Haggis, Neeps and Liberalism #8

It seems impossible to believe, but once again Freshers’ Week is upon us. That most exciting time of year, when fresh-faced school pupils transform overnight into bleary-eyed students – all while scrupulously obeying government guidelines on alcohol use, of course.

It’s a great opportunity to try new things, or at the very least join new clubs and promptly forget about them. It’s also the most important time of year for youth politics.

The vast majority of student activists and party members are recruited at Freshers’ Fayres, so it’s important to have a decent operation to bring people in. That’s harder than it appears – aside from the cost in money and time, you need a strong team of young activists willing to give up their Freshers’ Week to stand at a stall. Fortunately, this year we do.

Liberal Youth Scotland only really got started in November of last year, but since then it’s come on in leaps and bounds. We’ve made policy at Scottish conference, supported equality in the Kirk, and received a lot of favourable media coverage. Now, thanks to Liberal Youth Federal, the Scottish party (particularly the inimitable Andrew Reeves) and the hard work of activists across the country we’re poised to have the best Freshers’ Week in a long time.

We’ve got some brilliant materials and gimmicks to give out, of course, but our policies are even better at bringing students in. Our campaigns this year include opposing homophobia in schools and universities, fighting for science not stigma in blood donation, and holding the SNP to account for their promise to dump student debt.

That last one’s particularly important right now – Lord Sutherland, the former Principal of Edinburgh University, recently made a public statement in support of fees and the Scottish Government’s Council of Economic Advisors recommended they be looked at again. If we’re going to keep education free for everyone in Scotland, we need to hit the ground running and show the Nationalists’ hypocrisy for what it really is. They’ve spent less than 1% of what they promised on education, and their Tripartite group on universities hardly ever meets and has no student perspective.

Together with NUS Scotland, LYS is working hard to make sure students aren’t forgotten when it comes to university funding. That’s why we’re calling for a minimum income guarantee, made up from a combination of grants, loans, and parental contributions, to ensure that no-one has to drop out of uni because they can’t afford it.

It’s an exciting time to be a student in Scottish politics. By campaigning hard I believe we can show young people that only the Lib Dems take students seriously, and make some big gains at the general election. Our target seats in Scotland all have big student populations – the student vote could make the difference.

* Ruaraidh Dobson is the President of Liberal Youth Scotland, and blogs (occasionally) at http://ruaraidhdobson.wordpress.com.

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