Last of the Westland Whigs

In the late 17th century, the 'Westland Whigs' were the radical descendants of earlier Covenanters who had defied the absolutist rule of Stuart kings in south west Scotland.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Dumfries Campus Finance questions John Swinney

Crichton Campus (Jobs and Economic Benefits) 16 June 2011

Joan McAlpine (South Scotland) (SNP): 

6. To ask the Scottish Government how many jobs have been created in Dumfries and Galloway and what other economic benefits have arisen as a result of the University of Glasgow’s Crichton campus since 2007. (S4O-00037)

The Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Employment and Sustainable Growth (John Swinney): The only available study that addresses Ms McAlpine’s question is a local government-funded study that found that the impact of the universities brought in £10 million per year and supported more than 450 jobs across Dumfries and Galloway. There are obviously additional benefits brought by other campus partners, such as Dumfries and Galloway College and the Crichton Carbon Centre. To realise those benefits, we are currently providing £1.5 million to ensure a vibrant and sustainable long-term future for the campus.

Joan McAlpine: Does the cabinet secretary agree that the threat to the liberal arts subjects at the Crichton is of great concern, given the economic contribution of the campus to the area—which he has described—and given the importance of the creative industries in particular to the economy of Dumfries and Galloway?

John Swinney: The university is currently consulting on the future of the liberal arts. I understand that the court of the University of Glasgow will meet on 22 June to consider proposals. At this stage, no final decisions have been made.

I made it clear in my earlier answer that the work of the Crichton campus has been enormously significant in encouraging economic regeneration in the south-west of Scotland. It provides a broadly based educational opportunity for a range of citizens in the area. To ensure that that can continue, broad propositions must be made to those people on how they can pursue their academic interests.

I am sure that the University of Glasgow will be aware of Joan McAlpine’s strong views on this issue. I am sure that it would be willing to engage with the member.

The Presiding Officer (Tricia Marwick): I will take a supplementary question from Mr Fergusson, if he keeps it brief.

Alex Fergusson (Galloway and West Dumfries) (Con): Of course I will, Presiding Officer. I would not dream of doing anything else, as you well know.

I hesitate to correct the cabinet secretary, but the consultation has been completed. Next Wednesday, I understand that the court of the University of Glasgow will take a decision on whether to close down the Liberal Democrats—[Laughter.]

That was a Freudian slip and wishful thinking, Presiding Officer.

Does the cabinet secretary agree that the decision to phase out the liberal arts degree courses, if taken, can only have an adverse effect on the local economy, given the recent growth in arts-related economic activity in the region? Will he urge the court to postpone the decision until a proper, genuine and open consultation has taken place? To date, that has not happened.

John Swinney: I am tempted to say to Mr Fergusson that he was right the first time, but I do not want to offend my Liberal Democrat friends.

As I said to Joan McAlpine, the University of Glasgow is consulting on this issue. It meets on 22 June to consider its position; it has not yet taken any final decisions.

The importance of the Crichton campus cannot be overstated. In the south-west of Scotland, it offers opportunities for economic benefit and educational attainment. There is proven evidence that accessibility to institutions such as the Crichton campus can change people’s decisions on whether they should study locally or should travel elsewhere. I hope that the university will listen carefully to the representations that have been made. As I have said, it will be important to have a broad educational proposition available at the Crichton campus.


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