LAZY and selfish Scottish students have squandered at least £5m in fines for failing to return library books on time.
The nation’s colleges have fined students at least £4,825,541 for overdue books since January 2008, official figures reveal.
Edinburgh University tops the list at £592,000, including one scholar who was forced to pay £1,050 for hanging on to text books.
The figures also reveal that at least 21,000 text books are currently missing from Scotland’s university libraries.
Student leaders regularly complain that many undergraduates are forced to live in poverty but taxpayers’ group said the figures showed they were their own worst enemy.
The figures, provided under the Freedom of Information Act, show that the University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, was second-worst for library fines at £576,300.
Neighbouring Glasgow Caledonian University was not far behind at £524,000, while Glasgow University levied £496,700 in fines.
Aberdeen University hit students for £482,500 but the city appears also to have the most conscientious students when it comes to returning books. Robert Gordon University has charged a relatively low £71,545 in fines since 2008.
As well as hitting students in the pocket, the failure to return books means big gaps are opening in the library shelves.
Glasgow Caledonian admitted that 5,284 books are missing. St Andrews University said that 4,113 books are missing worth a total of £111,586.
Across Scotland, a total of 21,623 text books are known to be missing. If the average value of the books lost by St Andrews is applied, the total value in Scotland is at least £584,000.
It appears that Scotland’s future teachers are among the worst culprits for failing to return books.
At Edinburgh University, “Positive Teaching in the Primary School” by author Frank Merret was the most likely book to go missing in the last five years.
But light-fingered business students are also in the frame.
At the University of the West of Scotland, among the most pilfered texts are “Taxation: Finance Act 2009” by Alan Melville, “Strategic Management, Awareness and Change” by John Thompson, and “Industrial Organisation: competitive, strategy, policy” by John Lipczynski.
The problem of massive library fines is even preventing, or delaying, undergraduates from getting their degrees.
At least 1,800 students were told over the period they could not graduate until they had paid their fines.
The University of the West of Scotland, which has campuses at Ayr, Dumfries, Hamilton and Paisley, confirmed that 214 students have not graduated for failing to pay off fines.
Despite the huge bills being paid by the students, the universities cap their fines at a relatively low rate, £25 for Glasgow University and just £8 at Abertay, Dundee.
In some cases, it is cheaper for a student to steal a book from the library and pay the maximum fine rather than buy it.
The Director of Tax Payer Scotland, Eben Wilson, said that students should be more responsible with their spending if they wish to continue to get their fees paid for.
He said: “Students need to take a bit more care of the money being provided to them by Scottish taxpayers before they ask for more.
“Racking up thousands of pounds on fines due to their own tardiness isn’t helping themselves or their universities in times of austerity.
“In fact, it’s likely that the money wasted in fines will not be recoverable, and in the end it will be paid by other more disciplined students in lower bursaries and higher costs for their universities.”
Education spokeswoman for the Scottish Conservative party, Liz Smith said: “The loss of revenue from so many unpaid fines puts into sharp focus how much extra money could be in the system if people acted responsibly.”
“Although Library fines are not large they are intended to provide an incentive to return books and borrowers should always be public-spirited and adhere to them.
A spokesman for the University of Edinburgh said: “We feel that our fines are fair and set at a level that encourages students to return books on time for the benefit of all library users.
“We always send notices to warn students that books are overdue prior to any charges being incurred.”
The National Union of Students declined to comment.