Meeting with MSPs Marco Biagi and Jenny Marra

I met this morning with both Marco Biagi and a member of Jenny Marra’s team (Jenny herself having been dragged in to speak in a debate at short-notice).

Meeting with Marco Biagi

In many ways, this was a very positive meeting.  Marco is clearly doing some work behind the scenes and has had some meetings with government officials looking at costs and the practicality of what we are asking for.  Whilst he was keen to emphasise that no decisions had been made and that he could make no promises , it is clearly positive that our case is being taken seriously within government.

On the negative side, Marco reflected that government officials have said that it would not be possible to do anything for students starting this September.  This seemed to be based on two issues:

  • The legislative timetable.
  • Contractual difficulties with making amendments to the SAAS online applications system.

I challenged this on the basis that that the deadline for applications for living costs support for students starting this September is 31 March 2013.  Although best if funding is available at the start of the course, this means that the government have eleven-and-a-half months to sort something out that would provide some benefit to students, as long as some sort of government assurance was in place by course start-date.  On the specific issues mentioned:

  •  I cannot accept that the legislative timetable is unachievable, especially given the high level of cross-party support we’ve seen so far.
  • Whilst it is understood that there may be contractual issues around website maintenance, there must shurely be some sort of work-around that could be put in place by SAAS with the application of some imagination.

Meeting with Jenny Marra’s staff

Jenny was unfortunately called away just before the meeting.  However, I had lengthy discussions with Ross,  her parliamentary assistant.  She is very supportive or our campaign and understands the issues having trained as a lawyer herself.   She has also been involved with some wider discussions with the Law Society of Scotland over issues around legal training.  I discussed with Ross our reasoning on focusing on the living-costs loan part of the overall DPLP issue.

We discussed ways in which Jenny could help the campaign and I will hopefully meet with her in person in the next week or so.


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