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, work within our charitable purposes and our policies.
The OSCR Guidance: Campaigning on political issues FAQs (October, 2017) says the Students' Association can campaign on political issues if:
OSCR say that charities can campaign on political issues to advance their charitable purposes, including during electoral periods, as long as the requirements of charity law, and where necessary electoral law, are met. Charities can distribute information or engage in debate about the policies of political parties or candidates, where these activities are ways of achieving their charitable purposes. This means we could support the housing policy of one party (if the policy improves students’ housing) and the education policy of another, but we cannot support a party as a whole. The main point for charities to bear in mind is that they must be independent of party politics and should be seen to be independent as well.
Our members are GCU students and staff and our Life and Honorary Life members. We can undertake political campaigning, for example taking a position for or against a change in policy or legislation when it affects our members, ie it affects current or future GCU 'students as students' but not if it affects students because they are people in the community like everyone else. We cannot provide money to support campaigns on an issue that 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', such as through our Student Voice, its Sub Committees or through affiliated clubs and societies.
If you are organising hustings the general rule is to invite all the candidates or all political parties campaigning in the election unless there is a clear and objective reason not to, to allow all those attending an equal opportunity to participate and for the hustings to be open to anyone to attend. If you wish to hold a husting then you should consult with the Students' Association to ensure you comply with relevant laws ie Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000 (PPERA) or Representation of the People Act 1983 (PRA). The Electoral Commission guidance sets out more points to consider if you are planning a hustings event. NUS has also produced General Election guide for SUs.
Student Media Groups
The Student Media Groups pay an important role in facilitating debate amongst GCU students. Any issue can be reported on 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.
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 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). Students’ Associations may not donate funds to a political party directly or indirectly. 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 they are allowed to use funds to affiliate to that party, ie you receive something in return for the payment (ie training, resources).
If the students in the society raise their own money through collections they can use this to make a donation.
NUS Scotland Lobbying Act Briefing