Students fined after complaints over ‘shock tactics’

A student with the offending sign.
A student with the offending sign.

Two students have been fined - after holding up signs stating “F*** The Poor” in the middle of St Andrews.

Police were called to Market Street on Saturday afternoon after complaints.

The two were wearing sandwich boards and it is understood it was intended as a shock tactic to raise awareness of the public’s attitude towards poverty – and that they were also later displaying signs for a children’s charity.

The stunt echoed a similar experiment by a poverty charity in London which sent a man out on the streets with an identical sandwich board. He was taken to task by passers-by over the offensive message but was ignored when the sign was turned to say “Help The Poor” and asked for donations.

Police Scotland said fixed penalty tickets were issued under anti-social behaviour legislation.

The incident was debated on social media after a photo was posted on the Overheard in St Andrews Facebook page.

Patricia Robertson accused the students of having “no respect, consideration or tolerance of anyone’s opinions except their own” and Ruth Wood branded the stunt “lazy shock tactics”. However, Kerry Douglas said: “The point of the ‘experiment’ is that they’re trying to show how more people will retaliate when these opinions are shown, but less will interact with the sign holder when they are seeking help for the poor/homeless/charities.”

Neil Scott, director of communications at the University of St Andrews, offered an apology to anyone who was genuinely offended by the stunt. He added: “It is also debatable which is more offensive – the public display of a common swear word, or the fact that we have people driven to beg on our streets and more families than ever before in Fife and across Scotland relying on food banks to survive.”