General election 2019

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Lead officer: Liam McCabe, NUS Scotland President 2018/20

NUS Scotland has been an advocate of people using their right to vote since its inception, working with colleagues across fellow nations to deliver voter registration campaigns alongside member students’ unions. During the past decade NUS as a group has often sourced funding to assist with such campaigns or worked with partners such as the Electoral Commission. In 2019 there was a great deal of speculation about a possible general election, so preparations began early in the year, so that as many students as possible could exercise their right to vote if an election arose.

What we did

In January 2019 NUS partnered with the Electoral Commission, creating bespoke Got 5? campaign materials for use by NUS nations, including NUS Scotland, to encourage students and young people to register to vote. Working with fellow officers the NUS Scotland president supported the campaign by recording videos for sharing on social media, websites and in newsletters, with key messages targeting different student groups. He explained why he was registered to vote and why he would be using his vote when the opportunity came.

The success of the partnership with the Electoral Commission resulted in an agreement to continue the relationship if a general election took place and in September 2019 NUS took advantage of freshers and welcome weeks to launch a UK wide voter registration campaign, partnering with the Electoral Commission in preparation for a possible general election.

On social media and on-campus, our president and volunteers were out in force with the #RegisterToVote message, while a NUS register to vote toolkit was produced to support students’ unions with their on-campus efforts.

In November 2019 the president co-ordinated the launch of our #WhenStudentsLead general election manifesto with the presidents of NUS UK, NUS Wales and NUS-USI, followed by campaigning across the country, highlighting our manifesto asks and encouraging as many students as possible to register and get out the vote. This was especially crucial in light of the election taking place for the first time in decades in December and the UK government’s efforts to discourage the student vote.

The president continued to front a social media video campaign and you can check out our #WhenStudentsLead campaign launch as well as some of the action from election day on our Twitter Moments.

What we achieved

A record 2.6 million young people across the UK registered to vote in the 2019 general election, up 85% on 2017. There was also 43% student awareness of the campaign recorded in the January 2020 NUS Student’ Survey. There was also confirmation that the student vote is growing in importance.

The relationship with the Electoral Commission was also cemented with a 20% voter registration conversion rate for leads generated by NUS. 90% of the leads NUS generated were new i.e. people who had not registered to vote before.

What we’re doing now / next

Elections for the Scottish Parliament take place in May 2021, so we will be working with the Electoral Commission again to encourage students aged 16 upwards to register to vote, and to use their vote when the time comes. Many students will be voting for the first time, so we’ll help them ensure they meet all the deadlines and know what each party plans to do to address student concerns.


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