The 10 biggest St Andrews events of 2013


The closure of the Byre Theatre – January

byre picture

In January the town was shocked by the sudden closure of the Byre Theatre when funding cuts exacerbated its long-running financial troubles. The five-star venue had regularly hosted national and local arts and music festivals, such as the Fife Jazz Festival and On The Rocks, as well as productions put on by Mermaids and other student groups.

Despite a long-running Save The Byre campaign and funding talks with the Fife Cultural Trust, the theatre is yet to re-open. In November, it was announced that the Byre may host some special events in 2014.

Changes to the AU exec – February

The Athletic Union caused controversy in February when Emily Griffiths, then AU president, proposed changes to its executive committee that would see elected student officers replaced with paid interns. The SRC held a lengthy debate about the constitutionality of the changes and whether to put them to a student-wide referendum, but the vote – initially tied – failed to pass when the Association chair decided such a referendum would be an “over-reach” of the Council.

Despite their significance the changes did not become a major issue in the AU presidential elections in March, and they have since gone ahead under Jess Walker.

Union redevelopment begins – February

The finalised plan for the new exterior of the Students' Association.
Image: Students’ Association

February also saw the beginning of the £12 million Union redevelopment, with work officially starting on March 1. The first phase – the glass exterior and the new cafe and shop space at the front of the building – is nearly complete and the second phase – which will revamp the main bar and add a new pub called Sandy’s – will soon begin. The main bar has already closed.

The Saint issue 171
Issue 171 of The Saint, featuring the first story about Alistair Moffat

Alistair Moffat – March

In March the rector of the University of St Andrews, Alistair Moffat, came under fire by the scientific community for the “laughable” claims made by his genetics company, BritainsDNA. The company claimed to have discovered the grandson of Eve and nine descendants of the Queen of Sheba.

After Mr Moffat threatened two scientists at UCL with libel, the University found his conduct to be “contrary to the principles of academic freedom” and concluded that he was stifling academic debate. The Saint, which Mr Moffat had repeatedly warned about legal action, received praise from the academic journal Nature among others for its exposé and coverage of the story.

Students’ Association elections – March

What should have been a routine set of Union elections caused an uproar in March after Jamie Ross, a joke candidate who deliberately did not run a campaign and promised to spend his budget reimbursement on shoes, came within 174 votes of winning after four tense rounds of counting. If the Union had been using a voting system that counted only first preference votes, such as first-past-the-post, Mr Ross would have won.

In the end the victor was the current president, Chloe Hill, the first female president since 2002.

Tuition fee debate – March, April, November

The national debate over the raising of tuition fees flared up again this year in March when Louise Richardson, principal and vice-chancellor of St Andrews, remarked that £9,000 is “very little to pay”.

Later in the year the Committee of Scottish Chairs, which represents the governing bodies of Scottish universities, provoked the ire of student and teaching unions after it called for the fee cap to be abolished so universities could set their own fee levels.

In November, the vice-chancellor of the University of Oxford sparked the debate once more by commenting that fees should be raised to cover costs, a statement supported by the Russell Group.

Kenly wind farm finally gets approved – October

In October the saga of the University’s wind farm at Kenly finally appeared to come to a close when the Scottish government approved the plans. The University had been forced to appeal to the government after Fife Council rejected the proposals in September 2012. Opposition groups said they were looking into the possibility of a judicial review, but none have yet been lodged.

University staff go on strike over pay – October

Photo: George Flickinger
Photo: George Flickinger

October 31 saw University of St Andrews lecturers and support staff take industrial action as part of a continuing nationwide dispute over pay. The strike, in which around 150 St Andrews staff took part, was followed by another on December 3. The University said it was “disappointed” by the action and has announced that it will give staff the 1 per cent pay rise on offer while the wage negotiations continue.

Union executive committee criticised – November

In November the Union’s credibility was damaged after a Saint investigation revealed that Courtney Lewis, a member of its executive committee, had used her position to influence its decisions for “purely personal” reasons. The investigation also found that the committee had broken Association rules and failed to protect the student targeted by Ms Lewis. The SSC later voted to support Ms Lewis.

600th celebrations come to a close – November

graduation 600
Photo: Maria Faciolince

The University’s 600th anniversary drew to a close at the end of November with a weekend of events including the 600th Finale Ball. The final year of the three-year celebration also involved a cycle relay, a mediaeval mace exhibition and, in September, the honorary graduation of famous figures including Hillary Clinton.


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