Presidential prospects, passionate debate and poll confidence – a day of inspiration, optimism and hope

Mark Valladares, who was the first guest editor to be let loose on this hallowed site, was sober at the time he agreed to it. I can’t say the same, but if Dr Pack will insist on asking for volunteers very late on a Friday night, then he probably deserves everything he gets.

When Mark offered me a day this week, its proximity to our first Scottish Conference was too opportune to turn down.

Normally Autumn Scottish Conference is an earnest but modest gathering. This year’s was keenly anticipated, though. How would we adjust to being part of a Westminster Government with the Tories, who are feared and hated with a passion unrivalled in its intensity up here after the devastation they wrought on our industry in the 1980s? The event would be the first real chance to take the temperature of the Party and see how well it’s gearing up for the Holyrood elections next May.

You might have expected the Party to be in a nervous, jittery, maybe slightly truculent mood when we gathered in Dunfermline on Saturday. Not a bit of it. Attendance was at record levels, exhibitors were crammed in and there were three separate rounds of fringe meetings when often we don’t even have one single event. However it was the atmosphere that was the biggest surprise – we were confident, upbeat and more than ready for the challenges to come. We welcomed leader Tavish Scott’s exhortation not to be inhibited by our opponents, but to be liberated by our record, but we’d got there by ourselves anyway.

So what’s today going to be about?

One of the things I want to do is to give you a bit of a flavour of the Conference and the mood of the Party through various eyes: the new member, attending his second ever political event; a recorded chat with the 14 year old who wowed Conference and was described by Tavish Scott in his keynote speech as a future leader; and two old hands from across the Irish Sea.

Of course the big political story this week has been the implications of Lord Browne’s report on higher education funding. How can Liberal Democrat MPs, who signed a pledge that they would oppose any increase in fees, accept recommendations that will leave our young people with an estimated minimum of £30,000 debt before they even start their adult working life? We Scottish Liberal Democrats have a unique perspective on this as it was our Coalition Government with Labour which ensured that no Scottish student would pay tuition fees a decade ago.

In fact, our Conference emphatically rejected the idea of a graduate contribution on Saturday. The debate was without exception the best I have ever heard. The quality of the speeches on both sides of the argument was first class. I will write in more detail about that, and Callum Leslie of Liberal Youth Scotland will give his views.

The Party’s two Presidential Candidates Susan Kramer and Tim Farron set out their stalls in the run up to next year’s elections and write about what they would do to help as President.

There will be an interview with new Scottish Deputy Leader Jo Swinson on how she sees her new role, her recent trip to Nigeria, the progress of the Body Confidence Campaign and her recent work on bullying of children with allergies.

We’re all familiar with how Labour left the coffers bare and then screamed in protest at every single cut which had to be made. But I’m not talking about Westminster 2010. In May 2007, Cllr Jenny Dawe took over as Leader of a Lib Dem/SNP coalition on the City of Edinburgh Council and found to her alarm that the Council was, not to put too fine a point on it, brassic. She tells her story of how her administration has transformed the City.

And finally, Lib Dem MEP George Lyon outlines the key priorities for the Holyrood elections.

I say finally, but there may also be one or two surprises. Watch this space……..

Caron Lindsay’s first foray into politics ended up with a detention for skipping school to go canvassing for Bob Maclennan in Caithness and Sutherland in 1983.  Undeterred, she has since been on more party committees than could ever be considered healthy. In 2006 she started blogging at http://carons-musings.blogspot.com to while away the hours when it would have been rude to deliver leaflets.

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3 Comments

  • James from Durham 14th Oct '10 - 10:58am

    Wasn’t the word originally “borassic”?

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