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Devolution: Academics query legality of tuition fee charges for UK students

A group of pro-union academics have spoken out to claim that plans by the Scottish Parliament to charge UK students tuition fees if Scotland leaves the United Kingdom could fall foul of EU law, reports the BBC.

Academics Together, a group of academics investigating the implications of a 'yes' vote in Scotland's forthcoming referendum on devolution out of the United Kingdom, claims that charging UK students for tuition could be deemed illegal under EU law.

All people currently living in Scotland will go to the polls on 18 September 2014 to answer the question: 'Should Scotland be an independent country?'

The 'yes' campaigners, 'Yes Scotland', are headed by the current SNP Government who were mandated to hold the referendum after winning an outright majority Scottish Government in 2011.

The 'no' campaigners, 'Better Together', include the 'Academics Together' group, who have raised the issue of tuition fee charges for UK students should Scotland vote 'yes' to becoming an independent state.

According to the group, EU law prevents undergraduates from countries outside the UK from being charged tuition fees by Scottish universities. Currently students from England, Wales and Northern Ireland can be charged, because the EU law does not apply to charging agreements within member states.

However, if Scotland were to leave the UK, then the EU law would come into force, preventing charges for English, Welsh and Northern Irish.

The SNP's White Paper on Scottish independence proposes to keep charges for English, Welsh and Northern Irish students, if Scotland votes for independence.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government said: "The White Paper is consistent with, and informed by, legal advice the Government has received."

Academics Together expects to publish a document later in 2014, but in the interim claims that the illegality of charges for UK students would cost the Scottish Exchequer up to £150m per year in lost tuition fee income.