Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, visited Glasgow University today to help with the Yes Scotland campaign ahead of the GU Independence Referendum, to the criticism of some students.
Nicola Sturgeon, who is SNP MSP for Glasgow Southside, arrived on ‘library hill’ this afternoon to show her support for the Yes vote on campus. Some students expressed disapproval at her decision to take time away from her duties as Deputy First Minister and Cabinet Secretary for Infrastructure in order to visit the Gilmorehill campus.
Ms Sturgeon delivered a speech outside the library outlining the work the Yes campaign on campus has been doing. Patrick Harvie, co-convenor of the Scottish Green Party; Cat Boyd, a trade union activist; and Alan Bissett, author of Boyracers, also spoke at today’s rally.
Nicola Sturgeon believes the mock referendum gives Glasgow University “the chance to set the pace”, and was pleased with the amount of interest students have been taking. She said: “I think this is really interesting and important. Any campaigners on either side who said they’re not interested in the result is lying. You’ve got to keep it in context and keep it in perspective.”
Sturgeon continued: “I’m not saying that what happens here on Thursday either way will tell us what’s going to happen in the referendum. The demographic is different, we’re 18 months out and the turnout remains to be seen. I think we will all have to keep it in perspective. It will be very tempting for whichever side wins. If we win you will probably hear me saying on Friday that it’s really significant, and it will be a boost, there’s no doubt about it – but it’s not going to help us predict what’s happening in the referendum next year.”
Among those that feel it was inappropriate for Ms Sturgeon to be on campus today is Debbie White, Secretary of Glasgow University Labour Club and Better Together campaigner. She said: “I think it’s strange when the economy is languishing that Nicola Sturgeon thinks this is the best use of her time. This referendum is for students and its outcome will be decided by students.”
Callum Courtney, a second-year Business and Management student, agreed that Ms Sturgeon should not have been involved with the campus mock referendum. He said: “I can’t believe that Nicola Sturgeon is on campus today campaigning in a mock student referendum. As the minister tasked with improving the economy you would hope she’d be here at a jobs fair or working to improve graduate prospects. But no, it seems the SNP’s separation obsession will drive even the Deputy First Minister to come and campaign in what is a student election.”
Ms Sturgeon defended her decision to visit campus today in order to talk to campaigners. In response to the criticisms, she said: “If people don’t have anything better to do than make those silly criticisms then that’s their problem. Taking half an hour out of my day to come along and show support for a really good student venture, putting aside what side of the campaign I’m on. I think is perfectly appropriate, and I’m quite comfortable being here. For me, it was important for my role in the overall campaign to come along and show the students my support this week. These students will be really important in the campaign over the next 18 months so I think it’s important to give them every support we can.”
The GU Independence Referendum is due to take place on the Gilmorehill campus, as well as the Crichton campus, in Dumfries, this Thursday.