Union President Tash Miller stands up for students at BBC Debate Night

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Students’ Union President Tash Miller and Vice President Communities Jess Reid voiced their concern for students at Stirling’s BBC Debate Night last week.

The event took place on October 5 and saw Dr Philippa Whitford MP, Brian Whittle MSP, Daniel Johnson MSP, Nick Cook and Jo Caulfield face questions from audience members.

As the discussion shifted to rental accommodation and the introduction of a rent freeze across Scotland, host Stephen Jardine turned to Miller in the audience.

Just days after the NUS announced they had successfully lobbied the Scottish government to include students in the rent freeze, Miller said: “Students are some of the lowest earners in this country, and our student loan barely covers rent – if it does.

“Why are students classed as second-class citizens?

“Why are we not automatically included in that [rent freeze]?

“Why do we have to fight to not be evicted from our homes during a cost-of-living crisis?

“Why does the government not really care about that?”

Dr Philippa Whitford, MP for Central Ayrshire, responded to Miller. She said: “Well I think as you say, okay it has taken weeks, but they have listened, so students are being included.”

Miller then interrupted Dr Whitford, asking why students had not been included in the freeze all along. She said: “Students should have been included from the start.

“Students pay rent like everyone else.

“We could’ve been included from the start and spent out time lobbying for more important things.”

In response, Dr Whitford said: “Sure, I mean I think that obviously this legislation was brought in quite quickly.

“It has been pushed through literally this week, in three days, because it is an emergency.

“That can easily mean as a politician that you haven’t thought of all the ramifications.”

The debate then drifted away from students and on to general housing concerns.

Jess Reid voiced her concerns over the lack of financial support for student nurses. Image: BBC Debate Night

Earlier in the evening, Reid raised her concerns about student nurses when the discussion shifted to the NHS. She said: “How can we expect students, especially nursing students, to stay in university when they cannot afford to live?

“When it’s actually easier to drop out and earn some money.”

In response to Reid’s political commentator Nick Cook said: “I went to university and If I wasn’t able to claim the maximum student loan which was available at that time, I would not have been able to stay on and complete my studies.

“Absolutely, I think you need to ensure financial support is available regardless of what they are studying.”

At the beginning of the semester both Miller and Reid met with local MP Alyn Smith alongside Sports President Murray Bushell to discuss the impact the cost-of-living crisis is having on students.

At the time Smith assured that Stirling will do everything in its power to tackle this crisis. However, he believes that it is down to the UK Government to “get serious”.

“Now is not the time for half measures,” he said.

The full episode of Debate Night can be viewed on BBC iPlayer. Debate Night heads to Edinburgh for the next show on Wednesday 12 October.

Feature Image Credit: BBC Debate Night

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