Rector Srdja Popovic condemns new HMO motion

Whilst Mr Popovic said “councillors won’t listen to your concerns unless they know you can hold them accountable", East Neuk Conservative Councillor Linda Holt has stood by her comment saying the effects of students on local residents were akin to "social cleansing."

Photo: Ranald Dinsdale

Rector Srdja Popovic recently spoke out on social media against a motion by Fife councillors, a decision which recommends that the current threshold number of HMOs (Housing in Multiple Occupancy) in St Andrews be maintained at their current levels.

I condemn this decision

In a statement, the Rector said, “The HMO ban limits the amount of rooms on offer in St Andrews, which makes it much more expensive, and more difficult to rent in the town as a whole. As Rector of the University I condemn this decision, which flies in the face of student opinion, and Fife Council’s own research which found that the ban has not achieved its stated objectives.”

Mr Popovic also encouraged members of the community to support the “NO to HMO BAN” campaign, sign the petition against the decision, email their local councillor, and register to vote, adding that “councillors won’t listen to your concerns unless they know you can hold them accountable.”

The current petition by the University of St Andrews Students’ Association has reached their goal of 1,000 signatures as of Saturday 12 May, now extending their goal to 1,500 supporters.

On Thursday 10 May, Association President Lewis Wood also criticised the decision, calling it “shameful” and criticising respect paid to students during the public meeting on Wednesday 9 May. According to Mr Wood, he was not allowed to speak despite being referenced multiple times in the debate by the councillors.

social cleansing

In response to The Saint‘s article on Thursday 10 May, East Neuk Councillor Linda Holt said, “It is wrong to imply that Lewis Wood was denied the opportunity to speak. He could have presented a deputation as St Andrews residents did if he had taken the trouble to acquaint himself with Council procedures.”

She also stood by her comment saying the effects of students on local residents were akin to “social cleansing.”

Specifically, she stated, “I stand by my comment that the displacement of permanent residents – including families, children and people who work locally – with a shifting, temporary and primarily part-time population of students could be regarded as a kind of social cleansing. I think a St Andrews academic called it studentification.”

She continued, “It seems to me to be undeniable that the social profile of St Andrews has altered markedly over the last 30 years, and that is largely due to the rise in student numbers. Social cleansing is what it can seem like to some for whom studentification means they cannot, or no longer want to, live in St Andrews.”

exclusive student ghetto

In response to Ms Holt’s comment, Heather Taylor said, “I’m a student at St Andrews. I’m also a full-time resident, have volunteered for local charities, and worked for local businesses. I am friends with my (mostly elderly) neighbours. Yet I am not considered a resident of this town in the same manner that a non-student is.

“I’m sick of this us vs them mentality – and your Katie Hopkins-esque ‘social cleansing’ comment does nothing to foster a good sense of community, inclusion, and fairness.”

In an open letter in the Courier today, Ms Holt said of the meeting, “Councillors felt the solution was not to open up the market to unlimited exploitation by Rackmanite landlords and allow the centre of St Andrews to become an exclusive student ghetto.”

She continued, “Students’ lack of regard for St Andrews’ permanent residents, on the other hand, is all too evident in the high number of reported incidents of anti-social behaviour in the town centre.”


  1. I’m afraid I have to agree with Ms Holt, the centre of St Andrews is a ghetto of students with no manners particularly when walking on the pavement (they never give way to the elderly forcing them off the pavement). The absent landlords receiving high rents for the flats above the shops while leaving the fabric of the building to deteriorate, gutters overflowing onto the public below, this was never the case 30+ years ago. Most of the milleniums or Generation Ys of St Andrews are either living in the surrounding districts or have left St Andrews altogether resulting in a grossly unproportionate society of elderly and 20 year olds.
    Purchasing the Guardbridge papermill could have resolved the crisis by building student accommodation onsite, however I understand that office workers are to be moved to Guardbridge to make way for even greater numbers of student teaching facilities and students in St Andrews which will only compound the housing crisis.
    I have lived in St Andrews for 65 years and although change is expected and the student and visitors were welcomed by the residents of the town I’m afraid the welcome ended long ago. The town has been taken over by opportunists making money out the heritage of St Andrews built up over the years between the residents and university, this was destroyed many years ago particularly since Prince William’s university years.
    The town now has three clear designated centres, North St, South St and Market St the student’s ghetto during the university term turning into a visitor’s centre during the holiday season, the residents/students quarters in and around Morrisons supermarket and the area adjoining the Links golf courses which is overcrowded with tour operators and visiting golfers (many properties being bought by American consortiums and occupied for a month or two a year). Unfortunately, the residents’ quality and cost of living has been compromised over the years by an overabundance of transients who are here today gone tomorrow and not paying community taxes, many of whom leave the environment in a worse state than when they arrived. Fife Council and the university have ignored this time bomb which is now being realised.
    This is an issue both the university and councillors should endeavour to investigate in reducing or stabilising the numbers visiting St Andrews in an attempt to harmonise both groups with the residents. The variety of committees and trusts within the town are infiltrated by individuals who tend to have an agenda to better themselves the outcome of which is the conundrum we have today – the bigger the numbers the bigger the rewards in both the social and financial ladders. The answer lies in reducing or stabilising the numbers however who is prepared to compromise – to date its only been the resident.


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