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The Big Brig Scottish Election Survey: NHS, Climate Change, and Equality

Brig reporters recently took to campus to speak to students about the issues that matter most to them, and who they might be voting for at the upcoming election- here we examine our findings.

9 mins read

Last week Brig politics reporters spoke to students to take a closer peek at what issues matter to our students on campus, what Stirling specific issues they are concerned about, and if students are actually planning on voting at all in the election.

A massive 86% of students surveyed indicated they would be voting in the upcoming parliamentary election, with those answering unable to vote due to not being a Scottish citizen or similar geographical hindrance as opposed to political apathy. Whether all 86% of students we spoke to eventually go out and vote will be reflected in the polls, but a clear message of student politicisation is visible.

However, most students in conversation had little idea who they were voting for, conceding that they haven’t looked at the party manifestos yet and should do some digging. When prompted to write down who they thought they’d be voting for, 61% of those who said they were voting in the election wrote SNP, with 22.2% also adding Scottish Greens as a secondary preference.

Julia, a first year journalism and film and media student said, “Independence is extremely important. Scotland should rejoin the EU, so that’s why I’m voting for the SNP.”

Wojtek, a 1st year psychology and biology student told us, “There is a clear message about moving forward from the current crisis, and the SNP really seem to care about Scotland first.”

A second-year student who didn’t disclose their name also said, “Despite the scandal with the SNP, I still believe Sturgeon did reasonably well with COVID and independence is an important issue for me.”

“Anyone but Douglas Ross.”

16.7% of students surveyed who said they were voting in the election expressed support for Labour, with one student definitely voting for their Labour candidate. 2 others suggested their family were historic Labour voters, and that they will read Labour’s manifesto to help them decide, in conjunction with Green and SNP policies.

Ed, a first-year digital media student is voting Labour in constituency and Renew at regional. Ed is voting Labour reluctantly because of their “best position on constitutional issues.”

“I cant stand any of the major party leaders. Nicola lies, the Tories are born liars, Scots Labour is led by a hypocrite. Lib Dems are nice but pointless.”

Despite a lot of student voters not investigating specific manifesto policies, historic voting patterns and general stereotypes and perceptions about parties are as influential as they are in any voting population. Citizens absorb a sense of who they are voting for prior to manifesto policy based on a whole series of factors, including family voting patterns, an awareness of left-wing/right-wing situation, and peer commentary, aside from obviously policies, party performance, and issues they stand for.

It is no surprise then that the biggest issues for students were independence (and worries about Brexit in general), the environment and climate change, and economic recovery post-pandemic.

54.4% of students surveyed indicated that independence and Scotland’s future post-Brexit was a major voting issue for them.

Hannah, a 1st year sociology student asked, “What will happen to Scotland with Brexit? Another indyref is what I’m voting for.”

Most of the aforementioned 54.4% of students expressed a concern for wanting Scotland to rejoin the EU, perceiving independence as a means to achieve this. 17% of students expressing independence as an issue felt Scotland would be better off overall as an independent nation, notwithstanding the EU situation.

Katherine, a 1st year history and English student exemplifies the crossover of independence and the environment as key issues for young people surveyed.

“I’m voting SNP in the first vote, and Greens regionally. For the SNP, I’d like to see more political powers for Scotland, and Nicola has done well with COVID.

“With the Greens, climate change is obviously one of the most important issues, and they are also pro-indy.”

33.3% of students who are voting surveyed expressed that the environment was a massive issue for them with regards to casting their vote tomorrow. The influence of Extinction Rebellion and the prevalence of youth climate strike activism has successfully catapulted the issue of environmentalism amongst student and young voters. However these numbers are perhaps lower than we would anticipate given the prevalence of youth participation in climate strikes etc. Regardless, the environment is still one of the top issues for students surveyed at Stirling for the upcoming election.

Wojtek was particularly concerned about the environment and global climate change, naming his Stirling/Uni specific issue within that ballpark.

“There is a need for a local maritime biologist to take care of the loch in the uni to combat the green-blue algae blooms that are toxic for local animals and to bring the loch back to usability for recreational purposes.”

Stirling University and Hermitage Woods, Stirling (Walkhighlands)
The loch at Stirling University. (Area referenced with algae not pictured.) Credit: Walk The Highlands

27.8% of students surveyed who are voting expressed that COVID recovery and the NHS are their top priority.

Students are eager to see the increased funding of the NHS and an address of backlogs. However, many students have emphasised mental health within this narrative concerning recovery and the NHS. Most political parties are dedicating at least 10% of frontline NHS spending to mental health issues, so they have been listening.

Matthew, a first year journalism student said, “It’s important to look at how people are feeling. Taking into consideration mental health and education are the most pressing demands for me. People should be more considerate to each other in general in this world.”

The most frequent gripe arising from students is that of mental health support on campus, and issues concerning maintenance and other accommodation problems.

Multiple students have cited their concerns over the quality of the accommodation services and the price of renting, accompanied with a perceived lack of mental health support throughout the COVID pandemic.

27.8% of all students surveyed who are voting cited these problems as the main issues affecting them on campus.

Outside of the university, students have vocalised any issues they perceive apparent in Stirling, applicable to Stirling candidates in their jurisdiction.

We have garnered two prominent Stirling-related issues students raised in our data: cycling paths, and bin collection.

22.2% of all students surveyed highlighted an issue with bin collection, with 16.6% mentioning the necessity of having better and safer cycle paths in the Stirling area.

“Bin collections are sometimes sporadic, and at current waste disposal is a problem,” said Mona, a PHD education student.

“Students don’t make this easy on themselves sometimes, littering and using the wrong bins. I’d like to see increased education aimed at students, everyone really, to assist with recycling awareness.

Bin collections need to increase.”

Peter, a third-year journalism student said, “You’re having to start paying for the green bins in some cases. It feels like a Tory policy. This could have adverse effects on ordinary people.”

Whatever issue you feel is most prevalent in this election remember to cast your vote tomorrow on the May 6.

For further voting information, check out Brig’s manifesto guides on all 5 major political parties here to help you decide.

The full data Brig ascertained is available on request if necessary.

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