Opinion: The day the Northern Irish came to Scottish Conference

For many years now I have attended Scottish Liberal Democrat conference as a Northern Irish person. I’m not alone as there are many familiar accents scattered across the Scottish parties of other Northern Irish born members.

However, last weekend was the first time I attended as a Northern Irish local party member, but again I was not alone. I’d travelled over with the local party chair Michael Carchrie Campbell and one of our youth members Stephen McFarland had travelled down with the rest of the Aberdeen University crew.

It was a good conference for us all to get to, even though Michael and I spent ten hours travelling there and back. Scotland is the closest conference to Northern Ireland. The majority of local students who study outside Northern Ireland do so, like Stephen, in one of the Scottish Universities. Also we had the opportunity to meet both the party presidential candidates. There are no plans for either of them to visit Northern Ireland, but with a rapidly growing local party we may be able to persuade the powers that be of the need for a hustings in Belfast for the next election cycle.

As is often the case with these things a lot of the time was spent networking. Michael knew only a few Scottish members in person, a few more from online and so was getting to meet the various people who came by to meet me. I was also quite pleased to the see the largest West Lothian local party delegation I’ve seen at conference for quite a few years.

But we weren’t only passive observers of conference. Both of us managed to make contributions in rather different ways.

Mine was the more traditional approach, look through the agenda, look at which subjects I can make a meaningful contribution to and put in a speakers card. I chose the Intercity Express Programme to make my debut speech at Scottish Conference as a Northern Irish party member. Michael’s contribution to debate on the day was somewhat more unorthodox. At lunchtime we attended the Long-Term Conditions Alliance Scotland fringe event. At one point one of the contributors said what was needed was greater co-ordination between NHS Scotland and the Social Care providers. It prompted Michael in one of his various hats to pass a note to the chair saying they should consider the situation in Northern Ireland where Health and Social Care are under the one umbrella.

We had a good day, or should that be weekend, out getting to Scottish Conference. For me it was a good time to catch up with old friends and Michael to make many new ones as well. It was nice to know that part of Northern Ireland made an impact at Scottish Conference this Autumn.

Stephen Glenn was Parliamentary candidate for Linlithgow and East Falkirk in May but has since returned to Northern Ireland and blogs at Stephen’s Liberal Journal. Michael Carchrie Campbell is the Chair of the Northern Irish Local Party and blogs at GYRONNY HERALD. Together they are the main bloggers for Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Scotland.
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