Sunday 7 March 2010

Scottish Lib Dem Conference Review #sldconf

First up I apologise that blogging has been light this weekend. It has been a full couple of days between events in the conference halls, general election sessions on the fringe plus honing my speech for moving amendment one on the equal marriage debate this morning.

It was a very good weekend, the highlight of which was Nick Clegg's visit on Friday. Some of us had already met Nick before he got up to make his speech. He took to the stage just after Gordon Brown had finished giving his evidence to the Chilcot inquiry. The colliding of the two events saw more media that normal around a Scottish conference it was more in line with a Federal conference and even slightly more than a leaders speech there.

Readers will know that I been pencilled in to interview Nick afterwards, but the pressure of the press coverage and the need for him to get away that evening, meant I ended up getting Scottish leader Tavish Scott's reaction instead.

One shock on Friday was seeing local MP Michael Connarty whizzing into the hall knowing that Nick Clegg was also in the building. Local Labour and indeed Lib Dems members need not panic. The former because they may think they have to seek a new PPC, the later as they are in the final stages of candidate selection may have thought they had picked up an incumbent. In a conversation I had with him later he was merely attending a recording of Brain Taylor's Big Debate for Radio Scotland. Michael did assure me he is not going to join the number of Labour MPs who are leaving the commons though, at least not voluntarily leaving us Lib Dems to unseat him.

There were as always a number of policy motions past. Some such as 'A new fair society' and 'A fair start for all our children' were the Scotification of some of our Federal pledges that will be going forward into th General Election. Others such as 'Preventing the creation of a lost generation' and 'Farer fares' were Scottish answers to Scottish issues.

Preventing the creation of a lost generation called on a number of things that will help the young people in West Lothian and Falkirk at a time when unemployment in the young has never been higher. Part of was to increase significantly the number of college places available. Boosting skills development in sectors such as green industires, engineering and social care which will help provide sustainable growth in years to come. There is also a "90-day promise" to anyone under 24 claiming job seekers allowance to get they will have access to training, apprenticeships, work experience or speicialist suport. This is better than the 10 month guarantee that is currently available and shows the real need to get these people skilled up and ready to make that transition into work.

It is good news for both Oatridge and West Lothian Colleges as well as the many more across Scotland. It also shows the interconnectiveness of events and how the Liberal Democrats are looking toe solve many issues at the same time. Pulling our economy out of the recession, doing it in a sustainable, providing hope and a fair future for our young people by giving them skills that will be needed going forward for some time to come.

The 'Equal Marriage in Scotland' debate saw the Scottish Liberal Democrats agree to all the strands of the Equal Marriage Campaign and go beyond that. What the LYS motion, plus the amendments moved by myself and Derek Young now calls on the Scottish Government to do is:
  • i Open both marriage and civil partnerships to both same-sex and mixed-sex couples.
  • ii To allow approved religious and humanist celebrants to legally solemnise ans celebrate same-sex marriages and civil partnerships where they wish to do so.
  • iii To allow those individual who wish to seek gender recognition or change their legally recognised gender to remain in their current marriage or civil partnership where both partners wish to do so.
  • iv To establish a simple and straightforward process by which a existing civil partnership may be converted into a marriage, if the partners wish and if all other legal requirements of marriage are satisfied, without the need to dissolve the civil partnership.
I do have more detailed feedback on other aspects of conference. But as you may well imagine after a full weekend and not getting my own speaking commitment out of the way until 10am Sunday morning (AGAIN!) I am somewhat tired. Happy with the impact, prospects going forward and outcomes but absolutely knackered.

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