The County You Live, Work And Play
UWS Hamilton Campus Debated
The stalled £53million redevelopment plans for the University of the West of Scotland’s Hamilton campus have been debated at the Scottish Parliament.
The plans were based on a £27m contribution from the Scottish Funding Council and the Scottish Government.
However, the university’s match-funding proposal was rejected – and the issue of Scottish Government funding will not be re-examined until its next spending review, which is not likely until 2016 at the earliest. Blantyre MSP James Kelly clashed with Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Constitution and Economy, John Swinney, over the issue.
Mr Kelly said: “Will the Cabinet Secretary examine how capital grant funding commitments could bridge spending review periods? That would allow match-funding to be introduced in projects such as the University of the West of Scotland’s Lanarkshire campus in Hamilton.
“If progress could be made on that project, it would bring undoubted benefits, not only to the area itself, but also to the Lanarkshire economy and the wider Scottish economy.” Described as a “fantastic” asset for Lanarkshire and the west of Scotland, a revamped Hamilton UWS campus was seen as an important contribution to the economic and social development of the area.
The existing Hamilton campus hampers the opportunity to increase student numbers which are expected to almost double to 5000 by 2016/17.
UWS, which is able to fund £26m of the project, had been in talks with the Scottish Government and Scottish Funding Council (SFC) about their plans.
Mr Swinney replied: “There is in what Mr Kelly says a substantial point about long-term planning for capital projects, with which I have absolutely no disagreement at all.
“The issue is this: for the period in which we are now, the Government has financial data that will provide us with clarity about our capital and resource budgets until March 2016. We have been able to offer a longer-term period of certainty because we have had financial information about the current period since the commencement of the financial year 2011-12. So, by and large, we have had about three years of programme funding to enable us to undertake such funding activity.
“On the capital programme, what I said to Mr Kelly in my original answer was that the priorities of the infrastructure investment plan structure our decisions about what projects will be supported. That, essentially, pre-commits spending reviews through recognising that some projects take longer than one year to build – they almost always do.
“Where we can set out longer-term financial projections, the Government will do so, but I hope that Mr Kelly understands that my ability to do that at this moment is restricted by the fact that I do not have any sight of our financial allocations beyond March 2016.”