Since the SNP Government came to power in 2007, it has been bad news all round for our local colleges.
In their report published late last year Audit Scotland – the country’s financial watchdog - highlighted the £56 million reduction in grant funding for colleges and warned that there would be further pain to come.
As a result of the cuts, overall we have seen 1,200 full-time staff leave the sector with teaching staff being worst hit.
We have also seen a collapse in part-time learning, with the number of students on part-time courses dropping from a peak of over 300,000 in 2007-2008 to almost half that level now, affecting adult learners – particularly women –and those with learning disabilities.
Indeed, according to figures published by the Scottish Funding Council– the body that allocates funding to our colleges – over that same period, the number of part-time students studying at James Watt College has plummeted by 9,000.
It is clear the SNP’s policy is hurting those who want a second chance to get an education or develop their career, but who need to meet their work and family commitments. They are limiting opportunities and in so doing damaging people’s chance to get on in life.
When I quizzed the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Mike Russell, about the huge fall in part-time places in Parliament last week, there was the usual shrug of the shoulders. He simply dismissed the concerns and gave no recognition of the impact it was having on ordinary people.
The rhetoric of the SNP Government on educational opportunities for all is clearly not reflected in their actions.
Instead of turning a blind eye to the situation, they must acknowledge the concerns of adult learners and act to reverse this worrying trend.