Labour Lord and Tory ‘mum’ behind call for end to free tuition

The Herald’s David Balls, today, presents Reform Scotland as a ‘leading think tank.’ They’re not. They’re right-wing and not that thoughtful. I’ve done them before. Here again:

In the Herald today, by Tom Gordon:

The ‘think-tank’ in question, presented as independent, is headed up by former Labour leader, Lord Jack MacConnell, regular media critic of the SNP and Scottish Government, journalist Chris Deerin and, as research director, by Alison Payne. There are no credible researchers at that level nor on the wider team.

We were here in February 2022 when I wrote:

Reform Scotland, like most right-wing, unionist, so-called think tanks is keen to project itself as somehow independent or non-partisan. Any social science student will tell you there’s no such thing but Reform Scotland is an easier target than that.

It’s director is Chris Deerin, a New Statesman writer, Blairite and regular critic of anything the SNP does. Just Google his name and SNP and you’ll see just how non-partisan he isn’t.

Its research director is Alison Payne. That name ring a bell? It should.

In recent years, popping up as just a ‘mum’, unattributed, on Reporting Scotland, GMS and Kay Adams to moan about SNP school policies, Payne began her career within the Scottish Conservative MSPs’ Research Unit, going on to spend four years as Head of Research. She later went on to become Political Adviser to Annabel Goldie MSP, Leader of the Scottish Conservative Group of MSPs. This role included acting as adviser to the Scottish Conservative Policy Advisory Group. She also spent 10 years as a Girl Guide leader.

And, how did she become a Research Director with no evidence of research training – PhD, MRes, even an honours degree with a dissertation? Girl Guide connections?


12 thoughts on “Labour Lord and Tory ‘mum’ behind call for end to free tuition

  1. Unelected quislings deciding the shape of Scotland without a mandate ,against the majority of public opinion. This is democracy in the Union, an unelected dictatorship, a colony of our masters. To me we are back in the era of Edward the first ,with the same type of people running UK, Ok.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Unionists like to punt the idea that the UK is ein Reich,ein Volk because otherwise they would have to admit that Scotland is a nation/country and as such has the right to self determination.
    Policies which differ from that of Greater England are not to be permitted.
    Just more propaganda.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Aye, and their “Scrap the Cap” document, described as a “briefing”, was co-authored by the same “just a mum”…
    I note further on the page the notorious Prof Lindsay Paterson gets a cameo as a “member of Reform Scotland’s Commission on School Reform” to chunter support, makes you wonder who the other co-author/s is/are.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. The UK government’s Department for Education has been consulting on the re-introduction of STUDENT NUMBER CONTROLS (SNCs) for universities in England. It points to perverse incentives for institutions offering poorer/less impactful courses, with relatively low entry requirements, to more and more students whilst charging similar fees.


    I’ve yet to read the Reform Scotland report. I trust it acknowledges key differences in the HE systems in Scotland and England – very long tail of ‘low tariff’ (easier to enter) institutions in England, none of these in Scotland according to UCAS; importance of HE provision delivered by colleges in Scotland, with a well-developed process (‘articulation’) for college students to cross over into universities during their studies.

    The UK government consultation document makes much of the importance of ‘quality’ of students’ educational experience and not just number of students attending university. It also emphasises the importance of technical/vocational education at colleges and apprenticeships: it’s not all about universities! And of course there is a lot of evidence now about the ever increasing size of the ‘student loan book’ associated with tuition fees etc. in England, much of which may never get paid off anyway.

    The public financing of student loans in England has long been a ‘murky affair. This is from Paul Johnson of the Institute for Fiscal Studies as far back as 19 Feb 2018:

    ‘The first thing you need to understand . . . no, understand isn’t the right word, there is not enough logic here to allow understanding . . . the first thing you need to know is that when the government spends about £14 billion this year on loans to students, government debt rises by £14 billion but government borrowing does not. That £14 billion does not count against the deficit. That’s because the national accounts treat student loans as financial transactions. A loan is issued. It is due to be paid back in the future. There is no impact on the deficit unless and until the borrower fails to pay back.

    ‘But wait a minute. The student loan system is not devised even on the basis that all these loans will be paid back. The whole point of the system is that if you don’t earn very much, you won’t pay back very much. It is designed that way for a reason: it helps to ensure that people are not put off attending university. They don’t bear the risk of having to make large repayments from small amounts of earnings. Perhaps 80 per cent of graduates will not repay in full, given existing rules. Jo Johnson, minister for higher education until the recent reshuffle, thinks that under present rules between 40 per cent and 45 per cent of the value of loans will not be repaid.

