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Ten million learning hours lost because of college cuts, says Labour

The party pointed to figures that showed 9.7 million hours had been lost in three years.

Gender: More women than men at colleges and universities.

College cuts have meant the loss of almost ten million learning hours for students in three years, Scottish Labour has claimed.

The party said new analysis of figures from Colleges Scotland showed 73.7 million hours were provided in 2012-13, a drop of 9.7 million hours from the total in 2009-10.

Education spokeswoman Kezia Douglas accused the Scottish Government of having "targeted our colleges for cuts" and said the consequence of this was "learners being denied opportunities".

But a spokesman for Education Secretary Michael Russell insisted Scottish Labour was "deliberately misrepresenting" the figures.

Scottish Labour commented after education body Colleges Scotland published a series of key facts about the sector.

According to the figures, student numbers have dropped by more than 100,000 in the past three years, while staff numbers have dropped by almost 7000.

The statistics follow a series of college mergers that created ten larger regionalised institutions as part of the Scottish Government's wider post-16 education reforms.

The SNP administration argued the mergers would deliver efficiency savings and combine teaching expertise, but Scottish Labour said the latest figures are evidence of a "disgraceful record" on education.

Ms Dugdale said: "The SNP has targeted our colleges for cuts and the consequence has been young people and second-chance learners being denied opportunities to get on in life."

The statistics undermine claims by the Yes campaign that September's referendum on Scottish independence is focused on young people, she said.

Ms Dugdale said: "We know a Yes vote will put at risk some of the one million jobs which are dependent on the UK and the SNP's failure to invest in training and skills will make it more difficult for people to gain opportunities.

"The best future for Scotland is one where we make the key decisions about education and jobs at the Scottish Parliament but use the strength and stability of the United Kingdom to invest in young people and create opportunities for them."

But Mr Russell's spokesman accused Labour of scaremongering and pointed to changes in the way courses are commissioned and delivered.

"Labour are deliberately misrepresenting these figures," he said.

"Almost 2000 more students are taking recognised qualifications in colleges than when Labour were in power and the number achieving HNCs and HNDs is up 36%.

"What's more, Labour's claims over the number of hours delivered ignores well understood changes to these figures as a result of the way courses are commissioned and delivered. These figures no longer include school-college partnership courses - school pupils now take school classes instead - nor do they include courses commissioned via Skills Development Scotland. To ignore this and try to scaremonger is reprehensible but not surprising from Labour.

"The reality is that we have maintained our manifesto pledge to keep the total number of places at 116,000 full-time equivalents - a commitment we have exceeded in every year since 2011."

According to the figures, there were 238,805 Scottish college students in the academic year 2012-13, down from 347,336 in 2009-10.

Over the same period, the hours of learning delivered by colleges fell from 83.4 million to 73.7 million, while staff numbers dropped from 20,686 to 13,761.

Shona Struthers, acting chief executive of Colleges Scotland, said the figures are a "simple snapshot" of where the college sector stands.

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