Page last updated at 18:03 GMT, Thursday, 22 November 2012

Colleges debate 1

Education Secretary Mike Russell insisted he was the right man to take the college sector forward, despite opposition parties calling on him to resign on 22 November 2012.

On 20 November 2012 Mr Russell offered a "full and unreserved" apology for using the wrong budget figure, which came after an apology from the first minister the preceding week.

Mr Russell said "On Tuesday I made an apology to this Chamber for the answer I gave to Mr Malik on the 28th of June and I repeat that apology now".

He added that it should not now be allowed to distract from the real issues facing young people and the further education sector.

The Cabinet Secretary said "I want to encourage a dialogue, a genuine dialogue, which seeks to intensify our national focus on meeting the genuine needs of our learners".

He also said "I don't claim to be shrinking violet or a model of perfection" but said he was committed to getting the best for the students, young people, learners, staff and others in all the sectors for which he had responsibility.

Lib Dem MSP Liam McArthur, who had called for the debate, suggested that unless Mr Russell's attitude changes he should leave the job.

"There's no getting away from the fact that recent events have called into question the competence of the SNP Government and the judgment and approach of the Education Secretary himself," Mr McArthur said.

"Nowhere is this more clearly illustrated than Mr Russell's ludicrously heavy-handed treatment of the former chair of Stow College.

"With growing evidence of this scandalous, intimidatory behaviour, it is symptomatic of the Education Secretary's style."

Labour MSP Neil Findlay said it was about the "small issue of fabricated facts, spin and political dark arts".

Mr Findlay said that instead of listening the cabinet secretary dismissed "everyone and anyone who sees the world a little bit different from him".

He ended by saying "I think it's time for him to go".

Conservative MSP Elizabeth Smith said "our ability to scrutinise the true situation that exists for colleges" had been seriously undermined by a lack of accurate data.

Ms Smith said the education secretary had lost the confidence of the college sector, the public at large and politicians across the chamber.

The second part of the debate can be viewed below:

Colleges debate 2

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