Scottish Liberal Democrats met in Inverness last weekend for a lively 3 day Conference. Here are my top ten highlights.
- Leader Willie Rennie’s first ever Spring Conference speech, delivered with sincerity and passion. He implored the First Minister to make as much time for the dispossessed, as he does for billionaires such as Murdoch and Donald Trump. He spoke of the Liberal Democrats’ long record of fighting for home rule for Scotland which made us the true guarantors of change. He told of his desire to work constructively with others wherever possible, but how we would stand firm on liberal values and be awkward when necessary. He slammed those nationalists who used abusive language against those who don’t agree with them. I was pleased to see him praise Jo Swinson’s “remarkable” efforts on body confidence. You don’t often get blokes talking about such things. He also showcased our Councillors’ record across Scotland ahead of the elections in May.
- Policy Debates: The leadership adopted a very intelligent approach to a motion on the Coalition. Rather than complain about it, they embraced it as an opportunity to sell what the party had achieved in Government which may not quite have been what the movers intended. On the independence referendum, a move to secure party support for a second question in favour of an option for more powers on the ballot paper was defeated after lively debate. Also up for discussion were motions on prison reform, housing, youth unemployment, and home credit.
- Liberal Youth Scotland were in fine form, holding their most successful fundraising event ever. Illustrating the difference between Devo Max and Devo Plus at their quiz, after several beers, was quite a challenge.
- Speed Mentoring. We’d been talking about setting up a mentoring programme for ages. We did it – in the style of an exuberant speed dating session with lots of new members.
- Policy Pitch Charities and other organisations came along to pitch policy ideas to Nick Clegg and Danny Alexander. Each had two minutes. Lexi from SCIAF was particularly robust in putting forwad the Robin Hood Tax.We also heard a proposal from Community Pharmacy to allow pharmacists to give routine contraceptive care, along with ideas on sport, children and better governance.
- Ed Davey wasn’t well known in Scotland, but apart from a mispronounciation of Longannet, went down very well with an incisive speech during the day and a hilarious after dinner effort.
- Indian Interpretive Dance: the unforgettable moment when Liberal Youth’s Kavya Kaushik helped Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael illustrate the Coalition’s achievements through dance ahead of the financial appeal. I have the whole thing on video…
- SWLD Reception. Our new transformed SWLD, under the leadership of Katy Gordon, held an exclusive reception with Nick Clegg and Willie Rennie. Nick said quite seriously that with his wife Miriam and Jo Swinson constantly on his case, there was no way he’d forget about the importance of improving the party’s lamentable gender balance.
- Malcolm Bruce. The Scottish President’s speeches are always a highlight for their depth of understanding of history, of international development, of human rights, of relationships between countries. He’s upset the SNP by showing examples from around the world where independence isn’t quite what it’s cracked up to be.
- And finally, in a stroke of pure narcissism, my first ever live tv interview, for Sunday Politics Scotland.