Monday 14 March 2011

Conference Weekend


Really enjoyed SNP campaign conference over the weekend - not least as it was in Glasgow so I didn't have the hassle and expense of travel and accommodation! 

It's great arriving at conference, going into the venue to meet so many people you know. The SNP feels like an extended family to me - even though we are now the largest political party in Scotland with over 16,000 members, conference is like a big reunion, full of smiles, hugs, promises to catch up, and the odd dotled old auntie or uncle who you love despite their various eccentricities (I'm naming no names!). 

It's a bit different now I have Alexander - Joe's parents were visiting and they looked after him on the Saturday morning; everyone wanted to know where he was and why he wasn't attending! I put the opportunity to good use to pop around some of the exhibitor stalls, speaking to the Fire Brigades Union, Shelter and Action for Children among others. It's important to get the chance to find out what their key issues are, and to pass on some of the issues going on in my ward.

I also got called to speak on a resolution calling for our Government to re-introduce the policy of minimum pricing for alcohol. I've submitted speakers cards a few times at conferences past, and hadn't expected to be called this time either - so I was a bit surprised to hear Bruce Crawford call my name! I highlighted the issue of Labour in Glasgow City Council being implored by the Director of Public Health to support minimum pricing, but instead doing the equivalent of putting their hands over their ears and going 'lalallalala, can't hear you!'. It still drives me nuts that they would make such an important public health issue into a political football.

Joe dropped Alexander off just before his namesake (joking, really!) got up on the platform for the keynote speech. It was one of the finest speeches I've ever seen Alex Salmond deliver. He presented a real, tangible vision, calling on Glasgow as the former workshop of the empire to create a "new empire of the mind".

"We intend that this nation - this Scotland - researches and develops, constructs and fabricates and then supplies and maintains the new green energy systems that will dominate this century. 

We intend that this city of Glasgow, marine engineers the 21st century just as it once led the marine engineering of the 19th - when ships from the Clyde carried a nation in their hold."

"The green energy revolution in which we are embarked is the right course. It is the right course for Scotland, for Europe and for the planet. We shall be the green energy powerhouse of the European continent and a world leader in many of the key technologies."

Alex also made it clear how little the other parties have to offer, and their narrow,  vested interests; by contrast, we can really speak to and for all of Scotland.

"We speak for the poorest Scots the low paid families and pensioners who have benefited most from our freeze on the council tax and our ending of prescription charges.

We speak for the young delivering the 25,000 apprenticeships that Labour voted against, lowering class sizes and keeping education free

We speak for the vulnerable – we are protecting them with 1,000 extra police officers who have led crime to a 32 year low.

We speak for the aspirational.  The millions of Scots who want a better future for themselves, their children and their grandchildren.

We speak for those who want to start their own business. The small business bonus has cut or abolished rates for 80,000 small businesses. Labour voted against that as well.

We speak for the communities of Lossie and Leuchars who have served this country well and expect loyalty not betrayal in return.

Delegates we speak for all of Scotland and all of Scotland needs the Scottish National Party"

This last part of his speech is almost like poetry, with some great turns of phrase.

We have the best team on the park and we govern for the whole of Scotland.

But politics is nothing without a bigger vision 

In government, much is in the day-to-day 

But you must still keep an eye on the horizon 

On the big prize

For us that prize is independence 

But independence is a means to an end 

That end is a society safe, happy, healthy 

Confident in its skin 

A global citizen acting to help the world where it can 

Because the map makers’ ink is becoming smudged on every border 

Globalism, the rise of the knowledge economy, the big economic changes, the great environmental challenges

All point to a world where the responsibility of the nation 

Is to raise people who are responsible to the world 

And the definition of a nation is a community of people with a shared commitment to their culture and to their children 

By having a strong sense of ourselves 

That allows our new communities from Asia to know what it meant to be Scottish 

And to give them something to join, to be part of 

And that sense of self is built on community 

On the shared value of helping each other out, lending a hand

On a sense that society should try to be as equal as it can be 

That is what we value and what we think is the purpose of government. 

To the rights of the ordinary to triumph over vested interests.
In our capital city of Edinburgh there stands a monument to Thomas Muir and his fellow friends of the people

His memory should cast a beam across the work of every civil servant in the Scottish Government and every Minister – because the monument to Muir and his fellows revolutionaries spikes out of Calton graveyard like a shaft of stony light across from St Andrews House.

And this monument contains Muir's own vision:

“I have devoted myself to the cause of The People. It is a good cause - it shall ultimately prevail - it shall finally triumph.”

And his message was not just for this place, but for every place

For his spirit, for Robert Burn's spirit, Jimmy Reid’s spirit, our spirit,

It is for the common weal.

The rights of man - and of women

And the legitimacy of the ordinary over the powerful

This party has travelled a similar path

This movement, this nation, has been patronized, talked down, told it wasn't good enough.

And yet this party has risen from a few MPs and a land without a parliament, to a Scotland with a parliament, and an SNP government

We never lost the strength of hope - and we fought on to triumph.

But we, in our mix of the national and the international, of the personal and the political, we fought not to govern over people

But for the people to govern over themselves

It is for that reason and that reason above all that we are the Friends of the People of Scotland and for that reason we shall prevail."

I was very proud indeed of Alexander, who sat on my lap, bright, happy, quiet and attentive all the way through the speech. He repeated the trick for John Swinney on Sunday, but was a bit more restless for Nicola. I can only guess it's because he sees Auntie Nicola a lot more often!

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