And from conference we march…

At National Union of Students national conference 2012 (Sheffield) after a long furious debate session, the motion was passed for a national demo on the streets of London in the new academic term.

A range of other motions supporting College walkouts, outcry on  UKBA’s draconian policy on immigration and heightened activism on local campus issues passed, eventually the phrase coined by the excellent Mark Bergfield was the forthcoming “Autumn of Activism”.

Now many readers and many of my friends in and out with NUS, on my campus and in my workplace, will view the demo as “the students having a moan”, “education cant be subsidised”. “there will be riots”. I can see those criticisms coming, and we have to prepare the counter arguments. Dear readers, originally I was against a demo, even though we brought the government to its knees with still the narrowest policy passed by this government since it took office at the 2010 demo. I openly and regretfully voted against this motion at conference, not because I didn’t want to fight cuts because I do believe in free and accessible education, but because I couldn’t see the benefit. That is the wonderful thing about conference, opinions can be changed and swayed and the right arguments can convince people.

We far too long have been knee jerk and reactionary, and Liam Burns rightly didn’t call a demo last year, because conference voted against it, and we needed time to build up our strength and engage locally.

We have done that across the country the anti-cuts movements and officers alike, volunteers, SABB’s and everyday ordinary students have worked tirelessly on local issues effecting students and campuses. The nations alone have made amazing wins, you only have to look at Scotland’s college win on an 11.4 million pound reversal on funding to see the power we have as a movement.

Quite simply now is the time, there is more to this demo than free education, it is about fighting an ideology, its about youth unemployment, RACIST, YES RACIST UKBA policy that systematically will result in deportation of amazing international students who not only give us richer academic experiences and broaden multiculturalism on our campuses but provide huge economic revenue. Quite simply a quick fix by the tory government to rapidly pull down “immigration” figures and score political points. Youth unemployment, in fact unemployment itself at an all time high, deeper and gruelling cuts, privatisation of not only the NHS but our police force and our public services. An ideological driven agenda that is not aiding this country and right now I do sound like a trot ready to overthrow the government but right now maybe that’s what we need. We can no longer sit around and wait for the vote to be called then march, we can no longer hope politicians stick to pledges, we can no longer rely on parties, or hope labour reduce the fees to £6k. In a week when the trade unions announce ballot for an even bigger walk out in the autumn of 2012 we must stand united and say is enough is enough. We must step up and show students we are leading the fight, that is what we were elected to do, and anything else I know see would be weak on our part in failing the voices of the 7 million students we represent.

Quite simply Education is a force for good, and i’m not preaching that “everyone should go to uni” as many of my friends flip the argument around to say. That is not the case, it’s about stopping loans for people aged 23+ trying to access college level 3 courses and only receiving half the money required for uncapped fees, its about abolishing ANY ATTEMPT at making apprentices having to PAY to go to work. That we must strive to allow everyone a fair and equal chance at education which has retention not just take their money and leave them to fail. It’s about standing up and saying some things are too important, if we do not stand now , then when? And how?

I am an elected officer for NUS Scotland SEC for education.

I am Heriot Watt Student union Exec member for campaigns

I Vote labour and believe in the principles of free education

I am a citizen of this country.

I have a duty, and so does everyone else to make a stand, to lead the charge.

Education may be free in Scotland but £9k fees are something we should not settle for our “comrades” across the border coming to study.

Label me a lefty or a trot if you will (which honestly if you had heard me at conference you’d call me anything but with some of the arguments I had with that particular political movement). But some issues are too important, some issues are so fundamentally core to everything I hold dear I will march, I will stand up on my campus and convince students however I can to mobilise, to have national wide action,as well as local led tailored action, to lead workshops on the importance of it, and stand firmly resolute with the mandate of conference. If we fail to act now then we have signed away another generation to the scrap heap, we have given up when the fight isn’t even over.

This will not be easy to engage our students in the nations, N.Ireland, Scotland and Wales will have difficulty getting students on board when it will feel very much like an HE/FE England bubble, so we must strive to do everything in our power to lead the charge engage students and win them over and make the demo more than what its perceived, public support will be key, the media too, lobbying MP’s who voted against fees to come out in open support and march with us. We must have a cohesive strategy and robust arguements working in tangent with Anti-cuts movement with their phenomenal mobilising strength combined ith the strategy and planning of NUS and the dedication of the officers and volunteers at every level to truly show strength of our movement and win vital public support in our forthcoming campaign.

Most importantly come this autumn we will build a momentum, we will put in place a plan to mobilise and possibly show the world the strength of our movement, undefeated, forward thinking and willing to fight tooth and nail on the ground and then win the arguments about the policy on the floor of parliament.

The H.E bill may have been shelved but it isn’t gone, we must expose its weaknesses.

Finally the most important thing of all, the world will be watching, and we must hold ourselves in higher esteem in our actions and behaviour than that of the betrayal from the politicians and ideology we march against.

We ignited a spark in 2010, and we have fanned a flame, it has burned quietly and flickered these past 18 months, but now we add logs and grab the kerosene to set the stage on fire for something that shall not be forgotten.. As I write these words I become more amped and ready to embrace the coming months, as I mulled over the opportunity we have in front of us, I regret my decision at conference and now fully support the demo, and we must win over all the others who thought what I thought.

The students are marching.

The world will watch.

Conor Murray-Gauld

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~ by conorstrife on April 27, 2012.

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