To A Conference Like No Other

This week’s column comes ahead of SNP conference in Perth. I’m not sure how to feel about the normal business of party conference; resolutions, fringe events and the inevitable socialising, because everything prior to this conference had been leading up to the 18th of September. I knew when leaving Spring conference that however we came back together this November, we would be forever changed by our experiences. I didn’t imagine that we would be such a large party, and I hope to see plenty of new faces among the familiar ones.

We have a great job to do as a party to initiate new members, to train them and get them up to speed. I’m sure people didn’t join to sit in rooms chatting to one another; Westminster is coming over the horizon and we will need a fighting force by the Spring. I’ve learned a lot over the years from some great activists; our branch in Shettleston has acquired various tips and techniques over the years. This really needs to be embedded in a training programme to keep all our enthusiastic new members working hard. Speaking to a former Labour Councillor at the weekend, it was clear how demotivated and unhappy lots of their members are; some contrast to the SNP branch meetings going on with over a hundred coming along!

I’m delighted to see that, prior to taking on the leadership of the party and the country, Nicola Sturgeon has been travelling far and wide, engaging with mass audiences that pop stars are more familiar with. How strange to think that she will soon be ‘playing’ the Hydro – the same venue which just hosted the MTV European Music Awards. I’ve not been able to get a ticket, so anyone who’s got a spare please let me know… I saw there were ‘Official Merchandise’ Stalls at these events, so I’m half expecting to hear of ticket touts outside.

The other ‘independence’ news which has dominated my twitter and facebook feeds this week is the referendum in Catalonia. I’m sure others who were there could write in more detail, but since I wasn’t lucky enough to travel and participate as an international observer, my brief comment will have to suffice! Their 81% vote for independence, in a ballot the Spanish Government wouldn’t even permit them to have, produced by volunteers and supported by the people, is truly inspiring. I watched pictures of queues at polling stations, a wonderful picture of a child pushing an elderly lady in a wheel chair, and this marvellous video produced in solidarity with Scotland. The Catalans have yet got a long way to go before they are even permitted to ask the question officially; our time will come too.