For four days on the Saturday of the 7th of October, Glasgow was a brim with hustle and bustle for the annual SNP party conference. Nicola sturgeon gave a meticulously orchestrated speech, the Westminster government was heavily criticized, and praise was given to Scotland’s attempts to tackle period poverty (albeit with acknowledgment that more must be done).
SNP Conference 2018
As expected the talking point of Sturgeon’s speech was primarily on the topic of Brexit, and what it could (or could not) mean for Scotland. As previously announced by the party leader, SNP MPs would get behind a second referendum or ‘peoples vote’. Despite some of the other major parties giving a clear message that this would be a blatant disregard for democracy and that the voters of the referendum would feel betrayed.
Heavy criticism was given to The Conservatives, largely due to their ‘shambolic’ and ‘incompetent’ attempts at negotiating for a trade deal with the EU; pointing out the resignation of Brexit secretary David Davis and Boris Johnson as foreign secretary.
Claiming the independence Scotland wants is the ‘very opposite of Brexit’, Nicola gave a message to the party members that although Scotland is largely ignored by the government on the issue of Brexit (The Scottish government’s compromise request to remain in the single market and its demand to have a role in negotiations both dismissed) its members must acquire patience if they want to escape ‘Westminster Control’ as it is ‘not what Scotland deserves’.
The Scottish first minister said that she was ‘more confident than ever’ that Scotland would achieve independence from the UK, but called for members to work harder at convincing no voters from the 2014 independence referendum if they were going to achieve their goal. Additionally, she stated the party must ‘wait for the fog of Brexit to clear’. It’s evident that the SNP is relying on the Brexit negotiations to take a turn for the worse to catalyse a spur of passion for an independent Scotland. In times when the other parties are facing tough publicity, SNP is using this turmoil to present an independent Scotland as a prosperous country and a ‘beacon of progressive values’
On less controversial issues, Climate Change was also on the agenda this year. With the United Nations predicting for Scotland to become one of the first Carbon-Neutral countries, The SNP was keen to take advantage of this fact to paint themselves as a more green SNP. Alongside a rather impressive pledge for a publicly-owned, not for profit energy company to be set up by 2021 (the end of the Scottish Parliamentary term). On top of that, plans for a new low-emissions zone in Glasgow were announced for the end of 2018, which received positive enthusiasm.
With teachers moving closer to strike over pay action in Scotland, John Swiney got the dominoes falling with the announcement of £20,000 bursaries to be made available for professionals in key subjects to go into teacher training. But teacher’s want more pay in Scotland, and many have criticized this as wholly insufficient.
After leaving the most recent general election with heavy losses in terms of parliamentary seats, Ms Sturgeons leadership has been called into question over the last year. But, like last year, the party leader’s speech just was the defining point of the conference by a million miles, the moment everybody was waiting for. Nicola had the audience eating out of her palm, with just enough new-policy and vision to reaffirm her as the obvious leader of the SNP. And with the recent polls showing an increase in support of the party, it’s likely many delegates would have called the conference a success.