This weekend, Scottish Liberal Democrats gather in Inverness for their annual conference. This is the second most important event to take place in the city this year (the most important being my sister’s wedding on 8 April).
I’m particularly looking forward to it as I was brought up there and the venue, Eden Court Theatre, is within a few minutes’ walk of virtually everywhere important to me as a child. The Cathedral where I was christened is next door, my Grandma’s round the corner, my primary school a wee bit further down the road. I also get to save on accommodation costs by staying with my sister and her family.
Every Council seat in Scotland is up for election in May so the Conference will be a good launch pad for the campaign. It’s also new leader Willie Rennie’s first Spring Conference speech, a chance for him to map out where he wants to take the party over the next year and remind us of how the small but strong Liberal Democrat voices in the Scottish Parliament have made their mark. Willie Rennie’s campaign to reverse college cuts bore some fruit in the recent Budget, the Campbell Commission leads the way on developing thinking on further devolution as opposed to independence, we’ve stood up against draconian and ill-advised anti-sectarian measures and pushed for action on the scandalous neglect on women prisoners. Rennie’s task for the weekend will be to show a vibrant, forward thinking party that’s indispensable on the Scottish political scene. He will want to show how the influence of the Liberal Democrats in the UK Government is vital to the Scottish economy.
Highlights on the agenda include:
Keynote speeches by all five Cabinet ministers: Danny Alexander, Nick Clegg, Vince Cable, Ed Davey, and Michael Moore as well as President Malcolm Bruce and, of course Willie Rennie.
Debates on fuel duty, prison rehabilitation (where I hope to be proposing the amendment which specifically deals with women prisoners), housing and youth unemployment, tackling high interest credit companies like payday loans.
Fringes on the Arab Spring, human rights, alcohol harm, victim support, RNIB Scotland’s manifesto for the local authority elections, devolution/independence, land value taxation, Liberal Democrats and the Coalition from Social Liberal Forum (Scotland) and the Council elections.
Training on being an election agent, getting the most out of your time on the doorstep, making the most of media and social media and making sure your voters turn out for you. The Party’s also launching a mentoring scheme with an event loosely based on a speed dating session. That should be fun. There’s also 1 to 1 campaigning advice available from Mark Alcock on the ALDC stand and leaflet design advice on the PagePlus stand.
Social scene Saturday night has the annual dinner and the usually hilarious, unmissable Liberal Youth Scotland quiz.
Speaking ahead of the Conference, Willie Rennie highlighted the record of the Liberal Democrat ministers on the economy:
“Scotland’s economic strength stems from the UK being on firm fiscal ground. “After the mess that Labour left behind, Liberal Democrats in the coalition government are delivering the economic stability we need to deliver jobs and growth. “Giving over one million Scots a tax cut is a real help to many families. I am proud that it is Liberal Democrats who have driven that forward and continue to press for more help during these tough times. “I’m delighted that all the Liberal Democrat Ministers will be at conference to underline the difference they are making for Scotland and the UK. “With the SNP fixated on independence, Liberal Democrats are getting on with the job of the here and now and getting the economy back on track.”
The full agenda can be viewed here.