Students are feeling the brunt of the cost-of-living crisis, Scottish Labour has claimed amid calls for greater financial aid.
Labour MSP Martin Whitfield is urging the Scottish Government to back calls from the National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland to increase support grants and bursaries while slashing bus and rail fares.
He has previously raised the issue at First Minister’s Questions, saying students are seeking refuge at university libraries because they cannot afford to heat their homes.
Mr Whitfield told Nicola Sturgeon in December that St Andrews student Lucy Penman had been forced to leave her home the day before an exam due to a “dangerously cold” flat.
Ms Penman said she could not afford to keep her heating on for more than an hour-and-a-half and her “fingers were losing feeling” due to the cold.
In response, Ms Sturgeon said she understood the difficulties facing students and urged universities to make them aware of hardship funding.
Mr Whitfield, Labour’s children, young people and lifelong learning spokesman, said on Thursday: “The cost-of-living crisis for students is an emergency and requires the Scottish Government to move decisively.
“The failure to act now will have a lasting impact on this generation of students.
“Students didn’t cause the soaring rate of inflation and the Tory-made cost-of-living crisis, but they are feeling the brunt of it.
“The Scottish Government should use all of the tools at its disposal and support students during this cost-of-living crisis, including lowering transportation costs and additional support for grants and bursaries.
“Scotland’s students don’t want warm words, they want real action.”
Higher and further education minister Jamie Hepburn said: “I understand that this is a very challenging time for many students.
“Free tuition helps ensure that eligible Scottish-domiciled students studying in Scotland already have the lowest student debt levels in the UK, and we are taking all the action we can to help students overcome the issues they face through the cost-of-living crisis.
“Those facing financial hardship are still able to apply to their college or university for assistance through their discretionary funds.
“We remain in close contact with college and university principals, urging them to continue to prioritise the allocation of hardship funds to those students most in need, and to take account of the impact of the rising cost of living.”
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