Building a New Scotland: Education and lifelong learning in an independent Scotland

This paper sets out the Scottish Government's vision for Education and Lifelong Learning in an independent Scotland.


The full powers of independence would enable Scotland to realise its ambitions for children, families and young people – indeed for all of us as we take up opportunities to learn throughout our lives. Unlocking the legislative, financial and economic powers of an independent country would allow future governments to make decisions that could unleash transformational change for Scotland's education sector. While decisions on funding would be for future governments to take, full control over key powers, such as tax and security, would give those governments the ability to make choices not currently available under devolution.

This paper sets out how new powers could be used to make the conditions and foundations for learning even stronger, so that every young person has the best chance possible of succeeding at school and in post-school education; and all of us have the opportunity to continue learning through our lives.

In an independent Scotland, the Scottish Parliament would be able to make bold decisions for Scotland's current and future generations. Full powers over employment and social security could be used to improve the lives of children and young people by furthering existing action to: tackle child poverty and other inequalities, provide extra help for those with additional support needs, and ensure whole family support is available to all who need it.

Scotland could ensure children's rights are upheld, protected and respected with the full incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law.[1]

Scotland already has in place a system of high quality, funded early learning and childcare (ELC). We have an internationally recognised school education system that provides equity of opportunity for all, and world class colleges and universities[2] where access to education is based on the ability to learn, not the ability to pay. The full powers of independence could further enhance education and lifelong learning, benefitting people of all ages, communities and the economy.

Scotland is an outward looking nation that welcomes students, workers and their families from across the globe. An independent Scotland would seek to re-join the European Union. As an independent country, and part of the EU, students and staff would be able to participate in exchange programmes through Erasmus+. Scotland would continue to welcome students from EU countries to our world class colleges and universities. EU students would, once again, enjoy the same access to higher education as Scottish students, which this Scottish Government has prioritised to include free tuition for those domiciled in Scotland.

This government set out its commitment to taking a responsible approach to fiscal sustainability and sound public finances with independence in the Building a New Scotland paper on the Economy. Future decisions about implementing proposals set out in this paper would therefore reflect this approach.

Although it will be for future Scottish Governments to decide and implement their policy priorities under independence, independence would allow those governments to make the choices needed to deliver on our collective ambition to make Scotland the best place to grow up, to study and to work.

The structure of this paper

This paper sets out how our approach to rights and wellbeing, which gives children and young people the best opportunities to reach their full potential, could be further enhanced in an independent Scotland.

The paper also sets out what people in Scotland could expect as they move through the education and lifelong learning journey in an independent Scotland.

A conclusion provides closing remarks. At the end of the paper is a list of acronyms, and a set of references.



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