A favourite family film is Mary Poppins and, from an early age, my daughters have marched around the house singing “Sister Suffragettes” without understanding the story in the film. Now slightly older, their awareness of the struggles faced in previous generations is developing and they’re currently moaning that they’re too young to go and see the new Suffragette film that is out. The beginning of the week had seen my middle child and I visit London for a few days and during the obligatory Westminster tour, she was delighted to see the broom cupboard in which Emily Davison hid overnight to allow her to vote and the broken statue where Marjory Humes had chained herself. We owe so many women for the freedoms that we enjoy today without a second thought and things improve still; First Minister seems an entirely normal career path choice to my daughters in a way that it certainly wasn’t to my generation.
Something that sticks in my mind from London is the surreal experience of passing random SNP members in the street before remembering that there were actually an extra 50 working down there as MPs since my last visit. Wednesday night saw us return on the sleeper to Inverness before Eilidh was collected by her father to allow me to jump on the next train to Aberdeen for National Conference. Upon arrival in Aberdeen, I was soon joined by some young delegates who had spotted my SNP badge and, between us, we managed to work out how to reach the AECC!
I was struck by the size of conference this year, both in terms of attendees and layout. HQ and the AECC deserve much praise for ensuring it apparently all ran smoothly. Last year’s conference arena this year held the exhibition stalls alone with this year’s arena self-contained in its own building. The large dining area outside this with several catering units was a welcome sight and as all the women there will happily attest to, there were more than enough toilets! It is a difficult situation to be in for the Party; on one hand conference feels too large and you were constantly sending “where are you?” texts to friends but the bigger venue allows more people to attend, more exhibitors and simply, more space to move around in. It was great to have a catch up with old friends that you haven’t seen since the previous year as well as meet new ones and in my case this time, I was glad to finally put faces to email addresses.
Resolutions were varied and two of the most relevant ones to our area resulted in vote counts. The moratorium on fracking resolution initially looked a lot closer than what it turned out to be but the resolution was carried with the following resolution on the land reform bill being remitted back. Other resolutions were carried easily and I enjoyed listening to many northern voices on the renewable energy access resolution. Up here in the highlands, islands and north east, we have to pay an additional 2 pence on each unit of electricity that we use due to being “remote” – the irony of our area producing most of the power which then has to be transported south is entirely lost on Westminster and the power companies.
Sunday saw the Women’s Conference and we were treated to some inspiring and thought provoking speeches by Mhairi Black, Angela Crawley, Tasmina Ahmed Sheik, Shona Robison, Joan McAlpine, Flag in the wind’s Clare Adamson and not forgetting George Adam.
An updated SNP website was also launched at the weekend with videos from prominent members sharing their thoughts. The SNP MSP Candidate for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross, Gail Ross, was one of these chosen and I was surprised how long it actually took to film the edited version. Filming took place on a typically dreich Caithness day and Peter McNally has worked his magic to ensure Wick looks as special on the video as it does to the locals. My children are overjoyed with their starring roles due to a completely chance encounter on the way to Brownies later on in the day!