Liam Burns, president of NUS Scotland, has announced his candidacy in the forthcoming NUS presidential elections following Aaron Porter’s decision to step down.
It recently emerged that current president Mr Porter would not be seeking re-election this April, making him only the second President since 1969 not to serve a second term. The decision comes amid claims that the NUS leadership has lost touch with the student voice over the issue of tuition fees.
Criticisms of Mr Porter increased after he publicly denounced violence during student protests and was slow to support university sit-ins, at one point finding himself the target of threats of violence at a rally in January.
The announcement that he would be stepping down came just days after his re-election manifesto was leaked, which included claims of a “record breaking year” in the history of NUS.
Writing in The Guardian, Mr Porter said: “The last year has been an incredible one for young people and for the National Union of Students […] As a group we kick-started the resistance to the government’s cuts agenda that came from all quarters. It is a campaign that I am proud to have been involved in […]
“Unfortunately, attempts to discredit the movement by those who stand to gain by splitting us have threatened to do just that and the politics of personal attacks threaten to turn the campaign inward at a time when our resilience must be at its highest.”
Two prominent figures in the National Union of Students have announced they will be standing for the position: Shane Cowen, who is currently vice-president, and Liam Burns.
Mr Burns initially won his place as president of NUS Scotland in 2009 by a coin toss after elections ended in a tie draw. He was re-elected in 2010 with a strong majority.
Mr Burns said: “Since November 10th, we’ve lacked direction. We’ve allowed ourselves to become wound up in painfully insular, divisive arguments […] I am standing because we can no longer afford to waste time arguing amongst ourselves when people across all walks of life are starting to feel the full effects of the government’s cuts.”
Mr Burns, who is in favour of a graduate tax proportional to earnings above a certain threshold, has already received support from Liz Rawlings, president of Edinburgh University Students’ Association. Mr Cowen and Mr Burns are joined in their candidacy by Mark Bergfeld, spokesman for the Education Activist Network and member of NUS’ National Executive Council, and Thomas Byrne, co-founder of ‘Students for Tuition Fee Reform’.