The National Union of Students Scotland elected a president, depute president and Scottish Executive Committee at its national conference in Irvine this weekend. The current depute president was defeated in her bid for the presidency being vacated by Liam Burns, Aberdeen University Students’ Association president Robin Parker defeated his girlfriend Jennifer Cadiz by 54 votes to 44, while Edinburgh University Students Association (EUSA)’s VPAA Stevie Wise lost her bid for the depute presidency to Aberdeen College Students’ Association president Graeme Kirkpatrick by 15 votes, 57-42. Students from Heriot Watt, Strathclyde, Stiring and Aberdeen universities won seats on the Executive Committee, as did college students from Cardonald College in Glasgow and Adam Smith College in Fife.
Commenting after the result, Burns said, “Robin and Graeme are the most dedicated and talented students I’ve had the privilege to work with, and have already spent years working to improve the lives of the students they represent in Aberdeen. Although I am moving on from NUS Scotland, I leave college and university students in far better hands with two of the strongest fighters for student issues in Scotland. ”
Speaking to The Student after his win, Parker said that his first priority would be to fight for better financial help for students: “There’s a lot of students struggling to get by to pay the bills, borrowing money, working several part time jobs. We have to make sure that way students are supported financially has to change.” Parker argued for the central importance of funding for education in boosting the Scottish economy and called for business to contribute more: “The way to ensure that we have sustainable long term growth in Scotland is making sure we have a well-funded education system because that means that we have got the right skills and knowledge in our people. “It is high time that we looked at the way in which businesses contribute towards education, they seem to get a huge amount of benefit and we need to look really closely at ways in which we can lever more funding from businesses.”
Discussing the future of funding, Parker left the possibility of a post-graduation contribution open: “It may be time to start considering what ways in which we can increase the grants and loans available to students and if that means looking at the ways in which we can tweak things around so that when people have graduated that they are putting money back into the pockets of students right now, then we should look at that.”
Parker endorsed the motion passed at the conference supporting the use of a ‘plurality’ of campaigning methods: “We need to use every tool in the campaign toolbox that we have, and that means being at the table, but that also means being out on the streets and it means doing stunts that get people’s attention and there’s a really powerful idea about occupation and at the end of the day it’s student space and we want it to be student space, and universities first and foremost belong to students. We need to use every single tactic that we have at our disposal in the years to come if we are to win for students.”
The conference also saw the first annual NUS Scotland Awards, honouring the achievements of students and students’ unions. EUSA’s ‘Write to Mike’ campaign – an effort to get Edinburgh West’s MP Mike Crockart to honour his pre-election pledge to vote against higher tuition fees – won the award for best student union campaign.