Last of the Westland Whigs

In the late 17th century, the 'Westland Whigs' were the radical descendants of earlier Covenanters who had defied the absolutist rule of Stuart kings in south west Scotland.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Workers and Students of the World Unite!

This is from Indymedia - an alternative radical international news source - I think it goes back to the days of early 90s UK road protests

Save the Crichton Campus
insider | 01.02.2007 21:05
The fight to save the Crichton Campus in Dumfries is ongoing. Here is an overview of actions and strategies launched by students, unions and stuff including a plea for your support.
Latest developments

The situation at the Crichton campus is still in a state of flux, but before exploring events and future options, I should restate some basic background, and recap on events so far:

The Crichton Campus in Dumfries opened in 1998, and is made of predominantly three organisations: Paisley University, Bell College and Glasgow University, with a fourth, Dumfries and Galloway college (and FE institution) moving onto the site in a few years time. Up until 1998 Dumfries and Galloway had no Higher Education provision, and the Crichton Campus is still the only provider in the region. Dumfries and Galloway suffered from demographic, cultural, economic and social problems as large numbers of young people left the area for HE not to return. Also because of lack of provision, Dumfries and Galloway had a far lower than the national average of uptake of Higher education.

The Crichton Campus three institutions, each of which has its main organisational centre outwith the area. Divided up the curriculum between them in order to avoid duplication: Bell College (whose centre is in Hamilton) provide nurse training; Paisley University provide predominantly computing and management courses and Glasgow University provide predominantly Social Science, Arts and Humanities courses and post-grad provision.

However, even at the start the Campus was not fully resourced. There are no sports facilities, no students union or any recreational, cultural or social facilities, there is indeed, nowhere for students or staff to have a hot meal on campus. Despite these appalling weaknesses in social infrastructure, the educational resources are first rate, with live video-linked access to many Glasgow University lectures and access to highly educated, experienced, committed academics on site, and dedicated, knowledgeable support and administrative staff. By all recognised criteria, the University of Glasgow at the Crichton Campus (UGCC) provides educational experiences of very high quality.

The student body of UGCC has a high percentage of students from non-traditional backgrounds, who due to family commitments, or other reasons, are unable to travel further afield for higher education.

According to the main campus at Glasgow University, the Scottish Funding Council (SFC) made indications that they would financially support their involvement in the Crichton Campus, without which it would run at a loss.
The current deficit is, according, to the Principal, Muir Russell, £800,000 which he described as ‘unsustainable’ and as a result on Wednesday January 17th at 6pm, whilst staff were manning an Open Evening he sent an email announcing the planned closure of the campus. It should be noted that the size of the actual deficit has been questioned by the SFC and local MPs, Russell Brown and Alex Fergusson,and Elaine Murray MSP. The phrase ‘creative accounting’ was used.

The SFC argue that as they fund Glasgow University to the tune of £142 million (and made a £2 million profit), the University should find the funds to maintain the Crichton Campus rather than find any additional resources for it. Whilst Glasgow University argues that each sector has to be independently viable. Neither side is willing to budge, indeed the situation suits both parties. The SFC can blame the Principal (a public figure who has little popular support), the Principal in turn can blame the SFC – so both sides can avoid responsibility, whilst the students and staff at UGCC are caught in the middle. Into the mix must be added the Scottish Executive and local council, who also share some responsibility for the campus, who have expressed concern, but so far, have shown little indication of action.

What this means is that there will be no new entrants onto UGCC’s undergraduate degree programmes, and that there will be no provision of the arts, humanities or social sciences for the people in the area. Many of the staff, academic and non-academic are facing redundancy, and the full-time students remaining, whilst having a graduating curriculum are unlikely to have anything like the full range of courses they expected to finish their degree. UGCC has added enormously economically, socially and culturally to a region lacking so much. It is unsurprising, therefore, that there has been enormous popular reaction against the planned closure.

