Once upon a time: A trip to the SNP conference

Written by Liam Kirkaldy on 8 April 2015 in Comment

What did Liam Kirkaldy learn from going to the SNP conference?

Maybe it was the fact it took place in the SECC. Maybe it was the crowd of 3,000 people.

Maybe it was the fact that Disney on Ice and the Scottish Golf Show were both taking place next door.

For whatever reason, the SNP conference did not feel normal, with Yes supporters, golfers and Disney fans all mingling together in what looked strangely like a shopping centre.  

But, despite what the little girls wandering around in princess dresses might have thought, there was only one fairy tale going on here.

As the SNP sees it, Scotland has spent too long trapped in the international relations equivalent of Cinderella, bullied and abused by the other home nations, never allowed to attend the party at the UN. But its moment has come, with the party now boasting over 102,000 members.

In fact if there was ever a moment to highlight just how weird Scottish politics has become, it is surely the fact that 3,000 people are willing to queue up to see Linda Fabiani speak.

She wasn’t the only one to draw a crowd – even Roderick Campbell spoke to a packed house, making a strong defence of human rights while continuing to look like a kindly turtle.

Meanwhile Mr Q, Dennis Robertson’s guide dog, graciously received a crowd of admirers nearby, giving each a paw to shake or kiss with the quiet dignity of a feudal lord.

But every fairy tale needs a villain, with Jim Murphy, thrust into the part, characterised as the Wicked Witch of the South.

"Who needs three wishes when you have infrastructure and skills investment? Pinocchio clearly knew nothing about macroeconomics"

And it is hard to overstate just how much rank-and-file SNP members dislike the Scottish Labour leader.

Sure, he might say he wants to redistribute wealth across the UK, but how long until he is trying to lure our children into a gingerbread house out in the woods to eat them? We just don’t know. These are the questions the corporate mainstream media is too scared to ask.

But if the story has a bad guy, at least it had a heroine. Nicola Sturgeon appeared on the Saturday, saying: “We meet here today in this great city of Glasgow. It is highly appropriate that we do so – and for many different reasons.

“First – and not least – there's the fact that I live here. And surely one of the perks of leadership must be that I can get you to come to me!

“Then, of course, there's the fact that this city – Scotland's biggest city – voted Yes.”

Well, it was that or she wanted to go see Disney on Ice straight afterwards. Sturgeon has promised to put Scotland first, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t time to watch Disney’s Frozen being performed on ice skates after.

Continuing, the FM promised: “Modest real terms spending increases in each year of the next parliament – instead of cuts – would see the deficit and debt fall as a share of national income. It is fiscally responsible. But it would also free up billions of pounds to invest in infrastructure and skills, public services and protecting the vulnerable.”

Radical stuff. Who needs three wishes when you have infrastructure and skills investment? Pinocchio clearly knew nothing about macroeconomics.

The next day, Alex Salmond – competing with Humza Yousaf to be the SNP’s Prince Charming – was given a rock star’s reception, appearing as part of a pretty awkward double act with Mike Russell, to promote his new book.

It was like an own brand Morecambe and Wise at points, with Russell claiming to have read the book in three hours.

"Finally the SNP – the ugly duckling of Scottish politics for so long – has become noticed"

“You must be a slow reader,” Salmond replied. “That’s longer than it took you to write it,” Russell shot back.

A solitary man with a golf club looked on outside, lost and bewildered. He was not the only one.

The audience reacted well but in all honesty it was fairly disturbing. Is this what an independent Scotland would have been like? Being forced to endure Salmond and Russell’s god awful ‘banter’ certainly wasn’t in the White Paper.

But the crowd loved him, while Salmond stood there soaking it all up, like the world’s smuggest sunflower.

Finally the SNP – the ugly duckling of Scottish politics for so long – has become noticed. It has become a swan – though in fairness, it is quite a shouty swan, spending its days debating the constitution on Twitter while berating Treasury impartiality.

It had undergone some soul searching over the gender split among its candidates, with the conference voting to introduce all women shortlists. But if the party is concerned by diversity, at least it knows that, in Stewart Hosie, it is the only party in Britain to put a friendly-looking goblin up for election.

Closing proceedings the deputy leader said: “The Ashcroft polls [are] showing us ahead in seats we could only previously have dreamed of winning.

“But this is only potential. Not a vote has been cast – not a ballot counted – not a single seat declared. Our job is now to work like never before. To turn this electoral potential into votes and seats. If we do that then this nation will prosper and flourish.”

The party certainly has potential, and with 102,000 members to back it, the near future looks bright. Whether or not they all live happily ever after remains to be seen.

Tory sketch here

Labour sketch here

Lib Dem sketch here

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