An MSP has raised questions in parliament about the future of the Barony campus of Scotland's Rural College (SRUC).
Joan McAlpine said she was worried about the sell-off of land at the Barony, particularly as such decisions were made by senior managers on six figure salaries. She also said staff had told her they feared senior management did not understand the Barony and did not value the further education courses offered there.
SRUC accounts show the principal's salary last year was £280,000-£290,000, with other directors earning between £130,000 and £160,000. Yet these managers failed recently to pull off a merger deal with Edinburgh University, a development that some believe has resulted in cost cutting.
The SNP MSP recently wrote to the Chief Executive of SRUC seeking reassurances that the Barony campus was not under threat of closure after staff expressed concerns for their jobs.
Ms McAlpine raised her concerns with the Cabinet Secretary for Education after she received a response, which failed to reassure her about the Barony's future.
Angela Constance said the Scottish Government was committed to land based education with rural jobs in mind and offered to meet Ms McAlpine and representatives of SRUC.
Ms McAlpine said:
“I am pleased that the Cabinet Secretary has agreed to meet with me to discuss my concerns. While I welcome the fact that in their response to my letter the SRUC detailed a commitment to continuing to deliver education in Dumfries, they failed to guarantee that the campus would remain open.
“The agricultural sector is hugely important to the economy in Dumfries and Galloway – the rural nature of the region makes it a bastion for the sector and success in farming supports jobs in production as well. The work being done at the Barony and Crichton Farm, which I have seen at first hand, make us a centre of excellence and I am keen that we preserve this.”
“SRUC recently failed to agree a merger with Edinburgh University and I am worried about the impact of this development on my region, most notably at the Barony Campus.
“It doesn’t sit well with me that assets at the Barony are being sold off, when the senior management team are being paid hefty salaries.”
Ms McAlpine has been working with representatives from the Barony Campus to promote ‘Certificate of Readiness' courses aimed at getting young people ready for careers in the agricultural industry, and move them into modern apprenticeships.
The text of the exchange can be found below:
Joan McAlpine: “SRUC recently failed to agree a merger with Edinburgh University. I am concerned about the impact of this development on my region, most notably at the Barony College in Dumfries. There is concern locally that SRUC senior management do not value the FE provision at Barony and are selling off assets to pay for management failures – yet the SRUC accounts show the principal’s salary was £280,000 last year. Does the Cabinet secretary agree with me that the absolute priority of the SRUC should not by inflated senior salaries but providing a wide range of training and education at ALL levels including FE to boost employment in rural Scotland and meet the needs of land based industries including farming.”
Angela Constance: “Of course the priority should always be to provide educational opportunities that boost employment. I am acutely aware of the importance of agricultural skills to the economy in Dumfries and Galloway and I understand why the Member and the community are keen to ensure a continued presence for the SRUC at the Barony campus. I understand that the SRUC remain committed to delivering land based education and training in Dumfries but of course I would be happy to discuss this with Ms McAlpine and a representative from SRUC further.”