Scottish National Party's Finance Secretary John Swinney has been urged to look again at cuts in university spending. Swinney said the issue of funding for colleges is "still under consideration".
A week ahead of the Scottish Government's Budget vote, the Scottish Conservatives led a debate in Holyrood calling on Parliament to "condemn the Scottish Government for forcing on the (college) sector deeply damaging financial cuts," reports the Press Association.
Last week, after assessing how it should spend the additional money given to it by Westminster, the Scottish Government announced extra cash for housing, job programs and roads. But the absence of relief in the higher education budget has shocked the opposition.
However, Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman Liz Smith told MSPs:
"They are being asked to cope with funding cuts of £544 million to £470 million, progressive cuts of £38 million in year one, £50 million in year two and £74 million in year three. So by 2015 there is an annual cut of £74 million."
While Mr Swinney admits to be receiving opposition "pressure" over areas such as sustainable travel budgets and college funding, he said:
"It's an area that's still under consideration and discussion, but what I would say is that there has been material change in the Government's Budget since it was announced in September."
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said:
"John Swinney has a real opportunity this week to show his support for Scotland's colleges and reverse his cut to this sector with the extra money he has from Westminster.
Mr. Swinney says that economic growth is the Scottish Government's number one priority but he is choosing to cut an area that is vital for tackling unemployment. Scotland's colleges help people from a range of different backgrounds get up and get on and in this current financial climate they are vital for Scotland's economic growth. The SNP must make the right choices and support Scotland's colleges."
Labour MSP Ken Macintosh added:
"If John Swinney is changing his position on massive cuts proposed to colleges, that is welcome. It shows the growing campaign from parents, students and lecturers is working. But he needs to act, not just listen.
"At a time when 200 Scots a day are losing their jobs, the last thing we should be cutting is training places for young people. Scotland faces the prospect of another lost generation, not just because the Tories are cutting too fast, but because the SNP aren't putting in place the measures to stop it happening."