The Glasgow University Students’ Representative Council (GUSRC) has agreed a campaign spending limit which will apply in all future GUSRC elections. Candidates for any of the four sabbatical positions will be permitted to spend a maximum of £200 on their campaign, with candidates for non-sabbatical positions being limited to £50.
In previous elections, candidates have spent several hundreds of pounds on getting elected to Council, with one candidate for president notably spending money on Facebook advertising.
Morag Deans, the GUSRC gender equality officer, who proposed the spending limit, said that it will prevent spending in future elections from ‘snowballing’. She said: "By introducing spending limits, we can prevent harm to candidates seeking to overinvest in campaigns, stop potential candidates being dissuaded on financial grounds, and create greater onus on the SRC as an institution to engage with the wider student body".
According to a tweet from the GUSRC, however, Mhairi Harris, the charities, clubs and societies officer on Council, said: “that people who worked hard should be able to spend as much as they need for a position.” She added that a spending limit would encourage people to spend right to the limit. Max Sefton, the president of the Queen Margaret Union (QMU), who also attends Council, responded that a spending limit has been in place in QMU elections and that most candidates “spend under the limit”.
Lauren McDougall, the students with disabilities officer, replied that she knows people who do not run for positions because they know that they cannot afford to do so. She suggested that the spending limit would make GUSRC elections more “accessible”.
Candidates for non-sabbatical positions will not be required to submit their receipts unless a complaint is made against them regarding how much money they have spent on their campaign. Candidates for sabbatical positions, however, will be required to submit their receipts as standard practice during an election campaign.
Concerns were raised over the proposal to give the returning officer the discretion to punish candidates who exceed the spending limit, but it was highlighted that giving the returning officer this much power had never been an issue in election misconduct cases before. It was also noted that the returning officer in QMU elections had never abused this power, and there was a “general consensus that this was a non-issue”.
Sefton told the Glasgow Guardian: "I'm in favour of campaign spending limits because I think unlimited spending discourages talented students from getting involved out of fear of being drawn into a spending arms race. I think that £200 for SRC sabbatical officers is still quite a high ceiling but I know that some sabbatical candidates have spent far more in the past and I was pleased to see provisions put in place for lowering the spending limit in the future."