Credit: University of Glasgow

Glasgow’s new rector announced, voting figures and more

By Jacob Skipper

The Honourable Lady Rita Rae has been voted in Glasgow’s next rector.

The Honourable Lady Rita Rae, has been elected as Rector following the election on 21-22 April.

The Rector is expected to represent the interests of the student body at meetings of the University Court, which has in recent years been supported by offering surgeries for students to air their concerns.

The election was between the following: Junaid Ashraf, a recent University of Glasgow alumni and SNP councillor in North Lanarkshire; John Nicolson, an MP and former journalist, as well as a University of Glasgow alumni graduate; and the Honourable Lady Rita Rae, a lawyer and former Senator of the College of Justice, with a long record of work mentoring Glasgow Law students.

Lady Rae received 765 votes in the first round, and 896 in the second round. Nicolson came second with 596 votes in round one and 751 in round two, while Ashraf was eliminated after the first round with 409 votes.

In the rank choice system used in the election, votes from eliminated candidates are redistributed among those who remain, according to voters’ alternative choices in order of preference. 

The total number of votes cast was 1,803, from a current student population of 33,282, equivalent to roughly 5.4% of possible voters. This is significantly lower than the numbers for the last election in 2017, won by Aamer Anwar, which saw 8,210 votes cast.

Lady Rae has a long history here in Glasgow, graduating from Edinburgh in 1972 with an honours degree in law. She apprenticed in Glasgow as a solicitor and soon became a partner of a leading criminal law practice, later recalling that she was “the only female doing criminal work in Glasgow on a full time basis.”

She says law is something that is “in her blood”, having a grandfather who risked his life as a lawyer from Naples during the rise of Mussolini, who risked his life in speaking out against facism. This resulted in his daughter, the mother of Lady Rae, being excluded from school due to his political views. Lady Rae says the principles of honesty and integrity taught by her mother was one of her greatest gifts.

During the 80s, she was briefly involved in the Glasgow Bar Association committee before joining the Faculty of Advocates as junior counsel, one of only 13 female members at the time. In her time at the bar, still working predominantly on criminal cases such as the “ice cream war trial” in 1984 where six had died as a result of a deliberate fire raising. She became a Queen’s Counsel, followed by her appointment as a full-time Sheriff in Glasgow a few years later.

Her continuing association with the University of Glasgow dates from around this time, when she began a series of talks at the University’s Department of Continuing Education on the role of the court in child protection, as part of the training of Children’s Panel members.

Among later appointments looking at the broader criminal justice system, including her membership of the Sentencing Commission for Scotland and the Parole Board for Scotland, she has also sponsored youth outreach initiatives and mentored University of Glasgow law students during their later studies.

Her career has culminated in a full-time role as Senator of the College of Justice and a seat as an Upper Tribunal Judge presiding over immigration and asylum appeals – work which she found “fascinating” – before her retirement last year.

In recent years, Lady Rae has presided as judge over a number of highly publicised cases, such as the Alexander Pacteau case in 2015, who murdered 24-year old Glasgow Caledonian student Karen Buckley; the Tanveer Ahmed case who murdered shopkeeper Asad Shah in Shawlands in 2016 and John Leathem who murdered 15-year old pupil Paige Docherty in 2016.


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Lady Rita Rae is a judge, not a lawyer.