IT'S 10am on a dreich Friday morning in November, huddled under jackets and scarves students migrate on mass to morning lectures.

Behind a table draped in a ‘Yes’ flag, however, a bitter East Fife wind chills the chills the hands of those more hardy souls who, undeterred by a bit of Scottish weather, stand outside the St Andrews Student Union, eagerly distributing flyers.

These are the stalwart students of the St Andrews University Students for Independence (STAUSFI). With less than three weeks until the general election, the students of STAUSFI know how important it is to make their message heard – especially in St Andrews’ seat of North East Fife as this seat is not only the most marginal seat in Scotland, but the most marginal seat in the whole of the UK.

Indeed, in 2015 it was won by only two votes in favour of SNP MP Stephen Gethins - the first time the seat had been won by a candidate outwith the Liberal Democrats since 1992. With this knowledge in hand, STAUSFI are all too aware of how vital a role their campaigning will play in securing yet another SNP win.

Moreover, in the town of St Andrews, where over half the population are students (granted not all are eligible to vote), STAUSFI are aware that securing the student vote will be a key factor in helping Gethins maintain his seat.

But at the Friday morning table, students and locals alike are engaged in friendly conversation as badges, literature, and stickers are handed out. Reaching out to the entire community is a key aspect of STAUFSI’s campaign as they aim to break down the St Andrews stereotype of “town vs gown”.

In accordance with this, STAUSFI state that they endorse Gethins as they believe that, not only is he the best candidate to represent the university population but is also the best candidate for the town itself. Indeed, STAUSFI have been working closely with the local SNP branch in campaigning for Gethins, and in doing so have not only created a fruitful relationship but have further succeeded in dismantling the stereotype.

The STAUSFI students at the table are keen to promote the fact that Gethins holds the position as the Vice Chair of the Cross-Party Group on Climate Change, as they have found that this resonates strongly with the student population in particular. It is not just his progressive stance on environmental issues, but his ability to work cooperatively with other parties, that makes him attractive to these student voters. The society itself, following in Gethins’ footsteps, works alongside other political societies of the university to achieve common ends, such as endorsing the St Andrews Campaign for Affordable Student Housing that was started by a member of the university’s Labour Society.

The STAUSFI members recount their favourite experiences from their Friday morning campaigning: most involve deconstructing someone’s preconceived ideas about the SNP, while others tell tales of converting those who were radically opposed to the cause into supporters. Many state, however, that simply having conversations with open-minded people is reward enough.

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But distributing literature outside the Student Union is not, of course, all that STAUSFI do: with cheeks ruddied from the winter night, the STAUSFI members head to the cosy sanctuary of their headquarters – the Whey Pat Tavern – to formulate their weekly plan of action. These meetings have led to a variety of initiatives, from hosting a bake sale outside the university’s library to leafleting student halls. The acting president of the society, Harry Stage, informs members of this week’s media interest in their campaign: CNN are seeking an interview with the society - last week it was BBC Radio Scotland. He also informs them of interest from on campus media as well: the student-run radio station is looking for members from each of the university’s political societies to participate in a cross-party interview. But it’s not all serious political activism – a pub quiz is also organised; it is a student society after all!

Harry also states that the most important aspect of the seat’s campaign is simply spreading awareness. St Andrews’ possesses a diverse student body with political societies representing parties from across both the UK and the World. STAUSFI itself is a diverse bunch with members coming from a variety of backgrounds: some come from five minutes down the road, while others are from the Isles of the West Coast; there’s a mix of state and privately educated members; while some are fresh out of high school, others are mature students – all united by their belief in an independent Scotland.

With so many students from outwith Scotland being able to vote, raising awareness of who the SNP are and what they do, has become the largest task for STAUSFI as many of these students naturally possess no or limited understanding of the party. STAUSFI also feel that raising awareness in more general terms is a vital aspect of their campaign as many of the students from out with the UK (such as those from Commonwealth nations), have not been informed that they are even eligible to vote.

However, with an international student body comes international support for the independence movement.

When I first meet Gabriel, a second-year student, he is wearing a badge with the SNP slogan “Abody’s Welcome” written on it. Born and bred in Virginia, USA, Gabriel became interested in Scottish politics during the 2014 independence referendum, and states that his support of the SNP comes from his belief in the principle of a nation’s right to self-determination He adds that since living in Scotland, his belief in what the SNP stand for has only grown. Although he can’t vote, he likes to show his support from the side-lines, becoming involved with STAUSFI after meeting the acting president, Harry, during a Russian tutorial and inquiring about what he was campaigning for outside the Student Union on a Friday morning.

Some international students, however, are eligible to vote.

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One such student is Jack Angus. Jack has a Scottish mother, but like Gabriel, was born and raised in the States. Before arriving in Scotland to study, Jack held preconceived ideas about Scottish independence and believed that Scotland would be better off in the union, even changing his profile picture on Facebook to read “No, Thanks” during the 2014 independence referendum.

However, since moving here to study, Jack has become a strong supporter of the SNP and a member of STAUSFI. Unlike Gabriel, Jack’s support (despite agreeing with the principle) is not rooted in the belief of a nation’s right to self-determination but is, instead, rooted in his belief in the SNP’s policies which he describes as “humanitarian”, “compassionate”, and “socially conscious”. He also stated that his support of the party has only gotten stronger as he observes the party’s response to Brexit; “the Tory disdain for Scotland”; and Nicola Sturgeon’s form of party leadership. In fact, he adds, he recently met Nicola Sturgeon when she opened the Scottish Oceans Institute in St Andrews.

When asked if, as an American, he ever gets funny looks or comments when he espouses his support for the SNP, he says that no one has ever questioned his accent, and that this welcoming inclusivity of the independence movement is simply yet another factor that draws him towards it.

It is easy on those Friday mornings, when shoes become damp from the rain sodden pavements, for spirits to dip. But when a local bus driver toots his horn and waves in support or when a lecturer brings out a box of doughnuts to keep the campaigns energy up, suddenly, once again, the members of STAUSFI feel like they could stand and chat on that street outside the Union for as long as the street is willing to speak to them.

As another day’s campaigning comes to an end in the most marginal seat in Scotland, students and locals alike seek the comforting warmth of the orange glows emanating from St Andrews’ plethora of coffee shops, members of STAUSFI experience their own inner glow in that knowledge that today’s campaigning will take Scotland one step closer to tomorrow’s independence.