Protests over divestment plans at Edinburgh University

Student society ‘People and Planet’ at Edinburgh University are currently occupying a central management building on campus in protest over issues concerning the university’s divestment from fossil fuels. The protest comes after a remarkably indecisive conclusion to a year’s worth of talks on how to best approach divestment, a matter that has the backing of the majority of students and staff and the public according to a consultation held by the university last year.

According to one People and Planet member, they are angry that the working group, which has been meeting all year to discuss the issue, has reached a conclusion that “essentially commits them to nothing”. The society has been left out of the procedure despite being the catalyst that began the process, and is now demanding proper action, clarity and conviction from their university.

The protesters arranged a meeting with the vice principal of the university, then used this opportunity to occupy the building. The vice principal is the author of a recent article in the Guardian entitled ‘Why the University of Edinburgh will not divest from all fossil fuels’, in which he called divestment an “easy privilege of the developed world”. He concluded that investment may be withdrawn from a few companies “involved in coal and tar sands”, subject to conditions, and that the university will continue to research other ways in which to tackle climate change.

The question on the lips of the protesters, however, is why the university has made the decision “contrary to the will of students and staff” to not fully divest. The University of Edinburgh is resisting what the Guardian describes as a “student-led global divestment movement”, the European branch of which was initiated by the University of Glasgow when it decided to divest £18 million from the fossil fuel industry in October 2014. This proves that it can be done by large academic institutions, and People and Planet will not be the only ones hoping that the pressure to divest eventually becomes too much for the University of Edinburgh to resist.

The protesters are currently in the process of drafting more concrete demands from the university, while media attention increases.

[Callum Price- @calprice28 ]

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