Ex-Ukip MEP barred from talk at Stirling University
Godfrey Bloom had been booked to speak at an event hosted by a student society.
A controversial former Ukip MEP has been banned from speaking at a student event at Stirling University.
Godfrey Bloom, who served as MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber from 2004 until 2014, had been due to give a talk hosted by the university's libertarian society about Scottish independence.
Stirling Students' Union said it had cancelled the event due to a "documented record of the speaker acting in a way which is inconsistent with our policies".
Bloom said he was "bewildered" at the decision and claimed it was a result of his "alternative point of view".
Stirling is one among many student unions to have adopted "no platform" policies in recent years designed to protect students - particularly from marginalised groups - from speakers or groups considered harmful.
The policy has long been criticised by free speech advocates for stifling debate.
Bloom left Ukip in 2014 following a number of high-profile stories revolving around controversial remarks he had made.
In 2013, he was recorded speaking to party activists at a meeting where he described countries that receive foreign aid as "bongo bongo land".
He caused further uproar later that year at Ukip's annual conference, where he was filmed repeatedly hitting broadcaster Michael Crick over the head with a brochure and referred to female party activists who did not clean behind their fridges as "sluts".
The comment had been intended as a joke, Bloom said, but he resigned as a Ukip MEP in the wake of the controversy and served out the remainder of his term as an independent.
Stirling also pointed to an Oxford Union debate in January 2014 where Bloom interrupted a disabled student's speech to ask if he was Richard III, the 15th century monarch who had scoliosis.
Bloom maintains the comment was twisted by the media and was actually a joke about the student's haircut, which he says was taken in good spirit.
'The funny thing is I seem to remember universities as open-hearted, open-minded places.'Godfrey Bloom
However, the university's libertarian society said it had already sought for and been given approval for the talk by the student union in December.
It added that the event had only been called off, around a week before it was due to take place, after a "minority of students" complained to the union.
Bloom said that lots of students at Stirling University had been interested in hearing him speak and described the decision to cancel as "a shame".
He told STV News: "I'm still a bit bewildered by it all.
"Over the last 12 months I have spoken at Cambridge and Oxford and I am still due to speak at Durham and Exeter on the principles of libertarianism.
"I understand there was going to be a full house (at Stirling) - not necessarily all of supporters but of people generally interested in hearing a different perspective.
"Lots of people wanted to come to the event but it has probably been stopped by just three or four. I just think it is a shame."
He added: "The funny thing is I seem to remember universities as open-hearted, open-minded places.
"Demonstrations are in order, questions are in order, even heckling is in order - but actually banning someone from speaking, all because they have an alternative point of view?"
'We're committed to upholding our values of equality, diversity and inclusion, and ensuring our campus community remains welcoming for all.'Astrid Smallenbroek, Stirling Students' Union president
Bloom said the purpose of the talk had been to provide a libertarian economic case in favour of Scottish independence, which he supports.
Libertarianism is a political philosophy which believes in minimal state disruption to people's lives, in terms of rights such as freedom of speech as well as policy areas like tax and regulation.
A spokesman for Stirling's libertarian society said: "We are bemused that this talk was approved by our student union and not found to be in breach of any policy in December, however, was deemed in breach of policy a mere one week prior to the event taking place and only after we began to advertise his visit.
"It would seem like the minority of students who emailed in to complain have pressured the union into cancelling an event on the basis that Mr Bloom's opinion and viewpoints, regarding issues which were not to be spoken about at this talk, may cause offence to some."
He added: "This event was to be held in an enclosed lecture theatre at a time where classes had finished, thus, people were not forced to listen to Mr Bloom's talk and were free to attend or not attend.
"We firmly believe that regardless of Mr Bloom's personal opinions or viewpoint, due to his freedom of speech, he has a right to speak to those who wish to listen."
Union president at Stirling, Astrid Smallenbroek, said: "Stirling Students' Union prides itself on our diverse student community; in background, story and political persuasion.
"We're committed to upholding our values of equality, diversity and inclusion, and ensuring our campus community remains welcoming for all.
"Democratically-passed policy ensures this remains the case.
"In the instance of the cancellation of the proposed event by our affiliated libertarian society, there is a documented record of the speaker acting in a way which is inconsistent with our policies including at a student union event."