Brig takes its role as the University of Stirling’s student newspaper very seriously.
When it comes to Union Elections, for example, we opt to stay neutral. Interestingly, there aren’t any rules we’re aware of in our own constitution, or in the Union’s, or in any other regulations we’ve seen, demanding we stay neutral when it comes to electing our sabbatical officers.
But we do it anyway, because we believe that in the case of Union Elections it’s our job to inform as best we can – not to persuade. Because we’re part of the Union, and it would be unfair of us to back one candidate over the other.
However, we’re not a broadcaster. We’re not bound by rules of impartiality. We’re a newspaper and a news website, and when it comes to matters of huge national import, Brig is happy to get off the fence.
Tomorrow’s referendum on EU membership is as big as it gets.
That’s why Brig is urging Stirling students to vote Remain tomorrow.
Stirling’s is a proudly international campus, with talented students coming here to study and research not just from within Europe but from all over the world.
How many international students do you know? How many students do you know who have taken part in the ERASMUS programme, spending a semester or a whole year somewhere new, breathing in new languages, cultures and experiences? How many international lecturers have taught you?
ERASMUS is built on the idea of student mobility within Europe, facilitated by freedom of movement within the EU.
The benefits of what ERASMUS and programmes like it give us – not only the students who take part but the student body, and student bodies across the UK – is incalculable.
Sharing culture and experience and language is at the heart of what academia and the noble endeavour of learning is. It enriches our lives as students, it opens our worlds up, it helps us connect with and learn from people we might never have met otherwise.
But it’s more than that.
It seems impossible now to imagine there was ever a time when Europe was at war. A Europe where countries closed their doors to others, used violence and threats rather than co-operation and debate to solve their differences, and put up walls to trade.
But they did. For all proud Brexiteers shout “take back control”, the man they would likely consider the greatest PM of all time – Winston Churchill – was a passionate advocate for the European project.
There is a remedy which… would in a few years make all Europe… free and … happy. It is to re-create the European family, or as much of it as we can, and to provide it with a structure under which it can dwell in peace, in safety and in freedom. We must build a kind of United States of Europe.”
– Winston Churchill
Students from across Europe, learning together, learning about each other, working together.
It’s a microcosm of what the EU has brought to European societies as a whole. We trade freely together. We talk. We can move freely within Europe. We pool a small amount of sovereignty so that we can take decisions together on the things which matter most to us in common.
It’s a precious thing, this ideal. And whatever the flaws and mistakes of the EU – and there are several egregious examples – it is worth defending.
The mobility within Europe that allows for EU students to come and study here is the same mobility the Leave campaign insists has stretched Britain to breaking point.
Britain’s full, they say.
This is a nonsense. If public services are stretched, or there aren’t enough jobs, it isn’t the fault of immigrants for having the audacity to come here.
It’s the fault of government for failing to invest. For failing to govern effectively.
The austerity the Conservative Government is committed to has hurt economic growth and starved public services of funds.
They are stretched to breaking point – but not because of immigrants.
The answer is not to close ourselves off to the world. That won’t benefit students at Stirling culturally or academically anymore than it will benefit the country.
It won’t benefit our local economy either.
Speaking to academic and research site The Conservation, Stirling’s Vice-Chancellor and Principal Gerry McCormac pointed out that nearly half of international students in Scotland come from the EU – the highest proportion in the UK.
He explained: “The off-campus expenditure of all EU students is estimated to be worth over £400m per annum, creating and supporting close to 4,000 jobs.
“In a small city like Stirling, this income makes a valuable contribution to the buoyant local economy.”
The economic doom prophesied by the official Remain campaign if Britain votes Leave is exhausting and unhelpful. It’s even more ridiculous coming from David Cameron, given this referendum was all his idea.
But the potential economic downsides of leaving the EU aren’t just limited to less EU students, or less immigrants – who are, after all, net contributors to the economy.
Business, academics and think-tanks are near unanimous – there is no scenario where Brexit benefits the UK economically.
Michael Gove may be happy to scoff at experts, but students should not be.
The primary economic claim of the Leave campaign – that the UK sends £350m a year to the EU every week – has twice been ruled misleading by the UK Statistics Authority.
This is (sort-of) true only if you don’t count the rebate we get back from the EU; don’t consider the enormous financial benefits of a single trading bloc and free movement; and ignore other funding the EU directly contributes to the UK economy.
One example of this is Horizon 2020 – the largest EU research and innovation funding programme ever seen – from which Stirling scientists and researchers have benefited enormously.
There are so many other things to talk about here. Workers’ rights, environmental protections. The subliminal – or in some cases, not-so-subliminal – xenophobia behind the Leave campaign’s arguments on immigration.
But at the heart of it is this: the UK is a sovereign country right now. The UK can raise taxes, wage wars, invest in our economy – hell, we can even invest in other countries’ economies.
Brussels can’t raise your taxes. Brussels can’t take you into a war. Brussels provides us with some funding, some laws and – yes – imposes some restrictions.
But the argument that they are to blame for all our ills and that if only we could “take back control” everything would get better is fanciful.
We’re in control right now – and we’ll be in control tomorrow. We’ll be in the driving seat to ensure the UK stays an outward-looking, internationalist and dynamic country – not just for students here and throughout the UK, and not just for the UK either, but for the principles of peace, co-operation, and trade that Europe is built on.
Not just the trading of goods and services, but of cultures and ideas too.
On Thursday, vote Remain.