Aberdeen Uni student elected to city council – find out how students did in the election
Student candidates were put forward by Alba, Aberdeen Labour, the Scottish Conservatives, and the Scottish Greens
By Anttoni James Numminen
Photos courtesy of Anttoni James Numminen.
On Friday 6 May, the votes cast in the Aberdeen City and Shire local elections were counted at the P&J Live centre in Dyce. The results led to Aberdeen City Council’s 45 seats being taken up by 20 SNP, 11 Labour, 8 Conservative, 4 Liberal Democrat, and 2 independent councillors.
Among those elected is a 22-year-old full-time student at the University of Aberdeen.
UoA student Desmon Bouse, who stood for the Scottish Liberal Democrats in the George St and Harbour ward, gained 391 first preference votes and was elected on the 7th stage of counting as per Single Transferable Vote (STV) methods.
This is the first time in years that a full-time student has been elected to the city council, and Bouse, currently, in his third year, has vowed to be an effective voice for students.
But despite students standing for most major parties - the Scottish Conservatives had the most student candidates - Bouse was the only undegraduate student to be elected. The Gaudie interviewed some of the students standing in the election, to find out what running for a council position was like and what they have learned.
In addition to the undergraduate students whom The Gaudie interviewed, two other members of the University community were also elected.
Deena Tissera, who stood for Aberdeen Labour, and has been doing her PhD in public health at the University, was elected as councillor for the Hilton/Woodside/Stockethill Ward. Meanwhile, Kate Blake who until last year was Head of Marketing at the University of Aberdeen was elected as an Aberdeen Labour councillor in the Kingswells/Sheddocksley /Summerhill Ward.
Name/age: Robert Reid, 22 years old
Party/ward: Alba Party in the Tillydrone/Seaton/Old Aberdeen Ward
Votes received: 66*
Robert Reid. Photo courtesy of Anttoni James Numminen.
Reid, who is about to graduate with a degree in politics and international relations, “wasn’t quite sure what to expect” standing for election, “but thoroughly enjoyed it”.
“I made a lot of mistakes, but I learned from that as well in case I ever do stand again, so I know a better programme to go by.”
He says that awareness of his party, Alba, which was founded last year by former first minister Alex Salmond was an issue: “Going round the doorstep, even on polling day, people didn’t know who we were. I’ve increased the vote share from last year’s election, so I think people are starting to understand who we are and what we’re about.”
In April, Reid co-hosted an event on Aberdeen University campus with Alex Salmond which received national headlines after the society that booked the room – the AUSA Golf Club – withdrew its booking as it became aware of "the political nature of the event.”
On students’ reception and response to his candidacy, he said: “Students are a difficult bunch to get registered in the first place, and if they are registered, they’re more comfortable voting at home.”
Referring to the Alba event held on campus, he added: “I guess from that small portion of the student population, they didn’t like us being able to express our right to free speech, but on the whole, I think people were supportive.”
He also dismissed “online trolls” making jokes about candidates’ youth, but said the response was very welcoming in person, regardless of party or electoral support and encouraged other students to get involved, adding: “My party was very encouraging and I’ve not paid a penny to stand here.”
Name/age: Logan Machell, 27 years old
Party/ward: Aberdeen Labour in the Airyhall/Broomhill/Garthdee Ward
Votes received: 627*
Logan Machell. Photo courtesy of Anttoni James Numminen.
Machell, a 4th-year student of politics and international relations, says he decided to stand for election because “I’m an Aberdeen local and I’ve seen the city change throughout the years, sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. I feel if I’m elected, I’m a good local person who knows the area and can implement some positive changes."
On getting involved in party politics, he says it was easy because of the “grassroots” nature of the party and “friendly people”.
He adds that it was “a great experience and would definitely recommend it” to other students, suggesting they get involved in their party or local campaigns “as much as possible”.
Name/age: Desmond Bouse, 22 years old
Party/ward: Scottish Liberal Democrats in the George Street/Harbour Ward
Votes received: 391*
Desmon Bouse. Photo courtesy of Anttoni James Numminen.
Bouse, a 3rd-year history student at the University said it was “great standing in the election and I think people were excited to see young people getting more involved in politics. I think it’s really important that more students do stand for election.
“George St and Harbour is a very, very young ward and unfortunately our councillors perhaps aren’t as young as the ward itself is, and maybe I’ll make a bit of change to that.”
Asked how he felt being the only student candidate that was elected, Bouse said: “I feel absolutely delighted and honoured that so many people lent me their vote and I hope many students did as well.
Bouse says he thinks he won because “a lot of people are used to their vote being taken for granted and I was out taking nothing for granted."
Bouse says he thinks he won because “a lot of people are used to their vote being taken for granted and
I was out taking nothing for granted. I was knocking on doors virtually every day and I think taking that ‘no vote taken for granted’ approach was what led to the approach." Bouse’s campaign team told The Gaudie that they had started campaigning as early as October.
Bouse also said that students were free to contact him: “Students can contact me through any email and I’m available on Twitter and Facebook, I’m very approachable and I’ll do my best to represent students’ interests on the city council.”
On how he’ll manage to balance his studies and work as a councillor, Bouse tells me: “I’ve got my exams coming up this weekend which is gonna be interesting, but I think this year will be an interesting test for me.”
Name/age: Esme Houston, 21 years old
Party/ward: Scottish Green Party in the Torry/Ferryhill Ward
Votes received: 390*
Esme Houston. Photo courtesy of Anttoni James Numminen.
Houston says standing for election has “probably been the best time of my life so far” adding that it has been a “very interesting time” campaigning, knocking on doors and working with charities in the ward.
Houston, a student of politics and international relations, recommends the experience to other students, giving advice for those considering standing for election: “It’s the classic phrase of 99 per cent of politics is turning up to things. The best way to get involved with politics is to come along and be like ‘yeah, I’ll do that!’, you know.”
However, they also say that currently not enough young people are involved in decision making and parties “tend to de-emphasise running younger candidates because they’re worried they’ll be seen as junior by the electorate”
However, Houston says the reality is anything but that, with many voters “excited about a younger, more energetic candidate.”
“Running as a young person you do feel a bit junior, but I certainly don’t feel I lacked knowledge.”
Name/age: Braiden Smith, 22 years old
Party/ward: Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party in the Dyce/Bucksburn/Danestone Ward
Votes received: 341*
Braiden Smith. Photo courtesy of Anttoni James Numminen.
Smith, also a final year student of politics and international relations at Aberdeen University, said it was difficult to stand for election while trying to balance work and studies at the same time, “especially in 4th-year”.
However, he felt it “was a really good experience to get involved” having taken part in campaigning previously though he says "it was very different standing as a candidate” himself.
Smith added that having the support of fellow candidates was particularly helpful when it came to issues around the campaign.
“I was very vocal in getting some of the young candidates we’ve got in the Conservative party today. We have these young people there and if we don’t use them, we really miss out.”
Speaking about the high number of young candidates his party had put forward, Smith cited “good relations with the Students’ Association and the University, getting them involved”.
He adds that “if you get young people involved in any way, then they get interested. It took me a while to want to stand, but I’m glad I did it.”
*Votes received is the number of first preference votes each candidate received in their individual ward as reported by Aberdeen City Council.