FMQs: Sturgeon slammed over broken debt promise

The First Minister came under fire after failing to fulfil a promise to write off student debt at today's First Minister's Questions.

Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard pointed to statistics showing student debt has soared by 169 per cent to almost £5billion under the SNP, despite a Nationalist pledge to write off debt entirely.

Instead the SNP government has increased the use of loans for student finance, cutting grants and bursaries instead.

Raising the issue at First Minister’s Questions today, Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard urged Nicola Sturgeon to apologise for her "£5 billion broken promise".

Richard Leonard said:“The average debt for a Scottish graduate now stands at £13,200. Nicola Sturgeon promised Scottish students that their debts would be written off.

“Nicola Sturgeon did not dump the debt, she dumped the promise. Total student debt in Scotland is now almost £5billion, a 169 per cent increase since the SNP came to power.

“It is the poorest students who end up racking up the highest debts by taking out the biggest loans.

“Even by the standards of this government, promising to scrap student debt and then increasing it by 169 per cent is nothing short of shameful.

Figures published this week also show that the average student debt is now £13,200, more than double the £6,070 debt the SNP inherited.

“A generation of students have started high school and gone on to university since the SNP made and then surreptitiously dropped their promise on student debt." added Leonard.

“That’s a generation of students burdened with debt repayments that the SNP promised that they would write off.

“As a result these current and former students still owe a debt to the government, but this government owes them an unreserved apology.”

The SNP leader said she is “proud” of her government’s record on student debt.

She added: “Student debt in Scotland is lower than student debt any other part of the UK because of the policies of this government.

“Richard Leonard cites the figure in Scotland of £13,230. In England average student debt is £34,800, in Northern Ireland it is £22,440 and in Wales, where Labour are in government, student debt is not the £13,000 it is in Scotland, it is £21,500."

“Yet another example of Labour telling us to do as they say, not as they do.”

However, in the run up to the 2007 Scottish Elections Nicola Sturgeon told the Scottish Parliament that an incoming SNP government would ‘meet the debt repayments of Scottish graduates living in Scotland’

Meanwhile election literature promised to:‘...write off the cumulative debt still owed to the student loans company by Scottish domiciled students.’

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