Rennie: Student catastrophe requires urgent action

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today called for a series of new measures to help students, especially those trapped in accommodation and affected by virus outbreaks, and called for the Education Secretary to immediately return to Parliament to address the situation.

Scottish Liberal Democrats are calling for:

  1. Mass routine asymptomatic testing to start in universities to reach people who show no symptoms but who carry the virus.
  2. Students who test negative to be given the option to return home safely.
  3. Rent money to be returned to students who leave their accommodation, temporarily or permanently.
  4. Unwell students to get additional support from universities and local health professionals – including the option of being moved.
  5. New mental health support services to reach students who feel trapped.

Mr Rennie said:

"It should have been little surprise to the Scottish Government that these outbreaks would happen, but they were still caught flat footed.  We have been warning for weeks that students going back to university was the biggest movement of people since the lockdown and required extra measures to prevent outbreaks.

“They missed the opportunity to test international students on arrival and now reject our calls for asymptomatic testing for all students.  It is an extra safety measure that we should take to ensure that we can hunt down the virus even in those people who don’t know they have it.

"Students have been treated shabbily and as second-class citizens. Last minute panicked changes to the rules and laws has left students feeling cheated at being trapped in expensive accommodation, unable to go home and with no in-person teaching for months.

“Our five-point plan is reasonable and measured. It looks after the best interests of students, many of whom are away from home for the first time.

"The Scottish Government must act today to tackle the problem. The Education Secretary must immediately return to Parliament and set out plans for how he intends to end the confusion and allow students to safely return home should they wish without losing out on their education."

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