jo swinson hand in
jo swinson hand in

SPLITS have emerged between local LibDems and MP Jo Swinson over the explosive issue of student tuition fees.

Ms Swinson caused controversy recently when she opted to vote for ConDem coalition legislation hiking up charges - despite election pledges that her Liberal Democrat party would oppose such moves.

The issue has highlighted deep splits in the LibDems - and last week, local liberal councillors moved to distance themselves from their MP’s stance.

There was anger when Ms Swinson refused to join 21 of her Westminster party colleagues in rejecting the ConDem plans.

She was subsequently forced to cancel a Bearsden surgery due to fears that it may be targeted by protesters.

The issue surfaced at a full meeting of East Dunbartonshire Council last week after the opposition SNP group tabled a motion which condemned the increased tuition fees and asked the council to write to Ms Swinson to highlight their anger and amazement that she had voted for this policy.

It was defeated by an amendement put forward by the Labour/Tory administration.

They didn’t want to write to Ms Swinson as they thought it was a waste of money and suggested that she could attend a seminar on the issue instead.

However, during the debate, LibDem group leader Ashay Ghai went public with the unease it is believed many local activists feel about the LibDems’ stance nationally, especially after opinion polls showed their support in Scotland crashing ahead of this year’s Scottish Parliament elections.

Councillor Ghai said: “The LibDem members of this council do have personal views of conviction on the matter and in this case our leanings were towards voting against the coalition government.

“While we think very highly of our hard working MP and know that her motivation is driven by what she believes is best for those she represents, in this particular case we must agree to differ with her choice to vote in favour of the legislation.

“However we respect her right to vote the way that she feels best as a member of another political body.”

SNP group leader, Ian Mackay, said: “This policy will put off many young people from attending university in the first place.

“The administration appeared to be unaware of the knock on effect in Scotland of cutting university funding in England.

“The annual Scottish block grant from Westminster will be reduced.

“They also did not know that 22,000 Scottish students attend English universities.

“A remark was made that Ms Swinson and the LibDems had as many faces as the town hall clock so why was anyone surprised by what they did?

“Our LibDem MP can break a promise to the electorate, just to get elected, and her LibDem colleagues on the council can disapprove of her actions and think that is politically acceptable.”

Ms Swinson said: “I understand the strength of feeling on this issue and inevitable differences of opinion on this matter.

“However it’s a shame that with so many pressing local issues of concern such as Tesco and the Allander, the SNP instead choose to waste valuable council time playing pre-election politics on an issue that has already been decided.”