SNP Conference was quite a busy one for me in my final turn as Convener of Young Scots for Independence. I have turned 26, and therefore have to retire at the YSI's conference next month.
Preparations started early in the week with a marathon baking session of millionaire shortbread, fairy cakes and brownies to sell on our stall. Wednesday evening and Thursday morning were spent in Glenrothes, and conference proper started with the traditional smile and clap welcome to our First Minister on Thursday afternoon.
Young Scots for Independence had a number of resolutions on the agenda, including one on destitution and asylum seekers, a constitutional amendment to move the SNP membership age from 16 to 14 and, the thing that most journos had picked up on, an amendment to a resolution on the Scottish Government's consultation on alcohol.
Bailie David McDonald spoke passionately moving the asylum seeker resolution, followed by equally enlightening speeches by Bob Doris MSP and Anne McLaughlin. Our amendment to the constitution unfortunately failed but not without a fight by Alex MacLeod, a (stylish) 16 year old former Member of the Scottish Youth Parliament, who stood up to the onslaught of party stalwarts Lachie McNeill and Gerry Fisher.
And so to the alcohol resolution. The YSI fought the good fight and lost. I was quite nervous and I wasn't particularly pleased with my own speech in the end, but I thought the other speakers in the debate spoke very well. I wasn't aware that I was being watched even when I wasn't speaking - but according to the Scotsman my tense worried face predicted the outcome! The debate itself was mature, interesting, considered; something the party should be very proud of. I know there were many many people who wanted to speak that the constraints of time didn't allow, and many of them spoke to me afterwards. Thanks all! I was proud of the support the YSI had from delegates, and feel that even though the Minister for Public Health didn't agree, she did respect our participation in the wider debate:
"The Young Scots for Independence have gone about this the right way, by responding to the consultation, in stark contrast to the opposition parties, who carp from the sidelines and couldn't even respond to the consultation."
Other highlights and stresses of conference included Friday night's infamous YSI karaoke (this year subtitled "if you can't sing it, wing it!") which raised the roof an a fair bit of cash to sustain the youth wing and the student wing over the year to come. Huge thanks go to Alyn Smith MEP, and to Christine Grahame MSP for her winning bid for the framed Glasgow East campaign photo montage, signed by Alex Salmond and John Mason. The karaoke was expertly provided by Andi Candoo.
The YSI's fringe event on Sunday morning (the unearthly 8.30am slot) was on the topic "Young People and Driving - boy racers or responsible road users". We've had internal YSI discussions on what could be done to reduce the number of young people killed and injured on Scotland's roads, and we felt it was time to air this wider. We had a good turn out and were delighted to have Stewart Stevenson MSP, whose Ministerial portfolio includes Road Safety, and Chief Superintendent Michael McCormick from ACPOS to present their views on the matter. There was no doubt from the statistics presented that young drivers are disproportionately likely to be killed on the road, and there were followed some very interesting suggestions as to how this situation should be addressed. I'm sure this is something we will be hearing more about.
I'm looking forward to Conference returning to Inverness next year, not least as I'll be able to enjoy it as a delegate, rather than the YSI Convener. It won't be the same, but I guess I'll have to live with getting older!