Social Liberal Forum Scotland gets outside its comfort zone

SLF Scotland 2013 Robert and NormanThe Social Liberal Forum Scottish Conference took place in Glasgow last Saturday, 29 June.  This was our third conference since the Scottish organisation was set up in 2010.  In previous years we have mainly relied on our own resources, inviting as speakers politicians and academics from the Liberal Democrat membership in the West of Scotland.  This year we moved out of our comfort zone and invited speakers from outside organisations, most notably from The Poverty Alliance and YesScotland, together with the Scottish Convener Craig Harrow.  The result was a very stimulating day of presentations and discussion, with notably enthusiastic audience participation throughout.

The agenda fell into three sections.  The morning sessions saw very competent presentations from our speakers.  Robin Tennant of The Poverty Alliance dealt with the subject ‘Skivers or Strivers’ by blowing out of the water many myths about poverty in a welter of statistics, proving that few of the unemployed claim benefit for long and that levels of benefit fraud are low.  Blair Jenkins of Yes Scotland was far more laid back in his initial presentation but really became interesting in discussion, pointing to the problems of a Union that regularly delivers Tory majorities in a country that elects few Tories and to the relative success of the small Scandinavian nations when compared to Scotland on measures of social justice.

The afternoon was largely devoted to two sessions looking at the coalition’s record and discussing the way forward to the elections that face us between 2014 and 2017.  Although Cllr. Robert Brown tried hard to look on the bright side, the members present were quite pessimistic about the next few years, although there was more optimism about the period from 2015 on. Craig Harrow seized on this optimism in an ebullient presentation that outlined what the Scottish Executive are doing and what local parties and individual members can do to ensure we hold our existing seats and win some more.

Two sessions were devoted to presenting the draft SLF(Scotland) constitution and a feedback session from members on how SLF(S) is doing and how it can grow in the near future.  The constitution was ratified, so the next SLF(S) committee will be elected but, given the geographic spread of members, we are not entirely sure yet how this will be done.

The main sessions were too lengthy to do justice here and more comprehensive reports will appear on Caron’s Musings over the next few days.  The SLF(S) constitution and feedback sessions will be the subject of an email report to SLF Scottish Members.

If you want to know more about the Social Liberal Forum you should visit the website at http://socialliberal.net/  and sign up to Forum membership.  This will ensure that you are updated about any Scottish developments.  If websites are not your thing but you would still like to be kept abreast of developments in Scotland, email me at [email protected]  to sign up to our Scottish Supporters mailing list.

* Norman Fraser is the Scottish Organiser of the Social Liberal Forum

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