By Rob McLaren
Strathclyde’s outgoing Student President, Matt Crilly, has been elected President of the National Union of Students for Scotland – after a frenzied final week of campaigning which culminated in an annual conference held online due to coronavirus fears.
Crilly, who was term limited having served two terms as Strathclyde’s Student President, is a familiar face on campus and leaves Strath Union with a long line of accomplishments, including the abolition of graduation fees and successfully lobbying the university to commit to carbon neutrality by 2040.
Matt takes over on a two-year term at the helm of NUS Scotland, succeeding fellow Strathclyde alumni Liam McCabe. McCabe, who was first elected in 2018 and re-elected last year, previously served two terms as Strath Union’s Vice President Volunteering and Development.
Speaking to the Strathclyde Telegraph after his win, Crilly said: “It’s an absolute honour to be elected President of the National Union of Students in Scotland.
“I was elected to build a democratic union, but also, fundamentally, a campaigning union. In my two years as President, I hope to deliver substantial change to students on the ground across the country, so that they know the power of collective organising and the power of a collective union like NUS.”
Among Crilly’s key manifesto pledges is a commitment to implementing free public transport for students, a policy which he has consistently fought for during his time at Strath Union, alongside his incoming successor as Student President, Kayla-Megan Burns.
“A third of students in Glasgow have skipped their class at college or university because they can’t afford the cost of transport into their institution,” said Crilly. “We are dealing with a crisis and we need free public transport for students across Scotland so that everyone, regardless of their financial situation, can make it into their classrooms to learn.”
Crilly also vowed to address Scotland’s growing student mental health crisis and fight for decarbonisation of all college and university campuses, building on the successful model he has achieved at Strathclyde, fuelled by a net zero referendum overwhelmingly backed by students and revelations, published in the Strathclyde Telegraph, that carbon emissions across campus had risen in the past year.
“Fundamentally, I want to build student power and win big for students across the country,” he added.
This year’s NUS Scotland conference took place in unusual circumstances, with attendees asked to participate remotely from their own homes, due to social distancing measures implemented due to the ongoing outbreak of COVID-19 – for which Crilly worked in tandem with the Strathclyde branch of the UCU to demand the suspension of all face-to-face teaching across campus.
The 2020 conference, which had initially been designated to be staged over two days at the Apex Hotel in Dundee, instead featured speeches from delegates via video-link, including an address by outgoing NUS Scotland President McCabe from the comfort of his stairwell.
Now we're on to policy motions, with Student Support the first area under discussion. @_liammccabe_ introduced the motion on Special Support Payments live from his stairwell (escaping a noisy washing machine!) #NUSSCOT20 pic.twitter.com/JALIc5ckDs
— NUS Scotland (@NUSScotland) March 19, 2020