President of the Students’ Association Paloma Paige has recently launched a new campaign encouraging University students to register to vote in St Andrews and to run to be a member of the St Andrews Community Council.
In an email to returning students, Ms Paige stressed the importance of Town and Gown relations and the role that students play in the town.
Ms Paige said to students, “For those who may not be aware, it is important to note that students make up over half the population of St Andrews whilst they live in town. Despite this fact, there is no proportional representation of the student residents on either the St Andrews Community Council (CC) or the Fife Council (FC).
She continued, “Only 4 students (3 of whom are ex-oficio meaning they did not have to run in a CC election) sit on the CC and only 1 (now former) student represents St Andrews on the FC. Thus, there is a need for a better balanced representation in local politics.”
Addressing Town and Gown issues, Ms Paige spoke on common encounters, such as relations between neighbors and landlords and tenants, as well as the recent HMO debate among Fife councillors.
Though a majority of students voiced their concerns and negative views towards HMOs through online petitions and social media, their ideas did not become policy in May.
As Ms Paige said in her email, “When it came to voting on the HMO policy last May, the proposal most beneficial to students was voted down. Had more students been sitting at that table and voting, I am confident that we could have changed the discussion and outcome.”
Ms Paige outlined eligibility to vote and registration itself, as well as deadlines for declaring candidacy in the upcoming Community Council elections.
Students can vote in the UK if they are a citizen of the United Kingdom, Republic of Ireland or qualifying Commonwealth citizen, Channel Islands, the Isle of Man or a British Overseas Territory, or the European Union.
Students can be registered to vote in two different local authority areas, their home residence and term residence, and can vote in local elections in both areas.
To run for a Community Council position, students must be registered to vote in St Andrews by Friday 10 August 2018 and declare candidacy by Thursday 6 September. The Community Council elections are on Thursday 4 October.
The deadlines themselves have been the subject of recent controversy after a bid to postpone the elections failed before the council. Dominic Nolan, St Andrews councillor and alumnus of the University, argued that community councils were not made aware of the deadline date until 1 August, though the local authority rejected his claims and insisted that community councils have known about the dates for months.
He launched the bid to postpone the elections.
Speaking to The Courier, he said, “Community council elections are notorious for seeing a low number of volunteers step forward and contested elections are exceedingly rare. This deadline has been inadequately advertised and leaves little time for an organised effort to get people registered.”
He continued, “Steps should have been taken much sooner to advertise the registration deadline in order to find more volunteers for community councils than we have in the past. These elections should be postponed, as some have in the past, so Fife Council can dedicate more time and resources to ensure a high engagement with the election process.”
Additionally, Mr Nolan said to The Saint, “For St Andrews in particular students could lose the chance to choose their Community Councillors by having the deadline this early. This is despite students being a part of the community for as long as the Community Council’s term.”