Michael Forsyth embroiled in University Rectorship row


Michael Forsyth, one of the favourites running for Rectorship of Scotland’s oldest university, St. Andrews, has become embroiled in a row with opponents who claim he once campaigned against the important powers associated with the position.

Mr Forsyth was part of the Thatcher government in 1989 that wished to enact a controversial proposal limiting the power of university rectors.

The Tory Bill aimed to end the traditional rules granting the Rectors of Scotland’s four ancient universities the automatic right to chair the influential University Court – reversing the historic right guaranteed under the Universities (Scotland) Act 1858.

Those backing the Tory plan had attacked the Rector of Glasgow, Winnie Mandela, who was imprisoned by the apartheid regime in South Africa at the time and was unable to physically attend meetings of the Glasgow University Court.

Mr Forsyth said: “Relying on my memory of events which were more than 20 years ago … I was responsible for this bill, which had included a provision to change the legislation which allowed a Rector elected by the students to chair the court.  This caused an outcry and I dropped it from the bill.”

Students from St Andrews were among the loudest of those protesting against the change eventually forcing the government to back down on the proposal.  Mr Forysth now says he fully supports the Rector’s right to chair the University Court.

However, opponents claim Mr Forsyth’s enthusiasm for the role appears somewhat disingenuous.

With a week of campaigning under way, supporters of Mr Forsyth’s rivals – former footballer Pat Nevin, broadcaster Abeer McIntyre, author Alistair Moffat and Scottish Socialist party spokesman Colin Fox – will no doubt lambast Mr Forsyth on his inexplicable change of mind.

The successful candidate will be announced on Friday evening, the new Rector taking up the post immediately, prior to the formal induction ceremony in the spring.