By Ashley Husband Powton
The Opening Ceremony of the University of St Andrews instills in the new students a sense of the history, responsibility and privilege that comes with joining a 600 year old tradition of learning. This programme of inspiration includes many a reference to the giants who have studied and served at the institution and in whose footsteps they are about to walk.
The name of one of those giants was conspicuously missing from the Opening Ceremony last week: The Right Honourable Alex Salmond MSP, The First Minister of Scotland.
What University would not wish to highlight that one of their past students was the currently serving Prime Minister/First Minister/President of the country?
Unquestionably, if a St Andrews graduate were now the Prime Minister or President, his or her name would be at the very top of the list of acclaimed alumni and cited as such at every possible opportunity and in the most reverent of manners (the furore surrounding the mere visit of Hilary Clinton this week proves this point).
Why then was at no point during the ceremony attention drawn to the fact that a graduate of the University of St Andrews is the current leader of the country? A leader who, regardless of your politics, is without doubt one of the most successful and significant politicians of our era.
What were the reasons behind the complete omission of any reference to the First Minister of Scotland in the speeches of the Principal, the Vice-Principal, the Deans, and the numerous other prominent academics who took to the stage?
Is the First Minister of Scotland not significant or important enough to merit recognition or be inspiring?
Was it a poorly thought out attempt not to ‘politicise’ the university, reminiscent of Jonathan Mills’ disastrous ban on any independence related content at the Edinburgh International Festival, a decision which has been the target of sustained and intense criticism from artists and members of the wider public alike.
Or was it, for whatever reason, a conscious repudiation of the First Minister?
Quick to sycophantically boast its status as ‘Scotland’s first and oldest university’, perhaps the University should consider how it reconciles this pride with complete dismissal of the First Minister of Scotland and by extension, the nation.
There may not be many Scots, never mind nationalists, at the University of St Andrews, but the ones that are here are watching closely.