The SNP’s promise to make education its priority has been branded a ‘shameless pre-election con’ today, as the Scottish budget reveals a huge cut to spending on youth employment and training.

Figures produced by the Scottish Parliament Information Centre (SPICe) show a 25 per cent cut to the Educational Maintenance Allowance (EMA), falling from £39 million to £29 million. The SNP government says the cut reflects a drop in demand for EMA, but the most recent application figures only show a six per cent fall.

The budget also cuts funding for a programme which supports vulnerable young Scots, aged 14 to 19 years, who are struggling to make a successful transition from school into employment, education or training by 25 per cent. There is also a 10 percent cut to Employment and Training Interventions.

Labour will table amendments to the Scottish budget to use the new tax powers to stop the cuts to public services and protect the education budget.

Labour Education spokesperson Iain Gray said:

“These cuts reveal the SNP’s promises to make education its priority to be nothing more than a shameless pre-election con.

This budget cuts support for the poorest students to stay on at school or college – that’s an incredible priority for a government which seemingly wants to cut the attainment gap between the richest and the rest.

If demand for EMA is six per cent down then that does not explain a twenty five per cent budget cut. In any case any resource freed up should be invested in other support for young people, for example in further education student support which the National Union of Students describes as “not fit for purpose”.

Young people need all the support they can get to make the most of the opportunities of school or college, it beggars belief that the SNP government plans to slash that support while claiming to care about education.

These cuts are on top of £327 million pounds of cuts to local councils who provide the funding for our schools and social care.

Labour will table amendments to the Scottish budget so we can use the new tax powers to stop the cuts and protect the education budget instead.”