No my ears were not deceiving me. That is what Alex Salmond replied to Tavish Scott's question regarding colleges admission (or not) findings and youth unemployment in Scotland.
Basically Tavish pointed out that 85% of colleges in Scotland have had to turn away applicants this year, many for the first time ever with some having seen a 800% increase in applications. In West Lothian the number of applicants has increased by 41% over last year, Oatridge college who have never had to turn away applications before saw a 74% increase in applications and turned away 300. These findings came from a Liberal Democrat survey of the the 43 colleges in Scotland looking at the numbers of applicants each has had to turn away over the last 3 years, the first of its kind to be published. On top of this the number of our young people claiming Job Seekers allowance over the past year has risen by 35%.
Jeremy Purvis the Finance Spokesperson has said about the findings in the report:
"Too many young people have been hit twice. They can’t get a job and now they can’t get a college place. What government can do is give them the opportunity to gain the skills and experiences that will help them get the most from economic recovery when it comes. Scotland as a whole will benefit from having more people ready and active for the workplace."
An increase in college places and training opportunities is one of the issues that the Lib Dems have been applying pressure on the SNP Government to provide for to help in this recession.
Alex Salmond's response to the actual question "Will the First Minister agree that action taken by his Government in this Budget must increase college places across Scotland?" is encouraging as is his acknowledgement that a recession inevitably increases the demand on college places.
Jeff has already pointed out that he thinks the answer "dropping the jousting" he gave Iain Gray and Annabel Goldie is a "clear signal that the budget would reflect Tavish's concerns" I would tend to agree, it seems that lessons have been learnt over the last 12 months on both sides.