Scottish further education centres should abandon the UK Turing Scheme and receive funding for their own “Erasmus” programme, say the Lib Dems.
Following a similar model introduced in Wales, the Scottish Government should opt out of the UK Government’s version.
The Lib Dems have accused the SNP of “grandstanding” around the withdrawal of Scottish institutions from the global Erasmus scheme, which was announced last Christmas as part of the UK government’s Brexit deal.
As well as allowing students the chance to travel abroad to study on a degree programme for a period of time in another university, the Lib Dem exchange programme would be funded for a full parliament, “not just a year”, the party added.
The Welsh Government, which the Lib Dems are part of in a Labour-led administration, has provided £65 million for its scheme so far.
The initiative aims to enable 15,000 participants from Wales to go on overseas mobility exchanges over the first four years, with 10,000 participants coming to study or work in Wales.
North East Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain said: “Putting recovery first means investing in education, training and opportunities for young people and those reskilling later in their careers.
“I want to see an ambitious plan for Scottish universities to maintain and build strong links with their counterparts around the world.
“Erasmus is a perfect example of the difference between the SNP and the Liberal Democrats. Both parties regret the loss of the Erasmus scheme but while SNP ministers grandstanded, Liberal Democrats in Wales got on with building a positive alternative.
“Too often, rather than getting on with fixing the problem, the SNP have been consumed and obsessed with their independence plans.
“They have once again failed to get on and use the powers we have in Scotland to do something to improve the opportunities we create for students here.
“Introducing a new scheme in Scotland similar to what Wales has already prepared can help Scottish education and students bounce back from the pandemic and the impact of Brexit. Scottish Liberal Democrats will put recovery first.”
What was Erasmus?
Students from institutions in Scotland and the UK were given the opportunity to study at European universities without additional costs under Erasmus, which the Scottish Government estimates generated £7 for every £1 invested, for university towns and cities.
There have been suggestions that the Scottish Government might make a case to Westminster that would let students north of the border continue being part of Erasmus, but the chances of making that happen appear slim at best.
This seems especially to be the cae since the UK Government has since announced the creation of its own, Erasmus-like programme, which is named after Second World War mathematician and codebreaker Alan Turing, with an annual budget of £100 million.