The Leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party opined on tuition fees, welfare sanctions and moreby Alex Dean / February 9, 2016 / Leave a comment
On Monday 8th February, Prospect held its third annual poverty lecture in conjunction with the Joseph Rowntree Foundation. The principal guest speaker was Ruth Davidson, Leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party and MSP for Glasgow, who discussed potential social, economic and educational solutions to poverty. Her speech was followed by a question and answer session during which Bronwen Maddox, Prospect’s Editor, and Julia Unwin, Chief Executive of the JRF, quizzed her on welfare sanctions, student tuition fees and the European Union.
In her speech, Davidson pointed out that poverty isn’t always the individual’s fault, but was keen to remind the audience that she still strongly believes in self-determination—“Who doesn’t think that each of us has it within us to clear our own path and make our own way in life?” she asked. She then quipped: “I bet, in his quiet moments, even Jeremy Corbyn believes it true.” She summed up her approach: “I believe that we can say that the state doesn’t have all the answers, but there is such a thing as society.”
She then took questions from Maddox, whose first question addressed Scotland’s free university tuition. Davidson commented that “it has been incredibly popular, particularly for middle-class families in their 30s and 40s who are about to wave their beloved child off to university and it’s not going to cost them any money.” But, she said, Scotland “has the lowest number of pupils from deprived areas going to university.” When you provide things like university tuition for free, she argued, you often see unintended side-effects. When it comes to university in Scotland: “There’s a real mixed picture,” she concluded.
Continuing on the topic of education, Davidson said: “We need to have a real conversation about the value of a vocational education versus an academic one.” “We’re a long way from reaching the balance I want to see in Scotland.” Asked by Maddox whether she thinks education should continue throughout a person’s life, she replied: “There has to be an acceptance that leaving…