Scotland has been left in the dark over its relationship with the EU on education and research after Brexit, according to the further and higher education minister.
Richard Lochhead said research funding and exchange opportunities currently granted to UK students through European schemes are “under threat” after the relationship with the EU is severed.
He updated the Scottish Parliament on Thursday about how Brexit is likely to affect the sector.
Mr Lochhead said: “I hope to come to Parliament to report real and encouraging progress with the post-Brexit arrangements to continue our relationship with the EU and to outline how Scotland will benefit from successor schemes.
“Instead, I have to say that we remain largely in the dark and all the benefits we’ve enjoyed in decades remain under serious threat as we head towards the end of the year.
“There remains little clarity from the UK Government on what they’re thinking or what they hope to achieve by then, and as we all know the clock is ticking.”
Mr Lochhead said there will be less funding available to colleges, universities and researchers, who he said could be “put off” coming to Scotland because of the end of the relationship with the EU.
The minister also railed against the treatment of devolved administrations in deciding what will be done about educational programmes such as Erasmus and Horizon 2020 – which offers research grants.
He said: “The devolved administrations have been left in the waiting room outside while the UK Treasury, the Department of Education and the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are inside Whitehall offices deciding the fate of these hugely important programmes.”
He added the Scottish Government will, with just weeks left before the end of the transition period on December 31, “do all we can to protect Scotland’s interests and prevent the UK Government from inflicting untold damage on the relationship with Europe.”
As a result of the UK leaving the EU, Mr Lochhead announced in July that EU students will have to pay tuition fees from next year, although those currently studying will have the remainder of their courses covered.
Scottish Tory education spokesman Jamie Greene asked the minister if the money saved from scrapping free tuition for EU students will go towards lifting the cap on Scottish students allowed at university.
Mr Lochhead responded: “We have already said that money remains within the higher education budget.”
Labour education spokesman Iain Gray agreed Brexit will be detrimental to colleges and universities but asked the minister what he can do about it.
Mr Lochhead replied that Scotland “has a number of fans” within the EU, who are looking to retain a close relationship despite Brexit.
He added: “But clearly the resources available to us to take forward these kinds of programmes and initiatives will be extremely limited because the UK have the purse strings and they have the obligation to make sure that there is no detriment to Scotland from Brexit as they promised.”