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Francesca Di Fazio

Reporter

SRC President, Scott Kirby, endorses divestment and supports the coalition's open letter ahead of key University Court decision.

GUSRC President Scott Kirby has called on students to show their support for the arms divestment campaign as the University Court, whose response is due on 23 June, may decide to take no action.

In a brief statement on Facebook, Kirby, who represented the demands of the Glasgow University Arms Divestment Coalition (GUADC) in the negotiations with the University, has expressed concern over the prospect that the institution may ignore students’ demands to sever financial ties with the arms industry. The Defence Sector Working Group, which the University set up expressly to deal with the issue, will recommend the University Court to take no action over the investment in companies that are arms manufacturers.

“I would wholeheartedly ask all students at the University to support the campaign and help lobby the University to divest - the next few weeks are critical for influencing this and there may never been another opportunity within the next 5-10 years to open up this conversation again,” Kirby said. 

The GUSRC President’s statement came immediately after GUADC, who started the arms divestment campaign in September 2019, shared an open letter asking the University Court to reject the Defence Sector Working Group’s conclusions.

The letter restates the arguments underpinning the arms divestment campaign. In particular, it stresses how notorious byproducts of the arms trade, such as human suffering, human displacement and environmental degradation, jeopardise the University’s own commitments towards equality and social justice.

Another important point raised in the open letter concerns the University’s response to student demands. GUADC reportedly “has felt as though the working group has abdicated its responsibility to represent and seriously consider our position,” especially after gaining access to the minutes of the meetings, the two final sets of which have yet to be made available to GUADC. According to the student group, the Defence Sector Working Group’s argument against divestment, which rests mainly on the humanitarian scope of the operations that the arms industry sustains, is underpinned by an “ahistorical” understanding of Western-led humanitarian intervention.

GUADC also said that there is “a lack of transparency in the interaction between the working group and the greater student body,” and a low degree of student involvement and representation in debating and decision-making aside from the GUSRC President.

Overall, the negotiations between the student body, represented by the President of the SRC, and the Defence Sector Working Group have led to little progress being made. As recalled in GUADC’s letter, the working group, having deemed inadequate the initial parameters proposed by GUADC to identify the companies from which to divest, also rejected the revised parameters: “The working group did not shift in their evaluation of this new definition, a definition supplied by the UK government’s own determination of serious threats to human rights. Such dismissal appears to the coalition to be an endorsement of the inverse."

The final decision on arms divestment is due on 23 June, when the University Court, Glasgow University’s highest governing body, will evaluate the Defence Sector Working Group’s conclusions and GUADC’s argument.



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