Scottish Secretary Michael Moore has defended his decision to vote in favour of increasing university tuition fees in England.
Six of his Scottish Lib Dem colleagues rebelled or abstained in the House of Commons vote.
The Borders MP said he accepted it was a "very difficult issue" for his party which would prefer to abolish fees for all UK students.
Mr Moore said opponents had not come up with any "workable alternative".
The Commons vote allows fees in England to almost treble to £9,000 a year.
Mr Moore said he understood people's concerns but insisted it was the best solution possible.
"Of course Liberal Democrats wish they had entered government with a budget that would allow us to abolish fees for all UK students," he said.
"But we are part of a coalition government, grappling with a record peacetime deficit inherited from Labour."
He claimed that without the changes universities would be "starved of the money they need to provide quality education".
"These measures will prevent that from happening," he said.
He described the arrangements as "more progressive" than the ones inherited by the Tory-Lib Dem government.
He added: "As for Scotland, Scottish students who choose to study north of the border continue to pay no fees at all and will be unaffected by this vote.
"Scottish higher education funding policy is fully devolved to the Scottish government."