Pro-life student group wins right to affiliate at Glasgow University after threat of legal action

Glasgow Students for Life have successfully overturned a decision to deny them affiliation at Glasgow University(Photo: Glasgow Students for Life)

A pro-life student group has successfully overturned a decision to deny it affiliation at Glasgow University after threatening legal action. 

Glasgow Students for Life (GSL) was refused affiliation by the Glasgow University Students' Representative Council (SRC) last November because of its opposition to abortion rights. 

At the time, SRC president Lauren McDougall said the decision had been made to deny affiliation because the views of GSL were "contrary" to the council's ethos. 

"The executive view affiliation as a form of endorsement because affiliated clubs and societies are permitted to use our branding in their promotional material," she told the Scottish Herald newspaper.

"Given the SRC's campaigning on a number of related social issues over the years, including support for the recent Repeal the 8th campaign in Ireland, it would be contrary to our ethos to endorse a society which calls for limited rights for women." 

Affiliation is a necessary step for student groups that want to have an official presence on campus. It also brings important benefits, such as funding, access to meeting rooms, and a promotional booth at the freshers' fair - the biggest event in the university calendar for new students. 

GSL challenged the SRC's decision, claiming that it had discriminated against its beliefs in breach of equality laws and the SRC's own equal opportunities policy.  It further argued that it was unfair to deny pro-life groups the privileges enjoyed by pro-abortion groups on campus. 

Although GSL lodged a formal complaint against SRC, it wasn't until the threat of legal action that the original decision was overturned.

Grace Deighan, President of Glasgow Students for Life welcomed the SRC's U-turn.

"We are grateful that the SRC have decided to affiliate Glasgow Students for Life and we look forward to starting a conversation on campus," she said. 

"We intend to hold lectures and debates, discussing issues such as Abortion, Euthanasia, IVF treatment and other contentious bioethical issues.

"The group's intention is one that is primarily academic, and given that there are other pro-abortion and pro-euthanasia groups affiliated to the SRC, we believe that it is only fair for the pro-life argument to have a place at the despatch box."

Laurence Wilkinson, Legal Counsel for ADF International in London, which was supporting GSL in its legal challenge said: "Freedom of speech is the foundation of every free and democratic society. Of all places, a university is where students should be free to debate and explore ideas, even those with which we may disagree.

"It simply does not work when a students' body 'picks sides' and censors the one with which it disagrees. It is sad that it took the prospect of legal proceedings for the Representative Council to recognize this. We congratulate the 'Glasgow Students for Life' on their new affiliation."