There’s going to be some passionate debate at Scottish Conference….

The preliminary agenda for Scottish Spring Conference, which takes place in Aviemore from 20-21 April, has been announced and it’s going to be a bit of a cracker.

Sure, there is going to be a bit of motherhood and apple pie – I mean, who on earth is going to vote against a motion regulating the sale of puppies? However, the Scottish Young Liberals have made sure that there is likely to be some intense debate.

The party hasn’t debated abortion law for a while, but with its devolution to the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Conference Committee has, to my surprise, selected a motion for debate. I have to be honest and say I thought they’d find a way not to take it, but it’s there. The SYL motion, Establishing Real Freedom of Choice, calls for safe zones around abortion clinics, funding so that anyone can access abortion, regardless of nationality and full decriminalisation. It stops short of calling for the ending of the requirement for two doctors to authorise an abortion. I perhaps see potential for an amendment there. There may also be a feeling that we shouldn’t be making policy on what has been traditionally an issue of conscience.

The party can be at its best when we discuss motions like this, with thoughtful and passionate arguments for and against. In 2010, there was an excellent debate, which was similarly contentious, on equal marriage. We adopted that policy and that helped build the case for change. 

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Federal Policy Committee Report – 21 February 2018

he Federal Policy Committee met again on 21st February 2018. There was a fairly hefty agenda and the meeting ran for a little over three hours.

Update on Immigration and Identity Policy Working Group

Adam Pritchard, the chair of this group, attended to provide a summary of its work. A copy of the consultation paper which is up for discussion at Spring Conference was circulated. The group is on schedule to complete its task on time and report to Autumn Conference.

Adam said that imaginative policy will be needed to ensure that the paper has a good shelf life after Brexit. A major elephant in the room will be the status of European citizens who want to come and live in the United Kingdom post-Brexit.

The remit of the group was to start from the premise that we believe immigration has made Britain stronger, more welcoming and more prosperous. The group was has also been considering the outcome of the referendum, freedom of movement throughout the European Union, the status of E.U. migrants here and U.K. migrants living elsewhere. It will also address immigration from outside the E.U., public attitudes to migration and the effect of that migration on our community relations and culture, abuse of the immigration system and how best to protect asylum seekers and refugees.

Committee members raised a number of issues including our domestic attitudes to immigration and how we see the world, illegal immigration, those who overstay their Visas, immigration and rural communities, exploitation and our approach to Brexit.

Update on Britain in the World Working Group

Martin Horwood attended the committee to update it on the progress of this group.

The remit of the group requires it to prepare a paper and motion about Britain’s role on the world stage including setting out the issues and problems that will form the basis of our interventions in foreign policy and articulating a positive vision of the sort of world in which we want to live. The issues it has been considering include the sort of responsibilities that Britain should have in the world, particularly post- referendum, how we can achieve the greatest impact with limited resources, a consideration of our traditional means of wielding influence (defence, diplomacy, trade and development) and our soft power.

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Radical, distinctive and quite possibly the start of something big

How do we get off 8%? We’ve been at or around that figure in the polls since well before the 2015 election, and despite our very clear and principled stance on Brexit, we’re still stuck.

Maybe we just need some ‘events, dear boy’. We’ve had precious few parliamentary by-elections, which were the lifeblood of the party’s momentum in the 1960s, 70s and 90s, and we haven’t had the kind of Iraq War issue that puts us on the right side of public opinion and leaves the Conservatives and Labour on the wrong side. But do we just wait for such an event to arise?

No, we have to grasp the nettle and do something, and if you’re going to be in Southport for the Lib Dem conference, please come to a fringe meeting that involves doing just that. It’s only for an hour, and at 6.15pm on the Saturday night before the alcohol starts flowing. But it’s aimed at starting the ball rolling towards the party finding a handful of policies that can define us as a caring, distinctive and radical social force in British politics.

Entitled ‘Radical Liberalism – defining what we stand for’, it builds on a paper Paul Pettinger and I wrote in the autumn, and which was the subject of a piece we jointly wrote on LDV on 27 October. Many of the responses from LDV readers were very helpful, and have helped shape the meeting we’re organising in Southport in association with Social Liberal Forum and Compass.

The two central thrusts of that paper – which are also the two thrusts of our meeting – are that we need to be defined in policy terms, not in relation to other parties, and we need to frame our policies so others who support what we stand for in elections where we can win (and their preferred party can’t) feel able to vote Lib Dem. There is also an implied willingness to work with people of other parties who have a similar mindset to ours, be it pre- or post-election, public or behind-the-scenes. As elections get closer, the media will try to present a Lib Dem vote as a closet vote for another party; we will find it easier to rebut such coverage if we can say ‘We’re clear what we stand for – if you agree with it, just vote for us!’

