South Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine joined Barony College campaigners in the Scottish Parliament with senior executives from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC).
Ms McAlpine called the meeting in response to community, student and staff concerns about the future of the Barony Campus following the merger with SRUC.
The SFC make decisions about the funding of colleges and universities and would need to approve and fund any proposed move to The Crichton. They revealed at the meeting that no business case had yet been made for such a move and that they had no capital currently to back one. They also said a strict evaluation would need to happen first with employers in agriculture and forestry consulted.
Outcome Agreement Manager, Aileen Ross and Martin Kirkwood, Assistant Director of Capital and Climate Change group agreed to meet with Ms McAlpine to hear her concerns and those of former Barony lecturer, Brian McMorran, who is spokesman for the campaign. A representative of the forest industries, Confor’s National Manager, Jamie Farquhar also attended and said the learning experience at the Barony could not be duplicated on an urban site.
Commenting, the MSP said:
“Like many of my constituents, I have been concerned by the SRUC proposals for the future of the Barony estate.
“The Scottish Funding Council are an important player in all of this because they are the public body responsible for distributing funding from the Scottish Government to our colleges and universities. The SFC listened carefully to our concerns and have said they will continue to assemble evidence on the implications of any potential move away from the Barony. I was pleased that they said they would listen to employers and I handed them a letter from a local forestry machinery company which emphasised the key role Barony played in training operators. We also told them about concerns about capacity at The Crichton, or lack of it, access roads, and the concerns that not enough was done to boost recruitment for Barony courses.
"I was disappointed that the SFC can only evaluate SRUC's proposal, as opposed to an independent one which, say, proposed developing The Barony on site. But they said that they would test any case brought to them by SRUC robustly.”
The MSP, Mr McMorran and Mr Farquhar all addressed a packed public meeting of the “Save the Barony Campus” campaign in Locharbriggs Village Hall last month
Brian McMorran, former Engineering Programme Leader at the Barony, was able to share with the funders his direct practical knowledge of the issues surrounding the delivery of land based education.
Jamie Farquhar from Confor, the body which represents UK forestry industry employers discussed the opportunities for jobs in their booming sector in the south west - and the importance of The Barony in training people for those jobs.
Ms McAlpine continued:
“I will continue to press SRUC to put their plans in writing and have asked SFC to keep me informed of any developments.”
In October last year, Ms McAlpine raised concerns around the SRUC in a portfolio question to the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Angela Constance. Following Ms McAlpine’s intervention, four executives from SRUC appeared in front of the Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee. Ms McAlpine later met with Ms Constance and SRUC’s acting head Janet Swadling and called on SRUC to ensure that staff and students should be fully involved and consulted about future plans.