Universities minister Richard Lochhead has been accused of failing to provide clear answers on rent refunds and when students can return home.
The Conservatives claimed Mr Lochhead, Higher and Further Education Minister, was “completely out of his depth” after he was challenged at Holyrood on the impact of Covid-19 on students.
Tory education spokesman Jamie Greene told the SNP politician that “multiple” changes in guidance meant students were worried about whether they could socialise or return to family homes.
Young people still don’t know if they’ll be able to go home for October break or if they’ll miss Christmas with their families. They’ve no idea if they’ll get rent refunds or if the government will assist with food while they’re self-isolating.”
Jamie Greene of the Tories
He asked the minister to confirm that food parcels would be available to students in lockdown and that those who needed to go home could do so while receiving rent refunds.
Mr Greene went on to seek assurances that students would be able to get home for Christmas given the uncertainty around the October break.
Mr Lochhead, the Moray MSP, said the government had worked with student organisations on the guidance published this weekend.
He hoped most students were able to stay in their student accommodation but, if not, they should look at the guidance, which would explain the circumstances under which they can return home.
“The circumstances include moving permanently back to your home household, which of course means that you cannot move back and forth, because the whole of Scotland is subject to the same guidelines on households meeting indoors and social gatherings,” Mr Lochhead said.
But his answer failed to satisfy Mr Greene, who said: “Young people still don’t know if they’ll be able to go home for October break or if they’ll miss Christmas with their families. They’ve no idea if they’ll get rent refunds or if the government will assist with food while they’re self-isolating.
“The SNP minister is completely out his depth. He seems to be making it up as he goes when it comes to guidance and support for Scotland’s young people.
“It’s embarrassing to see the SNP try to pretend that everything is crystal clear when students as young as 17 still don’t know if Christmas will be cancelled or if they’ll lose out financially.”
Lochhead offers reassurance on termination of leases
Earlier Mr Lochhead had reassured students they would not be thrown off their courses if they terminated their student accommodation leases early.
Green MSP Ross Greer highlighted “disturbing” reports that some students had been threatened with their courses being ended if they terminated their leases on university-run accommodation.
Mr Lochhead said: “It is absolutely the case that no student at any Scottish university should have their place on their course jeopardised by their terminating the lease for their student accommodation. I have discussed that point with the principals, who tell me that that is not the case.”