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Controversial MSP Cancels Appearance

Gillian Martin had been scheduled to deliver a talk at the University on Friday

SNP MSP Gillian Martin

by Natasha Doris

The University of Aberdeen’s Politics and International Relations society has cancelled a scheduled talk with SNP MSP Gillian Martin.

Ms. Martin was booked to come to the university to discuss the shifting challenges of British politics in light of Brexit and the possibility of a second Scottish Independence Referendum.

Her talk was cancelled, however, due to prior offensive remarks written on a blog post by the politician regarding the transgender community.  

The Politics and International Relations Society posted on their Facebook page on Thursday: “When organising the event we were excited at the prospect of inviting a representative of the SNP, given the relevance of their politics within the Scottish Parliament, Brexit and the Independence Referendum …

However, we appreciate that we failed to take into consideration Gillian Martin’s past actions and inflammatory remarks regarding Transgender, Jewish and BAME communities. We fully support the University’s safe space policy and ensuring that no student feels threatened, insecure or unsafe within the university environment or with us as a society and therefore, have decided against providing Martin a platform to speak.”

The move to cancel the talk has been supported by the Trans Forum. The group posted to their Facebook page: “The AUSA Trans Students’ Forum objects to the invitation of MSP Gillian Martin by the Politics and IR Society to talk at the University. Not only would it reflect poorly on the University’s stance towards inclusive policies, but it would directly harm trans students by normalising an environment of hostility and misinformed bigotry. We ask that Martin not be allowed to speak at the University for the Politics and IR Society or for any other function.”

Several students have expressed their dissatisfaction on the issue, however, and have said that the society’s decision is an infringement on freedom of speech.

Student Olivia Cochrane commented on the society’s Facebook post: “Universities should always seek to spark debate, encourage discussion, and provide a platform for ideas to be shared, whether they are the majority opinion or not. Censoring those who you don’t agree with and only platforming speakers with views which match your own does a disservice to education and to societal development.”

Ms. Martin had previously been removed from consideration for the role of junior education minister in 2018, due to the comments posted to her blog in 2007.

Martin commented that “political correctness” had gone too far in higher education, and wrote: “Are we going to see lovely photos in the foyer of hairy knuckled lipstick-wearing transitional transgender laydees being embraced by the principle of undisclosed college or visiting politicians for the press?”

Martin said regarding the decision of the First Minister to remove her from the position: “In a blog I wrote 11 years ago across a range of issues I used language that was inappropriate and offensive. I deleted this blog some time ago precisely because I accepted that it contained unacceptable content – but I recognise that these posts should never have been published in the first place. That is my responsibility and I am deeply sorry.”

Politics and International Relations society member Martin Le Brech has said that the move to cancel Ms. Martin’s appearance was made collectively by the committee in the interest of protecting the transgender attendees at the University.

 “We would like to state that as a committee we came to a collective decision to cancel this event on the basis of ensuring a safe and inclusive environment for both our society members and the students of Aberdeen University. We carefully considered all our options and upon further discussion, decided this was the best choice for us all.”

A representative for the University of Aberdeen has stated that the University did not take a stance on the cancellation of Ms. Martin’s appearance.

“Decisions in regard to speakers at student-led events are made by the organisers, in this case the Politics and International Relations Society, independently of the University.”


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