Young people in Scotland are being denied “once-in-lifetime” opportunities to study in Europe due to there being no replacement for the Erasmus scheme, it has been claimed.
The scheme ended for students in the UK after the country voted to exit the European Union.
Ministers at Westminster opted to introduce a new, cheaper scheme named after mathematician Alan Turing, after turning down an offer to continue in Erasmus following Brexit.
However, the loss of Erasmus has been described by the Scottish Government as a “huge blow”, with concerns that the Turing Scheme does not support visits to Scotland.
The government in Edinburgh has stated that it will look at alternative options for students.
At the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, the minister for culture, Europe and international development Neil Gray was asked whether a scheme run by the Scottish Government would be “up and running” from September next year.
The issue was raised by Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur, who represents the Orkney Islands.
Gray explained that the Government remains committed to the Erasmus+ programme and outlined the work ongoing to bring forward an education exchange programme.
“As a fellow proud European, clearly we want to continue to have strong working relationships with our neighbours in Europe,” he told McArthur.
“I’m sure his Orcadian constituents will recognise that the only recognisable route that we have back into Europe and enjoying the benefits of a full Erasmus programme would be by being an independent country.
“However, the Scottish Government recognises the importance of educational mobility.
“While we remain committed to Erasmus+ in the interim, we are creating a Scottish education exchange programme to support participants from across Scotland’s education system.
“That is a programme for government commitment and will help maintain Scotland’s place as an outward looking, internationally connected destination for work and study.”
McArthur pointed to the scheme introduced in Wales following the loss of the UK’s EU membership.
Speaking following the answer given by Gray at Holyrood, the Orkney Islands MSP insisted that his party will continue to press for a properly-funded programme.
He said: “In Wales, thousands of young people are now able to take part in exchanges that allow them to study in countries across Europe.
“Sadly, their counterparts in Scotland are being denied those once-in-lifetime opportunities for learning and building relationships.
“It seems that the SNP would rather continue using Europe as a source of grievance for their own political ends, rather than follow the lead of the Welsh Government by putting in place an exchange scheme that could make a real difference to the lives of our young people.
“As passionate pro-Europeans, my party will continue to press for a properly-funded exchange programme that will broaden educational and cultural horizons.
“After all the time that has already been lost and all the opportunities that have already been missed, this SNP government must now commit to having this scheme up and running in time for next September.”
STV News is now on WhatsApp
Get all the latest news from around the countryFollow STV News
Follow STV News on WhatsApp
Scan the QR code on your mobile device for all the latest news from around the country