A motion to make Students’ Union officers politically neutral has been emphatically defeated at a turbulent General Meeting on Thursday.
An amendment tabled by Alasdair Ibbotson and Astrid Smallenbroek, which called for the central tenets of the motion to be rejected, was passed by a resounding 129-2.
The successful amendment to the motion insisted the Union continue to be allowed to campaign on political issues as mandated by students.
This amended motion – effectively transformed to back the status quo – was passed by 123 votes to two.
Ibbotson was one of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) activists involved in stalling a suspected nuclear convoy by lying in front of a truck in the middle of the road back in September.
The protest action was backed by Union President Dave Keenan in line with Union policy, whose endorsement provoked a backlash which led to the neutrality motion being tabled.
The original motion said: “We seek to uphold the right to demonstration and protest of all political groups.
“However, we do not believe the Students’ Union should be showing official support for any political group or movement within or separate to the university.”
The motion called on the Union to resolve that “all its officials and officers maintain a neutral stance upon all political issues”.
Angry students, who feared the decision to be politically neutral would see the Union not take a stance on issues like women’s rights, gendered violence, free education and climate change, turned out in numbers to make their opposition to the motion heard, with around 150 people in attendance at the General Meeting.
Georgia Hall, who forwarded the pro-neutrality motion along with Adam Petrie, attempted to strike a conciliatory note early in the meeting, saying: “Every individual has an opinion, and every single one of your opinions is relevant, even if we disagree.”
But as proceedings turned increasingly embittered, Stuart McLuckie, also speaking on behalf of the motioners, told the meeting they had had “baseless accusations” thrown against them, including insinuations the motion had been motivated by bigotry.
Early in the meeting, Keenan tabled a procedural motion aimed at delaying the motion until November’s GM, arguing it would give the motioners time to review and resolve ambiguities in its wording.
However, a large majority of students voted against allowing the postponement.
Similarly, an amendment to the motion calling for political neutrality from the Union on CND alone was heavily voted down.
Finally, a procedural motion to move the motion to a full referendum was rejected by around 120 of the 150 assembled students.
All in all, it was a wild one.