I love coming to SNP conference in Inverness; it was the first one I came to in 2003, so I always associate it with that first time and the excitement I felt then. It was really something to be a young activist in the Eden Court, knowing that I shared a belief in independence with so many others. The party remains full of bright, committed, friendly people, and I think it’s one of the SNP’s greatest qualities.
Being in the SNP is being part of a family. Even as I write this blog, on a laptop at the foot of the stairs in the old Bishop’s Palace part of the Eden Court, everyone’s been stopping to say hi and play with Alexander (aka Baby Nat) – Alex Salmond paused before his press interview to say hello (and has since come back and chatted about Casablanca), Auntie Nicola came to compliment him on his shoes, John Swinney was came and played a while with Percy, but Angus Robertson’s magic ear trick was sadly rebuffed. He's going to try again tomorrow!
It was in this friendly vein that Nicola’s speech began with by wishing Allan Angus – a fantastic activist I got to know living in Aberdeen – a very happy 78th birthday, and promising the twinkle-toed charmer a dance at tonight’s ceilidh. Her sincere thanks to activists for their hard work over the years was equally as warm and genuine.
I love to hear people talk about independence and the way that it motivates and inspires them. It’s different for everyone. There’s been a real focus in speeches today on independence as a means of bettering future generations – doing well by our children and their children. Alex Neil spoke of his renewed enthusiasm (not that it needed renewing!) since becoming a grandfather.
Nicola spoke of the aspirations of working class families, who can be sure that their children will make it to University without being inhibited by fees.
I was speaking to a very proud mum in my ward last week, whose daughter is now in second year at Uni. Her eyes were shining with joy, telling me how well she’s getting on. I’m just delighted to be part of a party that values free education.
I was glad to hear Nicola speak about how much more we could do with the full powers Independence will bring:
“Independence means no longer having to watch our national wealth being squandered by Westminster governments.
"Independence means having an economic policy suited to our needs, with increased capital investment supporting and creating jobs.
"Independence means having a welfare system that can tackle the scourge of child poverty. It means not having to put up with Tory policies that will consign tens of thousands of our children to a life of deprivation.
"Independence means deciding for ourselves whether to send our young men and women into conflict. And it means knowing that we need never, ever, again be dragged into an illegal war.
"Independence means getting to decide our own priorities.
"And, delegates, independence will mean no longer having to put up with the obscenity of Trident nuclear missiles on the river Clyde.
"Delegates, Our case for independence will be based on the simple but powerful belief that, as a country, we are better placed than anyone else to take the right decisions for our future.
"That with the talents and skills of our people, and control over our own resources, we can build a more successful, prosperous and socially just country.
"It's a message of empowerment and responsibility. A message of hope and possibility.”
This, as delegates, we already know in our hearts and our heads. I’m just loving taking that message out on the doorsteps, and those I’ve spoken to the doorsteps have been keen as well.