I am, in general, a fan of Phil Shiner of Public Interest Lawyers. But I think he has made a serious mistake over taking the Scottish government to court for charging tuition fees to English students.
Scotland quite rightly refused to follow Blair, Brown and Cameron in the disgrace of abolishing free university education. This is in keeping with Scottish tradition. Scotland had for centuries far higher rates of free education and literacy than England, and five universities when England only had two. The “Scottish enlightenment” and the undeniably disproportionate Scottish contribution to science, medicine, engineering, economics and philosophy were based on education.
The Scottish government would have been delighted to provide free to the student education to English students. Unlike the English government, the Scottish government will continue to pay to Scottish universities tuition fees for Scottish students. The education is not free – the Scottish government pays for it, at the expense of the people of Scotland getting something else with the money instead. If the English government would pay tuition fees for English students, the Scottish government would be very happy.
But plainly the Scottish government could never have the funds to pay the fees of the tens of thousands more English students who would come to Scotland if it were free. The Scottish government has a good defence, that it is not discrimination as fees are based on domicile, not race. Witness my son, Jamie Douglas Murray, who pays fees at Glasgow University.
If Shiner does wins his case, the almost certain result would be that Scotland would have to charge its own students rather than educate the entire UK for free. How on earth would that help anybody? Has Phil Shiner lost his senses?