By a Newsnet reporter
A Scottish University whose Vice Chancellor officially joined David Cameron at an event at which the PM made a speech urging Scots to vote No, has admitted it will make a financial contribution to the cost of the event but denied backing No.
Controversy is growing after it emerged Glasgow Caledonian University (GCU) Vice Chancellor Pamela Gillies had accompanied the Tory leader as he made a speech calling for people in England, Wales and Northern Ireland to urge friends and family in Scotland to vote No.

As well as having its Vice Chancellor officially accompany the Prime Minister at the event held in the Velodrome at the Olympic Park in London, the University also provided an official lectern with its logo and name clearly visible.

Questioned on whether the event meant the University – a recognised charity – was backing a No vote, its media office issued a statement denying it had taken such a stance.

A spokesman said: “GCU is a non-aligned, politically neutral organisation.  We engage with politicians from all the main parties on a regular basis both directly and through Universities Scotland, Universities UK and the University Alliance.

“Yesterday’s event, which is the first in our Global Leadership series, forms part of an on-going dialogue and engagement across the political spectrum and is aligned to our stakeholder and business engagement activities through GCU Glasgow, GCU London and internationally.”

The statement also pointed to examples of an event it had hosted which was attended by Scottish Government Education Minister Michael Russell.  In November last year, Mr Russell visited the University as the 2013/14 recipients of the Outward Mobility Fund, which is now in its second year, were announced.

Asked if GCU had ever hosted equivalent events to the one at which Mr Cameron had given his speech urging a No vote, the spokesman pointed to an invite which had been accepted by Finance Minister John Swinney.

“At the invitation of GCU’s Glasgow School for Business and Society, Finance Secretary John Swinney made his first major speech on the prospects for the economy in an independent Scotland (at our Glasgow campus).  He was also introduced by Professor Gillies and it was entitled Opportunities for Scotland’s Economy.”

However the revelation that the university will be making a contribution to an event specifically held in order to attack independence, will prove controversial.

In defence of the payment, the University spokesman said: “No public money is used to host GCU business engagement events either in Scotland or in London.”

He added: “GCU will make a small financial contribution to the delivery of yesterday’s event in line with our policy when using external venues.  Any costs involved are funded entirely from commercial revenues.”

The spokesman was unable to put a figure on how much of a contribution the University would make towards Mr Cameron’s speech, saying only that it would make a “modest contribution towards venue-related costs,”.

The speech by the Tory leader called on those people living in the rest of the UK to contact friends and relatives in order to urge a No vote in this September’s referendum.  The move was seen by many observers as a response to recent surveys that have indicated a surge in support for a Yes vote.

Mr Cameron’s intervention brought renewed calls from the Scottish Government for a head to head TV debate between the UK Prime Minister and First Minister Alex Salmond.

Thus far the calls for a televised debate have been resisted by Downing Street.


2014-02-08 17:56

Who authorised this?

Did anyone ask the student body about this contribution?
2014-02-08 18:39

Despite the statement this wreckless move by Ms Gillies cleary looks to be politically motivated. Wonder if Mr Swinney’s event had the same International TV coverage (arranged via NY Times press release).

Someone striving for honours perhaps ? – we’ll have to wait and see.

Most unfortunate episode for such an institution; may backfire.

Wonder if this was a board decision or a personal vanity project ?

Was the Student Association consulted ?
2014-02-08 19:48

It was only “A matter for the People of Scotland” when Cameron and his Labour advisers told him that it was a done deal and that we Scots were far too feart to vote for managing our own affairs (Labour had been working on that for decades).
Now that reality is dawning on the British establishment that we are maybe not too feart,panic has set in and they are desperately trying to drum up support from anyone who is willing to do so.
Not a clever move from this person.
2014-02-08 22:20

Did Messrs Russell and Swinney give televised speeches to the nation on the benefits of independence while standing behind a GCU lectern?

I get this suspicion that some-one is getting their story ready for the dirt-storm which is about to ensue.
2014-02-08 22:49

It doesn’t matter anyway. We’re all doomed, I tell you!

Separate Scotlandshire may be susceptible to space storms, say scientists…/…
2014-02-08 23:32

I am having to remind friends of mine in England to do their ‘Love Bombing’ duty and tell me how much they want us to stay – they of course take the opposite view making the airwaves blue with their suggestions.

