GCU Students' Association, as a Scottish charity, must comply with charity law and other laws, such as electoral law. This means that affiliated clubs and societies must follow our rules (Constitution), work within our charitable purposes and our policies.
The OSCR Guidance: Charities and campaigning on political issues (May, 2015) says the Students' Association can campaign on political issues if:
Our purposes state that our activities (and therefore our resources) are for our members, who are in the main students at Glasgow Caledonian University, and therefore we must only campaign on issues that affect GCU 'students as students'. For instance, we can take a position for or against a change in policy or legislation if it affects 'students as students' but not if it affects sudents because they are people in the community like everyone else. We cannot provide money to support campaigns on an issue we cannot campaign on ourselves.
This does not mean that we cannot facilitate balanced debates on wider issues which do not directly affect 'students as students', reach an agreed position and represent this position (for instance to the University or NUS), as long as this does not cross into campaigning activity (ie spending money on implementing the decision, that communications are only to membership and informational in tone).
The Electoral Commission: Charities and Campaigning document provides guidance (on page 21) in organising hustings, as charities cannot support or oppose a political party or candidate, or encourage support for a political party.
Student Media Groups
The Student Media Groups pay an important role in facilitating debate amongst GCU students. Any issue can be reported and debated within student media (provided the material complies with legal requirements, such as defamation law), however it is important to ensure that all debates are facilitated in a politically-neutral manner, ie fair and balanced way. Student media groups can communicate the outcome of meetings and positions in a standard, consistent and balanced manner, which does not stray into campaigning. Student media groups can can campaign on issues that affect 'students as students' but it cannot (even if editorially independent), campaign on an issue that does not affect 'students as students'.
Affiliated Clubs and Societies
We must be careful when affiliating clubs and societies that their Constitution meets the Students' Association charitable purposes and to review any potential planned campaigning on political issues.
Party political clubs and societies may be formed and these societies are generally permitted to support the political party it relates to and are allowed to promote political views to members of GCU Students' Association (not members of the public). When political societies receive funds from the Students' Association, they must not use these funds to directly support political parties or candidates (eg hiring a minibus to canvass or by printing literature for the general public) but are allowed to affiliate to that party, ie you receive something in return for the payment.
[Information to follow]
Electoral law applies to spending on regulated campaign activity during the regulated period. Normally the regulated period is 365 days before a General Election and four months before European Parliament, Scottish Parliament and referendums. Regulated campaign activity is regarded as intending to influence voters to vote for or against political parties or categories or candidates, including political parties or categories of candidates who support or do not support particular policies or issues (called the Purpose Test).
NUS: Guidance on Political Activity in relation to Student Unions (December 2014)
OSCR: Charities and Campaigning on Political Issues (May 2015)
Electoral Commission: Charities and Campaigning