I commented a few months ago that the SNP policy of allowing students from all parts of the EU other than England, Wales, and Northern Ireland to attend Scottish Universities for free, while singling out residents of those three countries for a charge is blatantly discriminatory and, to borrow an old expression, nonsense on stilts.
At the time there was a suggestion that this policy would be challenged in the courts. I wrote that I would much rather see even the daftest of government policies, whether in Scotland, the UK, or anywhere else, overturned in the ballot box rather than the courts, but I thought that the challenge would be a strong one.
If the Scottish government wanted to make a policy that students normally resident in Scotland should be entitled to free University Education, but that ALL students not normally resident in Scotland should have to pay a fee, that is a decision which they should be entitled to make. I realise that such a policy may be challenged by other EU countries and it has been suggested that it is contrary to E.U. law, but I cannot see that it would be unfair or unreasonable. Perhaps the working of the E.U. law concerned needs to be subject to urgent review.
Lest there be any confusion, my problem is not with the fact that the Scottish government want to subsidise Univesity education for their own taxpayers, but with the ludicrous injustice of subsidising those from Berlin but not Birmingham, Paris but not Penrith, Calabria but not Carlisle, or Warsaw but not Whitehaven.
However, the SNP government appears determined to follow whatever policy, no matter how ridiculous, will enable them to provide free University eduction for students from Scotland while charging fees to students from England.
The latest saga in this shambles is that UK residents who hold Irish passports may be eligible to attend Scottish universities without paying fees - although there is considerable confusion about whether they have to have had an address in Ireland - that is, the Irish Republic - within the past three years.
For the rest of this post when I write "Ireland" or "Irish" I mean the republic and its' citizens unless I specifically put "Northern" in front of it. This is not meant as a snub to those Irish people who live in Northern Ireland or the rest of the UK and do not have Irish passports.
I don't know exactly how many people in England, Wales or Northern Ireland had at least one grandparent born in Ireland and are therefore entitled to Irish passports, but it must be well into the millions. My understanding of the current policy of the Irish government with regard to eligibility for passports is that you can apply for one if you have one grandparent who was an Irish citizen.
In the unlikely event that the SNP's university fees policy has not collapsed within the next eight years or so, and if my children wanted to go to a University in Scotland, they would face an interesting choice. My chldren have two grandparents who were born in Ireland. So they could keep their UK passports and pick up a mountain of debt (currently £27k over three years), or acquire Irish passports, go and stay in Ireland for a few months, perhaps on their own, perhaps with family - long enough to be able to prove that they had had an address in Ireland anyway - and go for free.
Can anyone really believe that the current SNP fees policy is sustainable?