Clash of the political titans in battle to be new university rector

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POLITICAL heavyweights will battle for the role of Edinburgh University rector, The Scotsman has learned.

The political commentator Iain Macwhirter will go head to head with the Labour peer George Foulkes for the job, which involves representing students' interests in the university court.

Mr Macwhirter, a journalist and broadcaster, is a former politics student of the university.

He vowed to fight for a minimum income of 7,000 for all students.

"Students and staff of Edinburgh University need a rector who isn't part of the political establishment but knows how to deal with it," he said.

"As a political writer and broadcaster I've observed the workings of the influence machine at close hand without ever having been seduced by it.

"I don't follow anyone's party line," he added.

"Edinburgh University was where my career began, as a politics student in the 1970s, and I'm now ready to put something back."

Lord Foulkes, who previously revealed he was standing, said he was very much looking forward to the contest and had already been campaigning with students.

He said: "I was very flattered when a group of students came and asked me if I would stand because I was an undergraduate there.

"I have a very long connections with Edinburgh University and Edinburgh, so I would be very keen to do this.

"Iain is a good candidate and I have a lot of respect for him, however, the thing I can offer is influence beyond what Iain can offer both in the Scottish Parliament and in the UK parliament."

Lord Foulkes is expected to stand down as an MSP at the next election. The post of rector is held for three years.

Edinburgh is unique in being the only university where the staff as well as the students vote to elect the rector.

Adam Ramsay, president of the Edinburgh Students' Association, said he backed Mr Macwhirter for the role. He said: "Iain has the right values and work ethic to make a fantastic rector.

"As a columnist, he has opposed unpopular measures like top-up fees and ID cards, while retaining substantial respect from people across the political spectrum."

The list of candidates will be officially announced next week, and the winner will take up the post in March. The current rector is the former Green MSP Mark Ballard.

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