Recent Events
Both staff and students are furious at the closure decision, as indeed are the overwhelming majority of the local population. One local politician is reputed to have stated that he hadn’t seen anything like it since the Poll Tax, in the face of such local hostility, and with elections near at hand, all the min local political grouping are opposing the closure — SSP, Solidarity, Greens, Labour, SNP and (even) the Tories have condemned the decision.

The students have organised four demonstrations so far, one at the Crichton Campus in Dumfries on January 24th, one on the main campus in Glasgow the next day, and two in Edinburgh (outside the Scottish parliament and the SFC) the day after. They also launched a petition to raise awareness in the town, and in the first few days had nearly three thousand signatures. The local newspapers (such as The Dumfries and Galloway Standard) have taken on the campaign, as have local radio.

The staff have supported the students actions. They have held a number of union meetings. The main union, UCU represents the overwhelming majority of academic staff and includes a number of support staff (although there are some who are members of EIS, Amicus, UNISON and two members of the IWW). The local UCU meeting unanimously condemned the closure decision and have lobbied their main branch, the union up in Glasgow. The branch is supportive but by their own admission unlikely to be very effective, concentrating its efforts on speaking to the SFC and Scottish executive rather than pressurising the Principal. The staff have also initiated a letter-writing campaign contacting the SFC, the Principal, Scottish Executive – in particular Jock McConnell and Nicol Stephen (Minister for Life Long learning) and the local council.

Support has been flooding in from elsewhere from past students, from academics at other universities, from local people (and indeed people outwith the region who benefited from some of the events put on by UGCC).
One of the problems however has been the geographic distance between the Dumfries campus and the main Glasgow University, this means staff and students up on the main campus, have little knowledge of what goes on 75 miles away at the Crichton Campus. To this end supportive students and others from Glasgow (mostly, but not exclusively from the Socialist Society and the IWW) have been distributing leaflets explaining the plight of their colleagues down in Dumfries. They also organised a meeting at very short notice on the main campus, at which two Crichton members of staff spoke, and raised £30 (and 2 euros) for the students’ fighting fund.

Future Events
On Friday February 2nd, the students are holding a mass meeting to discuss future strategies. Two members of the Glasgow-based Crichton-support group are travelling down to meet with staff and students.

February 15th – the matter is debated in the Scottish parliament.

Because the relatively isolated geographical region (even the media that covers Dumfries is largely different to that which covers the Central Belt) the situation is desperate, but it is not hopeless. Staff and students are committed to the cause and have large and increasingly active local support, in an area not noted for its radicalism. The assistance from supporters up on the main campus and in Glasgow as a whole has also encouraged protestors in the South West.

How People Can Help
Staff and students are meeting to discuss further ways of intensifying the campaign, and would be grateful for your support and suggestions. In addition, they would be grateful if you would write to the following asking that they reverse the decision with regards to funding for the University of Glasgow Crichton Campus:

Sir Muir Russell,
The Principal
University of Glasgow

principal (at)

Roger McClure
Chief Executive
Scottish Funding Council
Donaldson House
97 Haymarket Terrace
EH12 5HD

rmcclure (at)

To the following we would be grateful if you would ask them to do all in their power to pressurise the responsible bodies to reverse the decision,
and ensure that adequate funding is provided for University of Glasgow at the Crichton Campus

* Jack McConnell - First Minister
The Scottish Parliament
EH99 1SP

Jack.Mcconnell.msp (at)

* Nicol Stephen
Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning
The Scottish Parliament
EH99 1SP

Nicol.Stephen.msp (at)

* Philip Jones
Chief Executive
Dumfries and Galloway Council
Council Offices,
English Street,

* Thomas Sloan
Leader of Dumfries and Galloway Council
Dumfries and Galloway Council
Council Offices,
English Street,

It would also be helpful, following the reports in The Scotsman and The Herald, this week, if letters were sent to them, supporting the staff and students of GUCC.

letters (at)

For not entirely inaccurate press reports of the planned closure see:

There is also a skeleton website at

And the students website (seemingly not updated very often) at:


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