Newly elected student leader may signal a more radical NUS Scotland

Alasdair Clark

The new student leader in Scotland visited students occupying Stirling University after his election

RADICAL POLITICS found a home in the National Union of Students Scotland (NUS) this week, electing a former Scottish Socialist Party council candidate as its president who has visited students staging a sit-in at the University of Stirling in support of striking staff.

The influential body of student representatives elected Liam McCabe at their annual conference on Thursday 15 March. McCabe will take over from the incumbent official Luke Humberstone in July 2018 alongside the organisation’s new vice president, Gemma Jones. 

McCabe’s election follows a series of occupations undertaken by students in support of striking lecturing staff, with students at 17 universities across the UK currently staging sit-ins to demand their university gives in to staff demands. 

READ MORE: ‘Liberated education for all’: Students occupy Dundee University in staff pensions row

Sending a signal about the type of leader he will be, McCabe told CommonSpace he visited the University of Stirling occupation immediately after his election: “Up and down the country, we’ve seen overwhelming student solidarity with our striking university staff in their fight for fair terms and conditions. 

“An attack on staff terms and conditions is an attack on the heart of our education system and I am proud that the movement I have been elected to lead stands with them now, and will continue to do so until we have fended off this assault on their pensions.
“NUS Scotland is at its best when we take bold, decisive action. That’s why last night, following my election, my first act as President-elect was to visit Stirling’s student occupation to send a message of solidarity from our conference to those students engaging in peaceful protest across Scotland and back their right to do so free from fear or aggression.”

Insiders have suggested McCabe will lead a more radical organisation which could be more critical of the Scottish Government than in recent years, especially over the flagship Student Support Review.

On the challenges facing students, McCabe said: “I ran on a radical, positive vision for change – focussed on developing an active campaigning organisation that is able to fight and win on the big issues affecting our members.

“On all these issues and more I look forward to fighting side by side with students.” NUS Scotland president-elect Liam McCabe

“The next year presents huge opportunities for Scotland’s students, but significant challenges too. The [Scottish] government are yet to commit to anything substantive off the back of the Student Support Review, there’s a rising acknowledgement of the need for better mental health support on our campuses, and the implications of Brexit remains a huge threat looming on the horizon. 

“On all these issues and more I look forward to fighting side by side with students.”

NUS Scotland’s conference continues, with student representatives from universities and colleges setting the organisations campaigning priorities for the year ahead. 

Picture courtesy of Craig MacLean/NUS Scotland 

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