THE SNP have issued a fresh demand that the UK Government abandons its “insular and regressive” attack on EU students in its planning for a no-deal Brexit.

MP Carol Monaghan, the party’s education spokesperson, hit out at post-Brexit immigration proposals which will allow EU nationals to study in the UK for three years – when standard honours courses in Scotland last for four.

She spoke out after Theresa May on Wednesday rejected a plea from SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford over the issue, after he raised it during Prime Minister’s Questions. MPs John McNally and Philippa Whitford also spoke out against the Tories’ plans during a debate last Monday.

Monaghan, who represents Glasgow North West, said the gap would force EU students coming to Scottish universities to apply for a Tier 4 visa to stay for four years and finish their courses. This is currently needed by students from countries not in the European Economic Area (EEA), or Switzerland.

The SNP say the extra paperwork and uncertainty might mean that fewer EU nationals would look to come to Scotland to study. Monaghan said: “Forcing EU students in Scotland to apply for a Tier 4 visa is an insular and regressive step by a Tory Government more intent on placating their right-wing backbenchers than valuing the contribution of students coming from Europe to Scotland. The SNP recognise the enormous contribution that EU students at colleges and universities in Scotland make to our local communities.

“That’s why the Scottish Government has committed to extending free tuition for EU students starting courses in 2020, sending a strong message to EU citizens who are thinking of studying here that Scotland remains open and welcoming.

“This attack on EU students in Scotland from the Tories at Westminster threatens to undermine this. Scotland needs a tailored immigration system that will meet its needs, including in education.

“Leaving the EU will see Scotland’s colleges and universities miss out on millions of pounds of EU funding and face increased challenges in recruitment, as well as stripping our own young people of the right to participate in the Erasmus programme.

“Forcing EU students in Scotland to apply for a visa to complete their education just adds insult to injury.

“While EU citizens will always be welcome in Scotland, the only way to ensure that Scotland has the power to make these decisions is with independence.”

During Monday’s debate, Monaghan asked Universities Minister Chris Skidmore if he could confirm speculation that from 2021 EU nationals will pay annual fees of up to £25,000 to attend university in England. The European Parliament’s chief Brexit negotiator Guy Verhofstadt responded to the claims by saying the EU “will never accept” a rise in tuition fees for its students after Brexit.

He said he was writing to May to tell her that, saying students “must not become victims of Brexit.”

Verhofstadt’s letter was seen by the Independent, which reported that it asked May to “alleviate our concerns by confirming that these reports of drastic fee increases are unfounded” and confirm “that the UK Government does not intend to undermine the fruitful reciprocal system that is currently in place”.

Domestic tuition fees in England are £9250 per year but international fees are unregulated and can be as high as £38,000 per year for top courses. Meanwhile, the SNP Government has said that EU students will continue to receive free tuition in Scotland until 2024, even if Brexit ends its legal obligation to do so.