A Scottish University leader has waded into controversy by declaring her university’s support for the Union. The Prime Minister David Cameron was accompanied on his Olympic Village sortie when he appealed to the rest of Britain to save the Union, by Professor Pamela Gillies, the Vice Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University. Many viewers were puzzled why the lectern used by Cameron bore the name of the university. It was provided by a mini campus the university uses in Brick Lane in London.
The overt campaigning by the vice chancellor will raise alarm bells in the Scottish government as so far academics have expressed views on individual policies and expressed concerns about uncertainties over research funding and fee charging for English students. But no senior university leader has until now declared that they are joining the campaign on either side. The university is funded by the Scottish government so relations may cool. It is a charity so there may also be concern at the regulator about political campaigning.
It is difficult for Gillies to claim it is a personal commitment since she allowed the university to be publicly identified in this way.
This is how the story was reported by Getty Images which sentthe image worldwide: LONDON, ENGLAND – FEBRUARY 07: Professor Pamela Gillies, the Vice Chancellor of Glasgow Caledonian University, and British Prime Minister David Cameron arrive to deliver a speech from the Velodrome on the 2012 Olympic Park to campaign for a ‘no’ vote in Scotland’s independence referendum later this year, on February 7, 2014 in London, England. Mr Cameron said that the UK would be ‘deeply diminished’ if Scotland voted to become an independent nation. Approximately four million people aged over 16 and living in Scotland will be able to vote in a referendum proposed by Scotland’s ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) on September 18, 2014. (Photo by Oli Scarff/Getty Images)
The overt backing for a No vote flatly contradicts statements from Alistair Darling that universities were being intimidated in staying quiet and staff who are currently in dispute with the university will be infuriated that they are aligned so closely with a Tory Prime Minister and the No campaign. It is expected that students will also be repelled at the association.
So Prof Gillies thinks she escapes accusations of bias by saying she will ask other Global Leaders to give addresses. Is she naïve or just not very brainy? If you ask a politician to make an address as part of a programme of speeches you ask him to come to your premises and speak to you in front of your banner etc. You do not “co-host” with the speaker and agree to shift venue to an overtly political venue selected by the politician for his own partisan reasons and in the knowledge that he is about to make his most important intervention so far in a debate that could lead to the end of Britain. She says her previous speaker was Mike Russell. For God’s sake, how do you compare the Education Secretary with the Prime Minister…Is Mike Russell now a Global Leader?
The net result here is that the whole world now thinks her university is backing the Union…the story and image is beamed globally. In fact she is now in a position where she will need to make a declaration that she is not partisan, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
Professor Gillies has been used or has allowed herself to be used and that image – of the Tory PM pleading with the people to appeal to the Scots behind a sign reading Glasgow Caledonian University – will turn into an image for history.
If she wanted to have a series of speakers she should have stuck to the rules. Instead she has made a fool of the university, now known globally as the University of the Union
How out of touch is Alistair Darling? On the day he told the Guardian that university principals were afraid to speak out, Professor Gillies marched out to the rostrum in an empty stadium with our Tory Prime Minister and hosted him making the most committed speech so far for the Union, managing to convey exactly the opposite impression.
This is one of the most intemperate and personalised statements I’ve heard in the campaign in which Alistair appears to be losing the plot. It isn’t the first time he’s sounded like Mr Angry, impatient that people aren’t doing as he says. He has become the personification of the BetterTogether effort…obsessively negative, shouty and low-brow. He was brought in to take the overview, to guide and elucidate. Instead he’s shown us why he didn’t offer himself for Holyrood – he hasn’t got the class.
I sense Jonathan Freedland recoiling from this frothing outburst and elsewhere in the paper says he would probably vote Yes if he lived in Scotland. I suspect Alistair tipped him over. (And we can’t have Scottish politicians acting as if they have power – that’s Alistair’s job and the other self-important Unionists)