INDEPENDENT NATIONAL UNION OF STUDENTS FOR SCOTLAND
Policy passed at NUS Scotland conference 2022.
What is the issue facing students?
50 years ago, our predecessors within the Scottish student movement made the decision to give up our autonomous Scottish Union of Students in favour of joining the UK wide National Union of Students. This decision was made in the context of a centralised unitary UK state where power was entirely in the hands of the UK Government, as the central decision maker over all areas of policy and control over the Scotland Office.
In 1999 following the devolution process Scotland’s Parliament reconvened, altering the structure of power in the UK and over the last two decades increasingly more decisions, including all decisions relating to education, are made by the Scottish Government.
Scottish Further and Higher Education follows a fundamentally different model from the rest of the UK and the surrounding political context is increasingly divergent from that present at Westminster.
Our predecessors made the right decision for the time in which they led the movement and we have achieved a lot of wins to be proud of as part of NUS UK over the last 50 years, this is a vital part of our history that should continue to be valued.
Devolution has radically altered the UK for the better, allowing different parts of the UK to follow their own path as determined by those who live there, and this has largely protected us from the more problematic decisions made by the UK Government.
Just as Scotland has changed so has our movement, with NUS UK now primarily focussed on issues affecting students studying in England - with the UK President role and VP’s focussed on this - opposed to the devolved nations with ‘National’ Presidents.
Significant reform to NUS UK in 2019, among other things, reduced NUS Scotland to one full-time officer (NUS Scotland President), a smaller staffing cohort, and abolished the Scottish Executive Committee.
Why is this important to us as a movement?
Students in Scotland need an empowered, democratic and fully resourced National Union which can be adapted and shaped to fit their needs directly, as opposed to fitting into a wider organisational structure that is not designed to properly represent their interests.
What would the world looked like if we solved it?
As NUS Scotland Conference, we believe the time is right to develop a new, independent, National Union of Students for Scotland with the full autonomy required to properly addresse needs of all students studying in Scotland regardless of their background.
A newly independent NUS Scotland should not be independent, purely for the sake of being independent, but should instead use its newfound autonomy to develop a new structure and organising model that connects better with students, building our movement from the grassroots up.
A newly independent NUS Scotland should continue to engage productively with NUS UK as our sibling union on matters concerning the whole of the UK, as well as the wider European and global student movements to achieve our common goals.
Ideas for Implementation
1. To establish a committee with representation from all corners of our movement to negotiate the independence of NUS Scotland from NUS UK and subsequent creation of a new National Union of Students for Scotland with a structure fit for the 21st Century, that energises and engages students across Scotland.
2. To continue to engage with our affiliated unions and associations throughout this process, as well as the wider student movement, in order to develop a new organising model to serve as the foundation of the new National Union of Students for Scotland.
Steering Committee note, attached to policy proposal at conference (2022)
Steering Committee: This proposal calls for the establishment of an independent NUS Scotland. It is important to note that, if passed, this proposal would become a policy of NUS Scotland setting an intent and roadmap to an independent NUS Scotland. In order to establish such a body several governance, financial and practical steps would need to be taken both within NUS’ structures and in the creation of a new body. The proposal lays out suggestions for taking this forward. Voters should therefore be aware that passing of this proposal would represent the starting point of a process rather than the end point.
Once policy is passed our elected student officers use this to create a Plan for Action. The Plan for Action is what details what NUS Scotland does and how we win for students. Policy is about what we want to change and why. This proposal included specific actions for NUS Scotland to take on this matter and therefore should not be included as part of the proposal. As a steering committee we think this is still useful information to take to the NUS Scotland President for planning, however should not form part of the main proposal. We have therefore included the below 'ideas for implementation' section which does not form part of the main proposal but includes the suggested actions made by the propose.
Reviewing our position on Scottish Independence
Policy passed at NUS Scotland Conference 2023
What’s the issue and how does it affect students?
The constitutional question around Scotland’s future has dominated Scottish politics for years now. By 2024, it will have been 10 years since NUS Scotland conference decided to take a neutral position on Scottish Independence. This position is therefore long overdue revisiting.
This is a divisive issue and, as a high-profile and influential organisation, the impacts of any position we take could be wide-reaching. Any decision we reach should therefore be determined by a well informed political debate by delegates, underpinned by research conducted by NUS Scotland.
What changes would we like to see in society to change this?
NUS Scotland should undertake research to explore potential outcomes that different constitutional set-ups for Scotland could have on education policy, as well as the wider issues that NUS Scotland campaigns on.
NUS Scotland should ensure that this research is wide ranging and considers the impact of different constitutional set-ups on different groups within the student movement. It should also consider potential impacts to equality, diversity, and inclusion.
The results of this research should then be presented to next year's conference and should help inform a debate on NUS Scotland's position on the matter to be held at NUS Scotland Conference 2024.
Any research conducted should seek to avoid evidence which NUS Scotland considers to be circumstantial.