The imminent closure of Perth College UHI’s learning centres has been branded “short-sighted” and brought to the attention of Nicola Sturgeon.
Murdo Fraser MSP raised the fate of the bases in Crieff, Kinross and Blairgowrie at First Minster’s Questions and asked if Scottish Government budget cuts were partly to blame for the shutdowns scheduled to take place this June.
Mr Fraser asked: “Does the First Minister share my concern that this short-sighted decision will do serious damage to rural education opportunities in Perth and Kinross, and what role does she think the real terms funding cut of 3.2% in the Budget for UHI played in the decision?”
Ms Sturgeon said she shared concerns over the closures but argued that her government had provided more money for colleges.
The First Minister said: “In our budget overall, we have increased funding to colleges and to universities.
“Interestingly, Murdo Fraser and his colleagues voted against that budget.
“As far as the particular issue that Murdo Fraser raises is concerned, I share his concerns. I know that local members have been raising those concerns and that they will continue to do so.”
Speaking afterwards Mr Fraser said he was disappointed with the First Minister’s answer but vowed to do all he can to reverse the college’s decision.
Mr Fraser said: “I believe this cut in funding was instrumental in the college coming to this short-sighted decision.
“These college learning centres are important assets in our towns and I am very concerned that it is proposed to close them.
“Residents living in rural areas need access to education and don’t always have the means to travel to an urban centre like Perth.”
There has been cross-party condemnation of Perth College UHI’s decision to shut the satellite facilities.
SNP MSPs Roseanna Cunningham and John Swinney and MP Pete Wishart all spoke out after the move was announced last Friday evening.
College blamed “significant financial challenges” and said they would discuss redeployment with staff affected by the closures.
The Courier understands a number of employees and students were left in the dark regarding the decision, which puts 30 jobs under threat.
One tutor has called the move “callous beyond belief”.