Scottish students affiliated with the British Conservative Party have apologized for burning an effigy of U.S. President Barack Obama.
A figure depicting Obama was reportedly set on fire by members of the University of St Andrews’ Conservative and Unionist Association during the past weekend.
Matthew Marshall, president of the Association, told BBC: “President Obama is an important ally to the British Government. It was a stupid thing to do and we apologize for any offense caused.
A spokesman for St. Andrews said: We are aware of reports of this incident and have asked to meet the society president to discuss the very understandable concerns which these reports have raised. Until that meeting has taken place it would be inappropriate to make further comment.
James Mills, a former chairman of the university's Labour society, criticized the students behind the effigy-burning.
I can't imagine any other student activists of a major political party would behave in this manner,” he said, according to BBC.
It's disgusting and I hope the Conservative Party and the prime minister completely come out and condemn this obscene act. The last thing a truly modern party should be doing is burning an effigy of anyone let alone the first black president of the USA, one of our closest allies.
Some local politicians have also blasted the students.
John Park, Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, told media: This is gravely offensive and way beyond a student prank. Thousands of young people yearn for the chance to study at such a prestigious institution and they will be amazed to see that those who have been given that opportunity behave like this.”
Park, whose constituency includes St. Andrews, added: These [students] need to spend some time in the real world. Burning an effigy of anyone is offensive, let alone the first black president of the United States. The overtones are deeply unpleasant. I hope the Prime Minister, Ruth Davidson and the Conservative Party take action against their activists. It is simply unacceptable.
Student organizations have tried to distance themselves from the prank.
St Andrews Students' Union said those who participated in the effigy burning don't represent St Andrews students.
The Student Representative Council said in a statement: As students we believe in political debate, with engaging those who disagree with us and that all students at St Andrews have a valid opinion to contribute. While it does not violate any laws, we believe that the burning of political or public figures in effigy can be an act of hate, stifles productive engagement and can be offensive. We believe that St Andrews students should hold ourselves to a higher standard and actively demonstrate that we are ready to engage with and respect the opinions of others. As such we deplore the burning in effigy of political or public figures regardless of sex, race, political persuasion or any other distinction.
Despite the round of apologies, the same student association has reportedly burned effigies in the past of former UK (Labour) Prime Minister Gordon Brown and former South African president Nelson Mandela.
Even Mills himself was burned in effigy once.