Hamilton highlights – reflections on a much needed in-person Conference

For the first time since Spring 2019, the Scottish Liberal Democrats had a proper Conference where we all met in person.  The snap General Election put paid to our Autumn Conference that year.

It was indescribably brilliant to see everyone. I feel a million years older than I did in 2019,  but nobody else seems to have aged at all.

The party was in incredibly good form. The Council elections saw us gain twenty councillors, with 255,000 new people represented by a Liberal Democrat. On Friday, four of them, Sally Pattle, our first ever councillor in West Lothian, Aude Boubaker-Calder from Fife, Desmond Bouse from Aberdeen and the irrepressible Jack Caldwell from Edinburgh Leith Walk gave presentations about their first five months in the job.

Here are some of the highlights from BBC’s Reporting Scotland

Alex Cole-Hamilton, in his first Conference as leader, pushed his plan to get us 150 councillors in the 2027 council elections, 150 rising, in a take on Liam Neeson’s speech from the film taken:

I do have are a very particular set of skills. Skills I have acquired over a very long career. I will look for you, I will find you and I will make you into a Liberal Democrat Councillor.

The first debate was on giving children in poverty a fairer start in life and eradicate the feeling of exclusion many feel. The motion included a wide range of measures from providing study space in libraries to a voucher scheme to give them access to the extra curricular activities which build skills and improve wellbeing.  Usually the chairs of the early debates frantically descend on the cafe and exhibition to try to dragoon people into speaking in them, but this time they were all over-subscribed.

Most controversial was a motion from Highland Liberal Democrats on energy resilience which called for consideration of modern nuclear options as part of our energy mix. Christine Jardine, Alistair Carmichael and Liam McArthur all spoke against it. It ended up being referred back, but that only puts off the day when we have to make a decision.

We also passed policy on, among other things,  revolutionising Scotland’s approach to Long Covid, about which the SNP has done the square root of naff all, supporting farmers, establishing a new Erasmus equivalent (on which the SNP has done NOTHING), regulating employers’ monitoring of home working, freedom of information, local government and decentralisation.

ITV’s Representing Borders has a really good round-up of the Conference which you can watch here.

Another highlight was the “Thank You” dinner for Willie Rennie’s decade as leader.  His predecessor but one, Nicol Stephen, recalled memories of the Dunfermline by-election campaign. One special guest was James Simpson, who was the Councillor for Central Dunfermline until 2007.  I know loads of wonderful Lib Dem councillors but he was the best of them all. It would take him hours to get anywhere because everyone would stop to speak to him. His constituents all loved him and talk about him to this day. ONe of his real obsessions when he was a councillor was to get City Status for Dunfermline, something which came to fruition this year during the King’s first engagement following the period of mourning for the Queen.

For me it was a very different Conference. It is now 155 days since I came down with Covid and its aftermath has well outstayed its welcome. I’m normally one of the last out of the bar, but I was tucked up in bed straight after dinner every night and in the afternoons too.  I am paying the price this week, but it was so worth it to see everyone again.

The Lib Dem Family left Hamilton in good form.


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

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One Comment

  • David Evans 2nd Nov '22 - 12:04pm

    Congratulations to our Scottish friends, showing the inestimable value of publicity that can be obtained from holding a conference. TV coverage is vital to ensure voters get reminded that we are still out there, doing the right things. We really needed a Federal Conference as well, but the decision to cancel entirely rather than postpone and rearrange later came about by focussing almost entirely on cost and difficulty rather than the massive boost a well focussed conference can give us. We missed out badly by not having that platform for many of us to comment on the chaos unleashed on our country by the Truss fiasco and Labour have reaped all the plaudits.

    Shame the Nuclear debate ended in a damp squib refer back. I’m sad to say it, but it is true that if there is a cold winter calm and the lights start going out, public opinion will swing massively and if we don’t support it, the Conservatives and any of the other parties who go that way will reap the benefit and we will be toast. Nuclear is by no means a perfect solution, but CO2 is clearly a much bigger problem right now.

    P.S. Hope you fully recover soon Caron. Take care.

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