SECOND-YEAR politics and business student Dante Lopez became president of SUSNA, Stirling University’s Scottish Nationalist Association, in May 2022.

In an exclusive interview for The National, he told me about his work and student life in Stirling.

Like many university societies, SUSNA is “still recovering from Covid”. Lopez said the main question for his presidency has been: “How do we build back to where we were three years ago?”

That doesn’t just mean membership. He said: “At universities across Scotland campuses have really been depoliticised since Covid.”

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All the lock-ins, protests, and political action, once common at “the university that booed the Queen”, have disappeared since 2020. As SUSNA’s leader and in conversation with other political societies at Stirling, Lopez hopes to “get the fire back”.

Thanks to the hard work of Lopez and vice-president Zack Niven, the society is close to this aim. “We’re in a much stronger position than we were”, Lopez said, “although there’s still work to do”.

With 15 new members since term began, SUSNA now leads the “Support Students” campaign to offer financial aid during the cost of living crisis.

As Stirling Student Union’s housing officer, Lopez also helps students struggling to find accommodation.

Lopez credits local MP Alyn Smith as key to SUSNA’s post-pandemic success, sayinf: “He’s great, he really supports us and does a lot for us.”

Lopez describes the society as “forward-thinking”. At their latest AGM, society members voted to support the Scottish Government’s Gender Recognition Reform Bill.

This progressiveness has made SUSNA a target for alt-right Twitter trolls. Lopez recounted a recent conspiracy circulating that SUSNA, was the “hub of the Wokerati”, controlled by the Scottish Government.

“Sadly, I don’t have the First Minister on speed dial,” he joked, before adding, “I don’t think woke is a bad word: it’s something most people are.

“It’s just being a good person, not judging people … and being socially aware”.

On the topic of independence, Lopez is hopeful. “With the way that recent polling’s going, I think we’ve got a real chance” he said.

“I’ve spoken to so many students and there’s a real buzz about independence, a real feeling that people want it. It’s quite exciting really.”

But to achieve “a free and progressive Scotland”, Lopez argues, a strong student voice is essential.

“We’re the next business leaders, the next scientists, doctors, paramedics, nurses, so we should really have a say in the way an independent Scotland is formed,” he said.

He finished by urging the young people of Scotland to “read as much as possible, and not just from the big newspapers.

“Talk to people … see what they’re saying … and come to your own conclusion.”