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And the new Head of Campaigns for Scotland is…..

…..the amazing Paul Moat, who has been Campaigns Officer under former Head of Campaigns Adam Stachura for the past 4 years.

Paul joined us from the North East in the run-up to the independence referendum in 2014 and has never been allowed to leave because he’s such a good campaigner.

Congratulations to him on his promotion.

This means, of course, that there is a vacancy for Scottish Campaigns Officer which is open until 9th March.

You can read the full job description here but if you think you could do any of this sort of stuff, do apply:

We are looking for a strong campaigner who can deliver campaign and election success for the Liberal Democrats in Scotland. The heart of this role is working closely with local staff and volunteers to support the development of local campaigning in our key target areas. You’ll be a confident person, with strong leadership and communication skills and the ability to build strong working relationships. You’ll be a person at ease with the latest online and offline campaign techniques.

Ideally you will have been part of successful election campaigns and will have an strong understanding of what it takes to win.

You will be well organised and able to work without supervision in a challenging environment. A good temperament that allows you to deal with the unexpected is a must. You should be able to drive and have access to a car whenever required.

This role will suit someone who enjoys variety in their work and working with teams with differing needs and levels of development.

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Observations of an ex pat: Gun crime in America

The answer to American gun crime is…. More guns

At least according to Donald Trump and the NRA. In the wake of the Parkland Florida shooting they want  teachers to carry guns.  But why stop there? America’s clergymen – and women—could strap on shoulder holsters.

How about scout leaders? They would look really macho with a pair of pearl-handlers dangling from their hips.

Trump’s latest daft answer to a problem is unsurprising. Every time he faces a problem involving force his knee-jerk reaction is to respond with more force or—at the very least—the threat of more force. North Korea, Iran, Afghanistan, ISIS and now gun crime. Such a reaction does not solve the problem, it only insures that it keeps spiralling downwards, which is why the National Rifle Association was an early advocate of gun control in America.

The year was 1934 when the US federal government moved to ban the gangland weapon of choice—the sawn off shotgun.  Karl Frederick, who was then president of the NRA, was called upon to testify. He told a congressional hearing: “I have never believed in the general practice of carrying weapons. I seldom carry one. … I do not believe in the general promiscuousness of the toting of guns. I think it should be sharply restricted and only under licenses.”

NRA support was crucial in the passage of the first gun control law. But, as you would expect, the law was challenged by gun enthusiasts citing the Second Amendment.  The case went all the way to the US Supreme Court, where, in 1938, it was upheld.

The Justices said that ownership of guns was protected only in the context of the need to maintain “a well regulated militia.” The Founding Fathers did not mean it to be a catch-all right for every individual.

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Mixed by-election results – two good GAINs but two losses

We’ll start with the bad news and disappointment of two losses to the Tories in Dorset.

Hugely popular District and County Councillor Ros Kayes stood down for work reasons. A former Mayor of Bridport, even her opponents admired her. Even with strong local candidates and campaign, we couldn’t hold off the Conservatives.

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How Brexit could strengthen us

Amid all the bad news about Brexit – the lies on the bus, the shrinking economy, the paralysed opposition, we are prone to forget the benefits it is bringing us. I am talking about our understanding of the European Union. Politicians who have for years loftily ignored it are at last being forced to find out a bit about how it works. Large numbers of the population who had hardly heard of the EU before the referendum are gaining some glimmer of what it’s all about.

So a nation for years isolated …

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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarDavid Blake 23rd Feb - 4:20pm
    The worrying thing about recent results in the substantial rise in the Labour vote in the West Country.
  • User AvatarDan Falchikov 23rd Feb - 3:32pm
    And got 2.7% in the Scottish Borders - an area we had an MP three years ago. The new Head of Campaigns in Scotland is...
  • User AvatarChristopher Haigh 23rd Feb - 3:06pm
    Listening in to Andrew Neil last night it would appear TM, who is not a natural leader of opinion, has managed to get herself venturing...
  • User AvatarJohn King 23rd Feb - 2:51pm
    That's right, it would be a destructive thing, like a purification by fire, the hope being that out of the ashes a better Britain might...
  • User AvatarBill le Breton 23rd Feb - 2:42pm
    Peter, I understand your reasoning. But plug in half a trillion of GDP over the lifetime of that Parliament and you get a lot of...
  • User AvatarFormer Dem 23rd Feb - 2:14pm
    There are many risks with the hard brexit approach you advocate. It might have done satisfaction, but the permanent economic damage from companies leaving, the...