MPs enter row over new editor of student paper

The issue of the choice of editor for Aberdeen University’s student newspaper, Gaudie, is to be raised in the House of Commons.

This follows the resignation of editor Mark Highfield, after accusing Aberdeen University’s Students’ Association of editorial interference in the paper, following its decision to appoint a member of the association’s executive to succeed him from next term.

Alistair Carmichael, Liberal Democrat MP for Orkney and Shetland, and Angus Robertson, the Scottish National Party MP for Moray, have tabled a joint motion expressing concern that the association is trying to influence the tradition of editorial independence of Gaudie.

Carmichael said: “We are both graduates of Aberdeen University and believe that freedom of the press is as important in universities as it is anywhere else.”

Highfield, 27, a religious studies student, claimed the AUSA, which publishes the weekly newspaper, had moved to take control following a series of critical reports and editorials against the executive of the student body. He also said it was planning to cut back Gaudie to a fortnightly publication.

“I see this as a bid to exert control and to suppress freedom of speech.

A university paper should be about free debate, free speech and openness. But Gaudie is simply going to become a newsletter for the Students’ Association. It is control freakery.”

Duncan Cockburn, AUSA president, denied claims of censorship. “We estimate our current running costs at about £40,000 a year. That is twice as much as we give to nearly 100 societies in the university and £10,000 more than we provide for our main welfare services. We have to try to balance up these competing demands.

“By no means are we trying to censor freedom of speech or indeed freedom of expression.”

By Hamish Mackay

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