We are St Andrews Students for Independence (STAUSFI) and, unfortunately, we’re one of the lesser-known political societies on campus. If you’ve been anywhere near the Union or the library in the last three weeks, you’ll know that we’re working desperately to change that. We are a cross-party group, made up of a wide range of political beliefs, nationalities and socio-economic backgrounds, but we find common ground in advocating for Scottish Independence.
Thanks to our successful campaigning, we’re now affiliated with the Union, demonstrating that the Scottish Independence movement absolutely has a place at the heart of the University. To help us achieve our goals, we have affiliations with Scottish National Party Students and the Scottish Young Greens, but our membership encompasses a wide range of political backgrounds. We would like to emphasise that we are not just an SNP society, but here comes the contradiction; over the last few weeks we have been campaigning heavily for the SNP to help get Stephen Gethins re-elected in North East Fife.
Stephen Gethins has been the MP for this constituency for over four years since he took over from the Liberal Democrats in 2015. In this time Stephen has excelled at his job, handling over 20,000 constituency cases. He has worked alongside community groups on countless issues, such as the campaign to re-instate the out-of-hours service for the local community hospital. Alongside this, Stephen has become a recognisable face around the University, with many students finding him an accessible point of contact and appreciating the effort he makes to advocate for student issues.
Let’s talk about Brexit. Stephen Gethins is the Europe and International Affairs spokesperson for the SNP. His wealth of experience working in European institutions has inspired him to become one of the strongest pro-Europe MPs in Parliament. He works tirelessly cross party to ensure that we don’t crash out of the EU with a no-deal or a bad-deal Brexit. He was one of the six MPs, alongside such big names as Oliver Letwin, Jo Swinson and Hilary Benn, to create, sponsor and sign the Letwin Amendment, which forced Boris Johnson to ask the EU for a Brexit extension, giving parliamentarians time to scrutinise his Brexit deal properly and ensure that everything was above board (which it wasn’t). He was also one of the key sponsors of the Benn Act, which took a no-deal Brexit off the table. In this election we need more than just Remain voices: we need people who will work tirelessly to frustrate the efforts of Boris Johnson and the European Research Group (ERG), and Stephen Gethins has a track record of doing exactly that. For Stephen, it’s obvious; having worked with EU institutions and European NGOs, he knows that Scotland’s rightful place is at the heart of the EU.
In fact, Stephen Gethins has been publicly endorsed by More United, People’s Vote, and Tactical Vote UK as the best Remain candidate for this constituency. Local community, political and academic leaders from across the political spectrum have also endorsed Stephen Gethins. Lecturers like Dr Tony Lang, Dr Andrew O’Malley, Dr David Miles and Dr Silvia Paracchini have already publicly supported him, with many others doing so privately. Well-respected and admired figures from across the University and town will also be supporting Stephen, which demonstrates civic society is behind Stephen and the SNP. The Scottish Green Party have decided not to field a candidate in this constituency to support the SNP’s efforts against the Tories, as Stephen best represents their views on climate change, Scottish independence, and Brexit.
Recently, the former Lord Provost of Fife and local councillor for St Andrews, Francis Melville, endorsed Stephen, despite having represented the Lib-Dems on Fife Council for over 30 years. She said, “As an MP for the last four years, Stephen has fought tirelessly for North East Fife, and has succeeded in bringing others together across the political divide to oppose Brexit and the damage being done by Boris Johnson’s out of control government. At this critical time, we need someone with his experience and approach, for the good of everyone here.” This mirrors our belief, as a student society in a diverse, multicultural and international university, that it is essential to bring people together across party lines to oppose xenophobia, isolationism, and climate change denialism. Stephen has consistently voted against discrimination, and has always fought to enshrine his values of equality and human rights in British law. This again demonstrates his desire to champion progressive values for the whole of the UK (whilst we are still in it).
One of the most important issues today, both for students and for the global community, is the threat of climate change. This is another issue which Stephen has worked cross-party to oppose. He is the Vice-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group and the Honorary Vice-President of Energy Action Scotland, a charity which aims to eradicate fuel and energy poverty in Scotland. He has consistently advocated for urgent climate action, which is in line with the SNP’s climate policy. The Scottish government, led by the SNP, was the first national government in the world to declare a climate emergency. It has also passed progressive climate policies, making Scotland one of the greenest countries in the world. Currently, 74% of Scotland’s electricity is produced using renewable sources. A country with such vast natural resources will only continue to become more green, as an SNP government pushes through world-leading environmental legislation.
And now for the big one, Scottish Independence… As we’ve found in our weekly campaigning sessions, there are many misconceptions about Scottish Independence. Let us be unequivocally clear: supporting Scottish Independence does not equate to negative views about England, or any other partners in the United Kingdom (despite what some in Westminster would like you to believe). Support for Scottish Independence is not limited to kilt-wearing, whisky-drinking nationalists; both of the writers of this piece have English parents who (hopefully) won’t disown us post-Independence. Scottish Independence is ultimately about Scotland’s right to self-governance, a right which naturally extends to every single nation across the world.
Scotland and England have a huge shared history, although we have often fought against each other, we have a long tradition of fighting together against common enemies. Our shared history, language and culture mean that this family of nations will always be close, but it’s time that our nations operate on equal terms. Rather than being anti-England, our movement is simply pro-Scotland, and not to the detriment of our close neighbours. We want to see a green, internationalist, European, socially liberal and de-nuclearised Scotland. We want to live in a multicultural, outward-looking country which seeks to strengthen its relationship with other nations, not tear them down in an insular, post-imperialist seizure. For those of you who are uncertain, consider this: would you rather live in a post-Brexit, Tory-led UK, or a prosperous, European, outward-looking and socially conscious Scotland? Frankly, those are the two options on the table, so make sure you vote SNP on the 12th of December!
If any of you would like to find out more, or chat to us about our views, drop down to the Whey Pat on Tuesdays at 6 for an informal exchange of ideas. We’d love to see you there!