange programmes. Hundreds of youth work organisations, volunteer groups, teachers and colleges use the programme to raise attainment and the aspirations of some of our most disadvantaged young people.

“We heard evidence about college students who’d never been abroad learning cookery in France, construction in Spain and hairdressing in Portugal. It is also the case that Erasmus+ is the main source of funding in Scotland for professional development for language teachers.

“Without access to the programme the opportunity to train and network with schools and colleges across the EU will be lost. If the UK Government is not able or willing to negotiate the UK’s continued involvement, we recommend the Scottish Government explore using its own institutions to secure Scotland’s participation after 2020.”