With the upcoming general election on 12 December fast approaching, the two leading candidates to be MP for North East Fife, Stephen Gethins of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Wendy Chamberlain of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, have, in response to enquiries by The Saint, been outlining their plans for St Andrews.
Each candidate was invited to respond to a series of locally orientated student-focused questions, determined through consultation with various student groups.These included, amongst others: gender equality initiatives, the ongoing Kenly windfarm saga, and the rising private rental costs in St Andrews. Finally, additional comments concerning wider national policies were also welcomed.
Concerning local student-led gender equality initiatives such as Got Consent, Mr Gethins stressed how important he believed they were and paid praise to University students who were leading such groups. In addition, he emphasised the need for a culture shift surrounding the topic and said that, as an MP, he would have a role to play in bringing such a shift about in tandem with current student-led, University-orientated efforts.
Mrs Chamberlain also welcomed the initiative and drew parallels with her former work as a police officer, saying that she welcomes any violence-reduction initiative that reduces crime and increases a collectivised sense of investment in identifying and preventing possible offences. She also stressed that, if elected, she would be the first ever female MP for North East Fife, which would contribute to increasing diversity across politics, which she described as critical.
When asked about the importance of environmental projects, such as the Kenly windfarm, Mrs Chamberlain said that “the Liberal Democrats are committed to tackling the climate change emergency by generating 80% of UK energy via renewables by 2030.”
She noted that whilst planners will decide in response to individual projects, she is eager to increase the renewable energy generated locally to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2020, a pathway set out under a Labour/Liberal Democrat Scottish Executive.
On the other hand, Mr Gethins emphasized his role as vice chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Climate Change Group as evidence for his ambitions relating to climate sustainability. With respect to the Kenly wind-farm project, he said that he had been in contact with the MoD, but was limited as to what he could tell us.
He was, however, keen to stress that he would advocate a move away from a language of challenges concerning the environment to one of opportunities based around the University’s research in the area.
Thirdly, considering rising rental prices in St Andrews, Mr Gethins emphasized that University-led property expansion needed to involve the town to achieve a sustainable way of supporting residents, saying he favours an organic, rather than top-down, approach to the issue. He also noted the SNP’s record for promoting sustainable housing, pointing out that since 2007, the Scottish government has built 87,000 new social and affordable houses.
Mrs Chamberlain said in response to the same prompt that “it is great to see the University investing in more student accommodation in St Andrews, as this investment should make the marketplace more competitive and consequently reduce cost.”
She did, however, add that she would seek to monitor the current HMO policy in order to determine how effective it is in achieving its objectives.
Wider national policy
With regards to wider national policy, both candidates stressed their opposition to Brexit. Mrs Chamberlain stated that “there’s no better deal for the St Andrews economy than the one we currently enjoy with the EU as a member.”
Equally, Mr Gethins described Brexit as “the biggest threat to education and future opportunities for all of us.”
Mrs Chamberlain, however,stressed that the Liberal Democrats represent the only party in Scotland who are both pro-UK and pro-EU. She also emphasized the local importance of this position, saying that “given the number of students from other parts of the UK that attend St Andrews, we want to ensure that the current close relationship that we have with our nearest neighbours is maintained.”
In a similar vein, Mr Gethins emphasised the locality of Brexit, with its potentially damaging effects on the Erasmus scheme, saying with respect to the scheme, “Why would I vote to take away opportunities from students of today that I myself had?”
Alongside their pledges, the candidates are both strongly encouraging students to register to vote by the 26 November deadline.
Equally, both encourage students to get in touch should they have any further enquiries. Also running in North East Fife is the Conservative candidate Tony Miklinski, and the Labour candidate Wendy Helena Haynes. The Saint would welcome their response to the issues raised above. The University will be staging an elections hustings, open to all students, on Monday 2 December at 7:00pm in the Buchanan Building.