Equally Safe in Colleges and Universities Core Leadership Group minutes: November 2021

Minutes for the meeting of the group on 30 November 2021.

Attendees and apologies


  • Mr Jamie Hepburn MSP, Minister for Higher Education, Further Education, Youth Employment and Training
  • Fiona Drouet, Emily Test and Nicole Beattie, NUS Scotland
  • Suzanne Marshall, College Development Network
  • Lynn Killick, Scottish Funding Council
  • Jill Stevenson, University of Stirling/AMOSSHE
  • Niamh Kerr, Rape Crisis Scotland
  • Davena Rankin, UNISON
  • Debbie Browett and Daniel McCarron, Scottish Government


  • Natalie Webster, Colleges Scotland
  • Susannah Lane, Universities Scotland
  • Nicholas George Edwards, University of Aberdeen/University HR Network
  • Steven Paxton, Scottish Government

Items and actions

Introduction and welcome

The Minister welcomed Davena Rankin, UNISON, to the meeting.

Minutes of previous meeting

The minutes of the meeting of 5 October 2021 were approved.

Draft terms of reference

Following the previous meeting, Scottish Government officials conducted a series of one-to-one conversations with group members to further refine the draft terms of reference.

The revised Terms of Reference were presented for consideration by the group.

It was agreed that the group would adopt the Terms of Reference as outlined in the paper.

Action: Scottish Government officials to arrange for the Terms of Reference to be published online

Draft strategic plan

Following further one-to-one conversations with group members, Scottish Government officials also made refinements to a draft Strategic Plan, setting out overall aims and key principles that would inform the group’s work over the period of January 2022 to March 2024.

The revised draft strategic plan was presented for consideration by the group.
Nicole Beattie, NUS Scotland, commented that the priority of collaboration should be broadened to include student associations, accommodation providers, and other organisations working to eradicate Gender Based Violence.

Otherwise, the group were content with the scope and content of the Plan.

Action: Scottish Government officials to take the group’s comments into consideration and present an amended draft Strategic Plan at the next meeting.

Police Scotland officer verification process feedback

Police Scotland requested feedback from the group on their new Officer Verification Process. The group’s comments were collated by Scottish Government officials and summarised in a paper.

The group were asked to approve this paper so that it could be shared with Police Scotland.

Group members commented that the paper should include recognition of the welcome approach taken by Police Scotland on the “Don’t Be That Guy” campaign.

Action: Scottish Government officials to include the group’s comments in the final version of the paper and share it with Police Scotland.

Needle spiking discussion

The Minister informed the group that there had been a roundtable discussion on the issue of needle spiking, organised by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice and Veterans, on the 4 November.

Following that meeting, the group were asked to provide their comments on how the reporting of spiking incidents could be encouraged among the student population.

Group members made a number of comments, including:

  • drink spiking was the predominant reported means of spiking, with needle spiking being something that was rarely identified
  • drink spiking was often by the addition of more alcohol rather than drugs, and so was more difficult to identify
  • Rape Crisis Scotland reported that their internal data showed only one report of needle spiking in their last reporting period, and that was a recent event
  • there was a concern that spiking was becoming a cultural norm for young people, with a reported perception of a high likelihood that drinks would be spiked at social events
  • there was no typical venue where spiking was reported as happening, with reports form house parties as well as pubs, clubs etc.
  • there was an identified reluctance to report incidents of spiking, for multiple reasons including:
    1. fear of disbelief based on lack of memory of the incident itself or of subsequent events
    2. fear of not being taken seriously by authorities, and that reports would be dismissed as individuals “just being intoxicated”
    3. uncertainty about procedures and the rights of the victim – such as whether someone could request a blood test without reporting the incident to the police
  • the reluctance to report incidents to Police Scotland or other authorities meant that more informal routes were being used to discuss incidents, with Instagram being one platform that was identified as being regularly used
  • NUS Scotland raised the issue of enhanced security at venues. Their policy was that enhanced security measures often disproportionately impacted on people from black, Asian and minority ethnic communities and that it should not be seen as a routine solution to the issues at hand

Action: Scottish Government officials to collate the group’s comments and share them at the next roundtable discussion on spiking on 8 December.

Date of next meeting

The Minster thanked everyone for attending the meeting.

It was agreed that the date of the next meeting would be 15 December.

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