Scotland politics

Willie Rennie makes education funding pledge

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Media captionWillie Rennie: "We want to invest a modest one penny on income tax to deliver £2.5bn of investment for nursery schools and colleges."

The Scottish Liberal Democrat leader has pledged that education funding would rise every year if his party forms the next Scottish government.

Willie Rennie wants to increase income tax rates by 1p in order to raise £2.5bn for nurseries and colleges over the next five years.

It would also pay for a "pupil premium" for pupils who need extra help.

But Mr Rennie admitted he could not ensure councils spent the extra money on education.

All of Scotland's main political parties have put education at the heart of their campaigns ahead of the Holyrood election on 5 May.

  • The SNP has pledged to use Holyrood's new powers to ensure "all our young people start their working lives with the best possible opportunities and an equal chance of success".
  • Labour has said it would raise money for education and other local services by increasing income tax rates by 1p, with a 5p increase in the top rate for those earning more than £150,000.
  • The Conservatives want graduates to pay back £6,000 towards their education once they are earning more than £20,000 a year, with the money going towards post-16 education and increasing bursaries for disadvantaged students.

The Liberal Democrats have said they would "reverse the damage of SNP cuts" to schools and colleges, and extend free nursery provision to all two-year-olds.

Mr Rennie told the BBC's Good Morning Scotland programme that increasing income tax rates by 1p would raise £475m every year - £170m of which would go towards his party's flagship "pupil premium" plan.

The scheme would be worth £1,400 for primary pupils who require extra support and £900 for secondary pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

Mr Rennie said the pupil premium "would be part of the council spending programme and it would include the part of the £2.5bn over the five years".

'Top priorities'

Asked if he would guarantee a real-terms increase in education funding, Mr Rennie replied: "Yes we would."

However, he would not guarantee that local authorities would ring-fence the additional cash for education.

He said: "Since half of what councils do is education, I think it would be one of their top priorities to invest it in schools.

"We want to trust local authorities to be able to invest in areas within their communities.

"I believe that, especially with Liberal Democrats in charge of local authorities, that investment will go directly to schools."

Mr Rennie said councils "would see the sense" of using the money to invest in education.

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