On January 1st this year many of the right-wing papers ran headlines to the effect “Watch out, immigrants about” as legislation came into being allowing Romanians and Bulgarians to work legally in the UK. Two years ago, local press in St Andrews ran pieces about the use of a cap on Houses of Multiple Occupancy licenses to limit the number of students living in central St Andrews, who were driving rents and housing prices up. Both fear stoked by the Daily Mail, and that presented by the St Andrews Preservation Trust are born of the same feeling: good old-fashioned xenophobia.
Students on the whole wish to live at the epicentre of the action, where they can get a foot-long, a pint, and a library book all in the space of 5 minutes, lest they miss any more of the Jeremy Kyle show than they absolutely have to. The fact that this means living in the centre of one of Scotland’s more historic and idyllic towns is a great bonus, and something which most students cherish. Furthermore, St Andrews attracts the very best students from all over the world, often with high levels of disposal income, meaning that the average rent of central properties is high because there are, remarkably, those out there willing to pay the extortionate prices. It is simple supply and demand.
Students are not the only ones for whom the centre of town is the promised land though; proximity to the golf course is incredibly desirable for any golf shop, hotel or similar business dependent on the golf industry which fuels part of St Andrews’ economy. The larger part of the economy however, is propped up by the student pound.
Why are we so desperate to live in town when a mere ten minute walk can get you far better value for money? Simply put, we do not feel wanted. It is pretty rare for students living outside of the centre to have a relationship (much less good one) with their neighbours, for the simple reason that the perceived feeling of “townsfolk” toward students, thanks to various edicts from clueless councillors and ludicrous public bodies, is one of animosity. We don’t want to live on Pipeland Road, because you don’t want us there.
So we are driven to South Street, Market Street, and North Street, to find a flat where the people next door are happy to have us round for drinks at Christmas, or smile at us when we pass in the mornings. When we get there, we find that we have to pay £500 per month for a drafty, poorly-kept cupboard above a chip shop, because there is so little supply compared to the endless demand of thousands of students looking to escape the cold shoulder of the “Badlands”.
I am happy to admit that some students can be a pain; the University and the Union have a number of protocols in place to ensure that troublesome students are dealt with quickly and fiercely. (The only such recourse available to students with misbehaving neighbours is the police.) However, the majority of us would just quite like somewhere pleasant to live in a town we truly love.
Some residents might as well put signs up saying “No dogs, no students”. There is no effort or desire to integrate students into St Andrews, not even give them the chance to live where they want to live. There is fault on both sides, but at present those who wish to eradicate students from St Andrews need to accept that we aren’t going anywhere, and that they need to give us a chance.