From Indian Dance, to Speed Mentoring to barnstorming speeches: Caron’s Top Ten Highlights of Scottish Conference

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Scottish Liberal Democrats met in Inverness last weekend for a lively 3 day Conference. Here are my top ten highlights.

  1. Leader Willie Rennie’s first ever Spring Conference speech, delivered with sincerity and passion. He implored the First Minister to make as much time for the dispossessed,  as he does for billionaires such as Murdoch and Donald Trump. He spoke of the Liberal Democrats’ long record of fighting for home rule for Scotland which made us the true guarantors of change. He told of his desire to work constructively with others wherever possible, but how we would stand firm on liberal values and be awkward when necessary. He slammed those nationalists who used abusive language against those who don’t agree with them. I was pleased to see him praise Jo Swinson’s “remarkable” efforts on body confidence. You don’t often get blokes talking about such things. He also showcased our Councillors’ record across Scotland ahead of the elections in May.
  2. Policy Debates: The leadership adopted a very intelligent approach to a motion on the Coalition. Rather than complain about it, they embraced it as an opportunity to sell what the party had achieved in Government which may not quite have been what the movers intended. On the independence referendum, a move to secure party support for a second question in favour of an option for more powers on the ballot paper was defeated after lively debate. Also up for discussion were motions on prison reform, housing, youth unemployment, and home credit.
  3. Liberal Youth Scotland were in fine form, holding their most successful fundraising event ever. Illustrating the difference between Devo Max and Devo Plus at their quiz, after several beers, was quite a challenge.
  4. Speed Mentoring. We’d been talking about setting up a mentoring programme for ages. We did it – in the style of an exuberant speed dating session with lots of new members.
  5. Policy Pitch Charities and other organisations came along to pitch policy ideas to Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander. Each had two minutes. Lexi from SCIAF was particularly robust in putting forwad the Robin Hood Tax.We also heard a proposal from Community Pharmacy to allow pharmacists to give routine contraceptive care, along with ideas on sport, children and better governance.
  6. Ed Davey wasn’t well known in Scotland, but apart from a mispronounciation of Longannet, went down very well with an incisive speech during the day and a hilarious after dinner effort.
  7. Indian Interpretive Dance: the unforgettable moment when Liberal Youth’s Kavya Kaushik helped Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael illustrate the Coalition’s achievements through dance ahead of the financial appeal. I have the whole thing on video…
  8. SWLD Reception. Our new transformed SWLD, under the leadership of Katy Gordon, held an exclusive reception with Nick Clegg and Willie Rennie. Nick said quite seriously that with his wife Miriam and Jo Swinson constantly on his case, there was no way he’d forget about the importance of improving the party’s lamentable gender balance.
  9. Malcolm Bruce. The Scottish President’s speeches are always a highlight for their depth of understanding of history, of international development, of human rights, of  relationships between countries. He’s upset the SNP by showing  examples from around the world where independence isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be.
  10. And finally, in a stroke of pure narcissism, my first ever live tv interview, for Sunday Politics Scotland.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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4 Comments

  • Angus McLellan 8th Mar '12 - 12:51am

    I suspect the people of South Sudan would have taken great exception to Malcolm Bruce’s comments, had they heard of them. I would have expected any liberal worthy of the name to welcome South Sudanese freedom from the genocidal Khartoum regime. Evidently not.. And patronising Johnny Foreigner is nothing new. If it’s not South Sudan Scots are being invited to look at and tremble then it’s Ireland or Iceland or Montenegro, Or else it’s Jo Swinson with bizarre tales about Slovenia.

    When you’re a Liberal Democrat in Scotland the whole big wide world is full of people who you can mock for political advantage. What’s not to like about that?

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 8th Mar '12 - 9:04am

    Angus, Malcolm Bruce has spent his whole political life committed to improving human rights and international development. He can speak on these things with real authority. His remarks may not fit with the SNP narrative that everything in independent countries is hunky dory, full of peace, love, prosperity and fluffity bunnikins, but that does not mean to say that it’s not a valid point of view.

    And I’ll think you find the Slovakia stuff, rather than being a bizarre tale, actually happened.

    There’s a lot of good stuff about the union. It’ snot perfect, but the things that are wrong with it are fixable. The SNP can offer no guarantees about independence. The Scottish people need to carefully consider all the options open to them and not be castigated if they decide that they don’t agree with the SNP.

  • Angus McLellan 8th Mar '12 - 5:07pm

    Malcolm Bruce’s words need no commentary, he said what he said: “Do we really want the world to break up into a growing list of tiny countries nursing their grievances through the international community?” Does South Sudan really fit that description? More than mere grievance there. I could go on. How about Greenland? Still a colony in many ways. Just because the Danes run a very, very nice colony that doesn’t change what it is.

    And no, not Malcolm Bruce’ on Slovakia – but on that point, it doesn’t help much to know how the Czech Republic compares to Slovakia today if you don’t know how they stood in 1992, however we can hardly expect that sort of nuancing in a speech – but rather Jo Swinson’s fairy tales about Slovenia. Specifically her strange story telling how every Slovene and their dog lamented the end of Yugoslavia.

    You may keep on believing the Union is fixable in spite of the failure of your party and its predecessors to deliver on electoral reform, lords reform or federalism. Whether substantial reform at Westminster is a realistic prospect will be up to the voters to decide. And elivering STV for local elections wouldn’t be an example of success because that happened only in Scotland. Nobody appears to deny that meaningful reform is possible in Scotland. Indeed that is one of the selling points of separation.

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