THE UK Government has been accused of “cultural vandalism” as students look set to lose access to the EU’s Erasmus exchange programme from next year.
The programme, which former SNP MEP Winnie Ewing was instrumental in setting up in 1987, allows students to study abroad in Europe. More than 4000 institutions participate in the scheme.
According to reports earlier this week, negotiators have been unsuccessful so far in reaching an agreement on the UK’s place in the programme after Brexit.
In a closed meeting on Monday, chief negotiator Michel Barnier is said to have accused the UK Government of trying to “cherry-pick” part of the programme – but the bloc is only prepared to accept Britain’s full involvement in the scheme.
Reacting to the news during today’s FMQs, Clare Adamson, MSP for Motherwell and Wishaw, told the Chamber: “The Conservative Government have failed to broker access to the Erasmus+ programme for Scotland.
“This programme was instigated by Winnie Ewing and of course has been life enhancing for generations of Scots students, but students from the rest of the UK and across Europe.
“Does the First Minister agree that this failure is an act of cultural vandalism by a floundering Conservative Government?”
Responding, the First Minister said the loss of the programme would be “deeply, deeply regrettable”.
She told MSPs: “Erasmus is something that we should all be really proud of, Winnie Ewing was the driving force behind it of course but there have been so many young people not just in Scotland but as Clare Adamson says across the UK and Europe that have benefitted in so many ways from participation in Erasmus.
“It has also delivered real economic benefits to Scotland as well.
“So its loss is deeply, deeply regrettable and I do think it is really unfortunate that the Conservatives did not prioritise securing the future of that.
“Obviously we want to consider ways in which we can keep the benefits of it but it is one of the very many ways in which I think people across Scotland deeply regret the Brexit that has been foisted upon us by the Conservative Government.”
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Earlier today the European Parliament group leaders adopted a declaration stating they will not vote on the Brexit deal before the end of the year if they cannot see the text before Sunday.
The transition period is due to end in just 14 days and no deal has yet been agreed.
Asked about the state of negotiations this morning, Home Secretary Priti Patel told LBC: “The Prime Minister and the Government, we’ve all been very clear that we’re not walking away, we will continue to negotiate to get this free trade agreement, but of course we’re never going to accept anything that undermines or compromises our independence and our sovereignty as a country.”