Discovering Conference

Last Saturday, 11th November, the Scottish Liberal Democrat Autumn conference was held  in Dunfermline. It’s fitting our conference returns to this historic Scottish town as Scotland has always been a liberal country at heart: Braveheart, after all, was about freedom, more than nationalism.

This was my first party conference and I was immediately struck by how homely and welcoming the event was. The Scottish Liberal Democrats are a close-knit party – one advantage of being small in number (in comparison to other parties) – where old friends are reunited and strangers are simply undiscovered new friends.

The agenda was packed and diverse. One of the highlights included hearing from the WASPI women. They told us their personal experiences when they unexpectedly discovered they would not get their state pension when they thought they would after the age was raised to 65 to align with mens’. Many women are now struggling and having to take up part-time jobs or take out loans to get by until they can receive their pension. The conference rightfully voted for measures to put justice for the WASPI women on the Lib Dem agenda.

Willie Rennie, Jo Swinson, Alistair Carmichael, Christine Jardine and Alex-Cole Hamilton invigorated party members with articulate, powerful speeches – all of us returned to our constituencies with a renewed sense of purpose and belief in Liberal Democrat values.  

The Scottish Young Liberals had two motions passed: introducing civil education in schools and increasing the involvement of young people in public service. Also a 15 year old member proposed her motion on introducing gender neutral school uniforms in every school.

As a young liberal myself, it was exciting to see the future of our party, both its membership and its vision, be strongly represented; as well as being endorsed so positively by all party members.

I decided to step up in the debate about introducing civil education in schools by speaking on the main stage to strongly support the motion, as well as putting forward the idea that media literacy should also be taught as part of a curriculum of civil education.

My colleague from the East Renfrewshire Lib Dems told me I was the first person from the local party to speak at a conference in about 40 years.

I joined the Liberal Democrats in 2015 after the general election (inspired by Nick Clegg’s dignified and passionate resignation speech as party leader) and I was expecting simply to receive some emails updating me on the party’s work. Just over two years later I have campaigned for local candidates, been interviewed for a comms job in Holyrood with the Scottish Lib Dems, I’ve been a council candidate in May, and I’ve now spoken at my first party conference.

I never imagined how involving and inclusive the party would be.

Before joining the Liberal Democrats, I always thought that politics was something that other people did; since joining I have realised that politics is for anyone that chooses to take part. I had the opportunity at conference to stand up and be heard – it was one of the most empowering moments of my life.

* Chris Park is studying for an MLitt in Media and Communication in Glasgow and is a member of the Liberal Democrats

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2 Comments

  • Well done Chris. People like you are the future of this party.

  • John Barrett 16th Nov '17 - 9:35am

    Nice to hear such enthusiastic comments from a new member.

    Best wishes for the future and hopefully you will be able to assist the party in the future using some of your media communication skills.

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