Dominic Nolan is a unique case. On one hand, he is an economics and international relations student hailing from North Lanarkshire, Scotland. On the other, Mr Nolan is one of the Scottish Conservative Party’s candidates in the upcoming elections for Fife Council.
When asked about how he got involved in politics, Mr Nolan said that others realized his interest before he did.
“Well, at school I didn’t express much political opinion but everyone kept telling me, ‘Oh Dominic’s a Tory.’”
However, since starting at St Andrews in late 2014, Mr Nolan has participated in various local and national political movements.
“Shortly after that, I helped out with the Better Together campaign, and then I joined the Conservatives. I felt, amongst other reasons, [that] I saw them as the party which was most proud to stand up for [England and Scotland’s] union.”
“I believe that leaving the UK would be cutting off one’s nose to spite the face”
Mr Nolan has worked hard assisting the local Conservative Party during his time at St Andrews.
He said, “I reached out to the local Conservative association and said I would like to help, and that was helping out with Hugh Bell’s campaign for the UK general election. I was unique in these past two years in that every Saturday there seemed to be Conservative campaigning, and I would be the only student to go out most of the time.”
With a smile, Mr Nolan remembered the sometimes difficult task, explaining, “Unfortunately, these events took place on Saturday morning. The bad thing about Saturday morning is it falls after Friday night. I would struggle to pull myself out of bed, but I would get there. That took up my Saturdays for a long time.”
Though he knows much of the local membership, Mr Nolan still had to go through the normal process in order to be selected as a candidate for the 2017 elections.
“Last summer, the Conservatives began their process for selecting candidates for this upcoming election. I filled out an application form and then was interviewed, and last November I went before the local [members] of our association who are residents in St Andrews ward, which I hope to represent. I spoke for a few minutes [and] answered some questions, and they selected me as their candidate.”
Though the Conservative Party is putting forth several candidates for the available seats, Mr Nolan is the only student and is among a small contingency of younger candidates. As far as Mr Nolan can recall, there is only one other Conservative candidate under thirty.
While his student candidacy is untraditional, Mr Nolan takes an opposite approach to his campaign rhetoric.
“First of all, St Andrews and Fife are very unique,” he said. “The University gives this town a unique character which other towns don’t necessarily have. I hope to represent all people in the town, both those who are local residents and the students.”
Directing his attention to student issues, Mr Nolan said, “I am unequivocally the best placed candidate to represent their views. As a student, I’ve experienced problems with housing, as we all have around this time of year. I would seek to improve the University’s relations with the Council on that issue and with the local populace.”
Mr Nolan focused on the HMO ban, which restricts certain properties to housing no more than two unrelated persons, as a flashpoint issue for him and other students:
“I believe the ban is up for review in summer of 2017 and I will be working to see that it is lifted and that we can find a resolution which is appropriate for students and permanent residents,” he said.
“I would hope that, so as to address concerns of residents that there are too many students in town, that the University would seek to build more accommodation so there would be more places for students to go.
If the HMO ban were to be lifted, that would free up more houses for students to live in because you can get more into a flat. Students would be less spread out throughout the town and they would take up fewer homes.”
Mr Nolan explained that, if elected, he would actively work with students in order to fix this and other issues.
“I’ll still be here next year to stay in touch, and I intend to stay on after that. I will make myself available, as I will to all residents, through local surgeries and the like,” he said.
“There’s a survey on the back of my leaflet addressing the greatest concern of students in this town, which is the HMO ban. […] I would encourage all students to take that survey and let it be known what their view on the ban is.”
Mr Nolan tows the Conservative party line as he spoke of his major policy points directed at residents.
“I would focus more on Council tax rates and oppose the Scottish government and their plans for a second independence referendum,” he said.
Speaking about the larger picture, it became clear that the Scottish independence referendum is a keystone issue for Mr Nolan. He is extremely passionate in his opposition to Scotland leaving the United Kingdom, citing it as the reason he became interested in politics.
“I campaigned with Better Together during the first referendum. Since then, the Scottish Conservative Party has led the drive to continue to oppose an independence referendum. Nicola Sturgeon said that it was a once in a lifetime opportunity, but now is saying that a second independence referendum is likely.
The Scottish Conservative Party has organized petitions to hold her to that promise. I’ve been in Church Square helping to distribute that petition and getting signatures,” Mr Nolan said.
“It’s clear Scotland dodged a bullet when they voted no back in 2014. With the collapse in the oil price, we saw how an independent Scotland would have fared very poorly.
We have been together for over 300 years. I believe this is the strongest political union the world has ever seen. For the sake of defense and our economic security, we are stronger together.
I continue to believe that Scotland is better off in the UK. Scotland benefits far more greatly from the UK than it does from the EU. Four times more trade goes to the UK than to the EU from Scotland. I believe that leaving the UK would be cutting off one’s nose to spite the face.”
Though Mr Nolan has strong feelings when it comes to an independent Scotland, he refused to answer when asked about his opinion on Britain’s place in the European Union.
“I don’t want to say what my vote was. I think that’s personal,” he explained. “I did not strongly feel either way and did not campaign for either side. We have now voted to leave the EU, and I will be there with St Andrews students, representing them and believing that we have to make sure that students from the EU get free access and are able to stay students at this university.”
When asked how this would affect his work with other local officials, such as MP for Fife Stephen Gethins, Mr Nolan explained, “I’ve not met Stephen Gethins very often, but from what limited experience I have with him I’ve found him to be a terrific local MP. Despite any political disagreements we might have on Scotland’s future, I have no problem working with him or any other political leaders, and would seek to do so for the best interests of St Andrews.”
Mr Nolan concluded the interview by explaining how he would represent the sometimes differing interests of both students and permanent residents.
“I am not specifically campaigning to either group. I will be campaigning for all. I will campaign for students despite the fact that many of St Andrews students are not eligible to vote and despite that many are eligible to vote and will choose not to. I campaign for everyone.
That is something that I will have to deal with throughout my time on the job, should I be elected. There are very few issues in which you would find unanimous agreement. All I can do is weigh up both sides and consider […] what I believe the majority of [people] want.”
To find out more about about Dominic Nolan’s candidacy, visit his Facebook page, “Dominic Nolan for St Andrews 2017.”
Fife Council elections will take place on 4 May 2017. All UK, EU, and Commonwealth citizens are eligible to vote in the elections. Those wishing to register to vote in Fife can do so by visiting www.gov.uk/register-to-vote.