29 May 2003

S2M-10 Scottish Agricultural College

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Mr Murray Tosh): The final item of business today is the members' business debate on motion S2M-10, in the name of Adam Ingram, on the Scottish Agricultural College. The debate will be concluded without a question being put. I invite members who wish to speak to press their request-to-speak buttons now.
I am already horrified by the long list of names on screen.
Motion debated,
That the Parliament views with concern the plans by the Scottish Agricultural College (SAC) board to move the college's teaching and research services from Auchincruive, Ayrshire and Craibstone, Aberdeen to Edinburgh; believes that there should be a full economic impact assessment that takes into account the effect that this move would have on students, staff and local communities before the proposal is approved by the Scottish Executive; questions the methodology used by the consultants in their review and report, and considers that there should be a halt to the movement of staff from the SAC campuses in Ayrshire and Aberdeen to Edinburgh, which runs contrary to the Scottish Executive's policy of dispersing agency and department jobs and offices outwith the central belt, until proper scrutiny is carried out by the Parliament and its committees.
... ... ...
Stewart Stevenson (Banff and Buchan) (SNP): The fate of the remote colleges at Craibstone and Auchincruive has been driven by a matrix provided by the SAC board. The matrix contains 121 numbers that show the weighting and importance given to different topics that were chosen by the board—not by the consultants, who were told not to touch it. In fact, one need change only four of those 121 numbers to conclude that the answer to this situation lies in Craibstone and Auchincruive, not Edinburgh. That is what is called in consultancy-speak a sensitivity analysis. The consultants were denied the opportunity to carry out such an analysis; the Parliament should not make the same mistake.
Location and success are not inescapably joined together. When I was on holiday last summer, I visited the successful North Atlantic Fisheries College at Scalloway on Shetland, which is as far away from Edinburgh as it is possible to get. It is possible for Auchincruive and Craibstone to be similarly successful.
Location does matter. Edinburgh became a centre of scientific excellence, particularly in medicine, for the whole of Europe because the streets outside the chamber to which we will return next week were a cesspit of morbidity and ill-health. The cry "Gardyloo!" in those streets determined that the medical college came here hundreds of years ago. The same logic says that an agricultural college will flourish when it is next to its key stakeholders in the rural communities. Our environment and rural development committee must examine the issue anew, and I am sure that the matter is not closed in the Parliament.

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