    ‘This is, in fact, reflected in the Department for Education’s own accounts, which are likely this year to write off more than £6 billion of the loans that it makes to students. It is, nevertheless, not reflected at all in government borrowing figures.’

    I’ve no idea whether such financial chicanery is still going on: do the UK’s national accounts still persist with this practice? Yet another ‘borrowing’ power not available to NI, Scotland or Wales. Barnett implications anyone?

    Liked by 3 people

    1. As you say ‘financial chicanery’. A way to keep debt, which now stands at over £181 billion ‘off the books’ of the nations finances.

      A bit like Labour’s PFI was designed to do until the EU, if I remember correctly, clamped down and said the PFI debt had to be ‘on the books’ which really messed with the state of the economy.

      Most of the £180billion wont be paid back. The UK Gov has sold of some of it to private companies mainly from the US who are likely to be more forceful when it comes to repayment.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. 1.-Keir Starmer, as part of his leadership campaign, pledges to end tuition fees in England.
    2.-It would cost £11.5 billion.
    3.-As Starmer has dumped all his other promises, who would expect him to keep that one.

    4.-As Reform Scotland is an Anglo-Brit Nat outfit, fronted to a large extent by Labour Lovies, should we not see this as trying to tie Scotland to Red Tory/Blue Tory coat-tails.

    5.-Like council house sales, student debt is an attempt to keep working people in long-tern heavy debt and fearful of losing their (often low paid) jobs.

    6.-See the Blue Tories on the political stage, promising to cut taxation for the middle class, and paying for it with cuts to public services/investment.
    See the Red Tories desperate to copy them.

    7.-Vote Starmer, get Truss.
    Get a veto on independence.
    Get neo-colonialism—–
    Tell them, get stuffed.
    Get us out of here!

    Liked by 2 people

  6. As if tuition is ‘free’ or anything else the people of Scotland pay into the English treasury for, while the Scottish government have to do economic gymnastics to mitigate against Tory/Labour austerity and private enterprises to line their own pockets.

    I wonder how many of the Tories/Labour BritNats in Scotland especially those taking A LOT of cash from the public purse, take ‘free’ prescriptions, or whose kids enjoy ‘free’ tuition, or who use the new Forth Road bridge and other infrastructure and public services etc which would not be there if it were not for the democratically elected government of Scotland, the SNP, who the Brit state loves to hate and spread hate about in the media.

    Labour’s first and hopefully last FM, J. McConnell is someone I’d love to have a word with. While he sent £billions BACK to Westminster saying ‘nothing to spend it on in Scotland’ there were kids going hungry, high unemployment and people waiting on beds on corridors to be treated in the SNHS which they started to dismantle to sell it off. Also, kids who needed learning support in school? Nope, ‘NO MONEY’ available lol they said, Labour council was delighted when forced to home educate to stop our child being bullied at school and suicidal as a result. Labour’s legacy in Scotland is a disgrace, they cannot be allowed to ruin Scotland for political and self gain ever again.


  7. With apologies to the author for not verifying a copy of it was ok, this –
    I’ve just downloaded the report to have a look at the numbers.

    One thing I noticed straight away was that the joint author of the report with ex-Tory party advisor Alison Payne was no friend of the SNP, the journalist Chris Deerin.

    The 84% figure is an absolute distortion of what the results from UCAS actually show, it’s simply unbelievable that they can release this as a press report and get it published, For example, the number of applicants who were offered a place in 2006 was 26,800 from 35,430 which is 75.6% given a place.

    In 2021, 39,300 were offered a place from a total of 55,150 applicants which is 71.3% given a place, But it all depends on what years you chose to start on, for example, the percentage of applicants being offered a place in 2011 was just 66.9% and in 2020 it was well up again at 75.3%, so in truth, the numbers vary every year as you might expect but this report uses a fall in acceptances from 75.6% in 2006 to 71.3% in 2021 to talk of a “84 percent increase in the number of Scottish domiciled applicants being refused entry to universities in Scotland since 2006”. Talk about twisting the truth!

    The simple truth though is that 26,800 applicants were offered a University place in 2006 and that in 2021 a total of 39,300 Scottish students were given places at our Universities. The total number of students accepted then is up by over 46% between 2006 and 2021.

    They can’t help themselves twisting numbers to suit their narrative of SNP “failures” all of it lies.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.