And those are from friends, dread to think what enemies might be like. :0)
2014-02-08 23:54

The mainstream media have now blocked all pro Indy posts.

Time for an advert….?
2014-02-08 23:54

Did John Swinney and Michael Russell’s speeches get top billing on BBC ‘national’ and ‘regional’ news throughout the UK?
I think not, and I reckon the Scottish Government should be asking questions, as to why we- the Scottish taxpayers should be funding such highly controversial and anti independence rallies.
Will GCU now host a similar event for Alex Salmond at Hampden Park?
wee e
2014-02-09 00:16

I don’t understand this.
Getting a politician to the University to make a speech to the students about a proposed economic policy, and to take their questions — that I can understand. Its educational value is clear; and it’s also clearly contributing to the university community of ideas, if you like — and particularly of interest to students of economics, I would’ve thought.

But Cameron’s speech was a London press conference staged for an audience that as far as I can gather seems to have consisted of the (London) media; and it conspicuously was not about a strategy of any social or economic policy for the country (either UK or Scotland) : instead it was part and parcel of a purely partisan political strategy, designed to urge partisans of the unionist cause to follow a specific tactic.

How does these exhortations, addressed to the rUK via the media contribute to the education of the Students of Glasgow Cally, who can’t even ask questions?
2014-02-09 00:32

Well done GCU. Opportunities for Cameron to boost the numbers of those intending to vote Yes are to be welcomed. More please.
2014-02-09 00:50

Anybody viewing Cameron’s speech (without knowing the background) will almost certainly believe (because of the logo) that he delivered it at Glasgow Caledonian University and with their approval of the content.

Major error of judgement by a publicly funded institution. Heads should roll.
2014-02-09 08:51

Ms Gillies must be reasonably thick with Cameron to be accompanying him.I would like to know if Gillies asked to be there or was invited.

There is unfortunately a large number of committed Unionists in high positions across the University system, some are Scottish, very many are not.This gives some indication of their likely allegiances.
2014-02-09 10:19

I might plead a special case for all universities. We have free education in Scotland, but funding for research and development is a game where you can’t afford to pick and choose who your friends are. For that reason alone, I wouldn’t expect any University to stick its neck out and pick a side.
GCU on the lectern is curious I admit, but a ringing endorsement for Unionism I am pretty sure it is not.
2014-02-09 12:56

The Scottish Funding Council, and indeed Scottish Government, needs to start asking serious questions about what is going on within this University. Unless Alex Salmond is scheduled to appear on GCU campus in the near-future, the ‘Global Leadership series’ excuse won’t wash. Indeed, given the absence of any mention of it on the University website, it seems likely it’s been concocted at the last minute once the Press Office grasped the magnitude of this mistake.

Who made the decision to co-host the event and what was the precise involvement of various schools and departments within the University? In addition to Principal Gillies, other senior staff were there. For instance, GSBS Executive Dean John Wilson (Further information here: was visible on Channel 4’s reporting of the speech.
2014-02-09 14:00

Professor Pamela Gillies BSc PGCE Med MMedSci PhD FRSA FFPH AcSS Hon FRCPS has an interesting relationship with GCU students and staff, it seems:

Yes, that’s her full list of titles and qualifications – though IMO anyone who lists a PGCE is just desperate for attention.
2014-02-09 19:24

Scottish Universities are in competition for Research and development funding with universities in rUK and elsewhere in Europe and I know for a fact that some R&D; professorial staff are sceptical that they can continue to obtain the same level of funding in an independent Scotland.

The “Scotland’s Future” document does not give them the re-assurances they would like so I regret that they are more likely to vote NO than YES.

A detailed statement from the Scottish Government giving stronger re-assurances would be a very good idea and much appreciated.
2014-02-09 22:04

That may very well be the case Marian, and if so, the universities should make their concerns public.

This however, was not that. This was a blatantly political step to literally provide the Prime Minister with a platform. I’ve not seen or heard any interview with the GCU or it’s vice-principal questioning the Scottish Government on R&D; funding, nor did I hear Cameron ask those very same questions.

Maybe at the same time that GCU do eventually ask those questions, they could tell us whether or not the support full tuition fees ?

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