THIS newspaper believes free university tuition stands as one of the genuine gains of Scottish devolution.

The SNP still deserves praise for ensuring students are spared fees of nearly £10,000 a year that many of their English counterparts face. Free tuition is now accepted by all parties at Holyrood with the exception of the Tories.

However, the findings of a Scottish Government commissioned review group recommending an £8000 a year guaranteed income for students illustrates that living costs is something that also needs attention.

This new income could come in the shape of additional loans, however. For too long the issue of maintenance grants for students has been off the political agenda. Scant regard has been paid to the poverty facing many students from low income families.

It should be remembered - with anger and revulsion - that those in the Thatcher, Major and Blair governments who incrementally destroyed the maintenance grant where themselves beneficiaries of the system. They quite simply pulled the ladder up behind them and left a younger generation to sink or swim depending on the wealth of their parents.

Now that the issue of student finances is back on the table, the case needs to be made for the restoration of the maintenance grant. Even in Scotland, where tuition is free, young people are leaving university with repayments on loans that are crippling.

Yes, there is additional expenses - but fairness costs, and so does education, and a well-educated, socially mobile population is worth its weight in gold.