Glasgow & West Scotland

Edward Snowden installed as Glasgow University rector

Edward Snowden appeared via video link Image copyright Glasgow University
Image caption Edward Snowden spoke at the ceremony in Bute Hall via a video link from Russia

Intelligence whistleblower Edward Snowden has been installed as rector at Glasgow University.

The former US National Security Agency contractor fled from his homeland last May after revealing extensive details of internet and phone surveillance.

The 30-year-old is currently staying in Russia, where he has temporary asylum.

Speaking via a video link from Russia, Mr Snowden said he was honoured to take up the post but could not attend as he was not allowed in the UK.

Addressing about 200 university staff and students in Bute Hall, Mr Snowden said: "I'm disappointed and I must apologise for being unable to attend in person, but unfortunately I've discovered that I'm barred from entering the United Kingdom on the grounds that my presence is considered detrimental to the public good."

He added: "I do think it's fair to say that the election shows the students of this university have a different opinion."

Mr Snowden fled the US last year after releasing tens of thousands of classified documents, including details of phone and internet surveillance, to the media.

His appointment as rector has proved controversial, but Mr Snowden told staff and students it was his intention to serve in the role to the best of his ability.

"Regardless of what the government says, today, now, nearly a year forward, what we are learning is that the public feels something different, the students feel something different," he said.

'Great honour'

"It's my great honour to be given the opportunity by this university, by the students, to serve the public good not only in defence of our public rights, but as rector of this university."

Mr Snowden said that "people have a right to know the policies of their government".

"We may not need to know the names and identities of every target of surveillance on every active operation, but we should know the general outlines and what the government is doing in our name, and particularly what the government is doing against us."

Image copyright Glasgow University
Image caption Edward Snowden addressed about 200 staff and students

Mr Snowden ended his speech by saying: "The idea that we believe in something, that we have to stand for something is what I intend to follow and what I intend to guide my service as your rector."

The rector is the students' elected representative and is expected to serve a three-year term.

Among the rector's key duties are to attend the university court, work with the students' representative council, and to bring student concerns to the attention of university management.

Mr Snowden beat three other candidates to the post - cyclist Graeme Obree, author Alan Bissett and Scottish Episcopal clergyman Kelvin Holdsworth.

He received 3,124 votes in the first round and 3,347 in the second, comfortably beating Mr Holdsworth, who received 1,563 votes.

Mr Snowden succeeds the former Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy.

Previous rectors at Glasgow University include Winnie Mandela and Mordechai Vanunu.

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