Glasgow & West Scotland

Glasgow University students resume Hetherington sit-in

Protest pictures
Image caption Unprecedented scenes of unrest took place on campus on Tuesday

Students have re-occupied a Glasgow University building which was cleared on Tuesday amid unprecedented scenes of unrest on campus.

Up to 15 students were evicted from the former Hetherington Research Club after a seven-week occupation in protest at cuts designed to save £20m by 2014.

After a protest developed, police deployed at least 40 officers.

Student leaders accused the university and police of heavy-handed tactics - a charge the Strathclyde force denied.

Amid chaotic scenes at the university, hundreds of students gathered outside the Hetherington building to protest at the eviction.

'Frankly ridiculous'

University management said the majority of protesters had previously agreed to leave and that those remaining were endangering plans to redevelop the building for academic use.

As the protest developed, police were called in and by mid-afternoon on Tuesday, the Strathclyde force had a significant presence on campus.

The deployment included at least 40 officers, more than a dozen vehicles and a police helicopter, prompting the "heavy-handed" claims from student leaders.

Strathclyde Police said any suggestion its response was disproportionate was "frankly ridiculous".

A force spokesman told BBC Scotland that three people had been arrested in connection with the eviction.

Once the Hetherington building was cleared, more than 100 students marched on the main building, with some trying to force their way into the area housing the principal's office.

A significant number later occupied the Turnbull and Melville Rooms.

Senior university staff then struck a deal, allowing the students to re-occupy the Hetherington in return for them leaving the administrative building.

The university now finds itself back at square one, with an unwanted re-occupation, after a day of damaging scenes of campus unrest.

Image caption Students have now re-occupied the Hetherington building

Tuesday's events also prompted dozens of academics to openly condemn the university's handling of the events as "excessive and unnecessary".

David Newall, the university's Secretary of Court and Director of Administration, has now written to students briefing them on the events that unfolded.

He said "that it was not for the university to determine what the police presence should be, and the police themselves have responded to the criticisms" of heavy-handed tactics.

Occupation 'control'

Mr Newall said he had authorised the students' return to the Hetherington in return for them vacating the main building.

His letter states: "As an alternative, I have agreed with the students that they may return to the Hetherington Building and continue the occupation.

"I will discuss with them how they will exercise a system of control over those entering the occupation space.

Image caption Police said accusations of heavy-handed tactics were "ridiculous"

"I will also give them an assurance that the university will not ask police back on campus in respect of the occupation unless in future there is a serious public order issue."

Tommy Gore, president of the Student Representative Council, said the university had handled Tuesday's events "incredibly badly".

"There was a great opportunity lost for a peaceful conclusion to the original sit-in where both parties could have been seen to have gained," he said.

"The fact that the university was not prepared for the response it got yesterday, strikes me as ludicrous.

"A considerable amount of time has now been lost dealing with these events and their aftermath, rather than focusing on the cuts the university wants to make and how they will affect students and staff."

Mr Gore said he was due to meet with university management on Wednesday and would be calling for a "full inquiry" into Tuesday's events to ensure there was no repeat in the future.

The university confirmed it would hold a "full and thorough internal review" into the events.

A spokesman said: "Yesterday afternoon a group of student protesters forced their way into the main university building and occupied a central area.

"After discussion with university management it was agreed that they return to the Hetherington Building and continue the occupation.

"We are pleased that this happened in an orderly fashion. Discussion between the protesters and the university is continuing."

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