WHEN Lewis Beck arrived at the University of Aberdeen from North Ayrshire in 2020, he encountered a uni without pro-indy representation.

The Aberdeen University Scottish Nationalist Association (AUSNA), active since the 1930s, folded during the pandemic. Thanks to Beck and like-minded students, it returned after a two-year hiatus.

“We started in September 2022,” Beck told The National. At the time, the 21-year-old Spanish and International Relations student was on a mandatory year abroad in Granada.

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Seeing Brexit’s impact first-hand encouraged him to participate. His time abroad comprised of “visa difficulties, leaving fees, and paperwork”.

Through word of mouth, the society gained enough members this spring to organise a committee and become student union affiliated.

After conversations with the wider SNP Students, Beck was appointed AUSNA president until the next committee vote in 2024.

He has big plans but before any activism Beck’s focus is “giving AUSNA a stable foundation, so we won’t have a repeat of what happened during Covid”.

He said: “There’s definitely demand. The disaster that has been the Tory government has hit students hard, including the terrible economic situation. Brexit is affecting us too –we can’t go on Erasmus.”

Regarding Labour, Beck added: “There’s no alternative at Westminster. The Labour Party is edging further and further right, going back on policies to stop the privatisation of the NHS.

“They’ve gone for a hard Brexit and they’re in coalitions with the Tories in some councils which, a few years ago, would have been unthinkable.

“Young people are stuck between a rock and a hard place, and the only way forwards is independence.”

The Conservative Society is the largest political society at the Uni of Aberdeen, followed by Labour. Beck hopes to attract both young Scots and international students to AUSNA at Fresher’s. He believes Scottish independence needs international support to succeed.

Besides campaigning for independence, Beck envisions AUSNA as promoting “Scottish culture and heritage”. He said: “I love ceilidhs. I’d love to do a few with the society or partnered with the Scottish Dance Society. The main goal is always independence, but it’s good to show the world what Scotland stands for.”

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On his time in Spain, Beck compared Catalonia’s independence movement to Scotland’s: “The central Spanish government has always said ‘no’ – they’re not willing to engage, which I think is quite similar to the UK.”

Beck’s final message to young, pro-indy Scots facing the same challenges as himself was: “Just jump in and be persistent. Independence is here to stay, it’s just about fighting for it.”