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SNP conference 2015 live blog

SNP conference 2015 live blog

15.38: That's spring conference finished. You'll find all the highlights below plus check out @HolyroodDaily on Twitter for tweets from both days of this weekend's conference. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

15.36: SNP candidates joined on stage by FM Nicola Sturgeon.

15.33: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon now introducing General Election candidates on stage. "We must get out there and we must work like we have never worked before," she tells delegates in election rallying call. "Let us get out there and win for Scotland," she says as curtain comes down on spring conference. (AR)

15.30: Stewart Hosie just finishes final keynote speech of SNP conference here in Glasgow. 

15.25: Hosie tells delegates the SNP at Westminster will support the reintroduction of the 50p tax rate. He says party thinks "it's right those with the very broadest shoulders" should bear a "little more of the burden". (AR)

15.20: Deputy leader runs through what SNP MPs will seek to do after the General Election. MPs will vote for an increase in the national minimum wage to £8.70 an hour by 2020, says Hosie. SNP MPs will continue to press for "far more extensive take-up" of Living Wage and vote for a "tough Tax Dodgers Bill", he says.

Hosie says SNP will "prioritise the immediate scrapping of the bedroom tax" and "seek a halt" to the rollout of Universal Credit and personal independence payments.

"We will vote to end the unfair use of zero hours contracts," he adds.   

15.16: Hosie says the "only way to make sure Westminster delivers - on anything - will be to return the largest number of SNP MPs ever to Westminster". (AR)

15.15: "We came to terms with the referendum result – our opponents did not," says Hosie. "Our determination to keep on campaigning for more powers was unmatched – our opponents were caught flat footed. They thought it would be business as usual." However, Hosie says this May's General Election should not be a "re-run" of the referendum. (AR)

15.13: SNP deputy leader Stewart Hosie describes referendum as "an act of national self-confidence and national self-determination". However, he says "although disappointing, was clear and we do not deny it". (AR)

15.06: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon now providing introduction for deputy leader Stewart Hosie. "I think we're going to need an even bigger venue next time round," Sturgeon tells delegates. (AR) 

14.50: As you might expect, former First Minister Alex Salmond was given a rock star's reception, with his comments punctuated by frequent bursts of applause during his Q&A alongside Mike Russell. It was a pretty typical Salmond performance, proudly informing the audience that his book was top of the Sunday Times bestseller list and taunting Labour (at one point he even checked his front pocket to see if Ed Miliband was there).

Salmond criticised both the behaviour of the Treasury and the "metropolitan press" in his comments, telling delegates that the only way that the media could be made impartial would be to devolve control to Holyrood. He was as critical of the BBC as ever, while urging the crowd to buy pro-independence media.

He contrasted the behaviour of the Treasury with that of the Bank of England, which he said had done a good job of maintaining its impartiality, at one point telling the crowd that Mervyn King had withstood huge pressure to help Better Together.

An audience member asked Salmond if he could imagine Scotland declaring independence unilaterally – a suggestion which drew cheers from the crowd – but the former FM said that the only way he could foresee independence would be another referendum following an election for a party promising a referendum in its manifesto.​ (LK)

14.43: SNP MP Eilidh Whiteford now speaking as part of resolution calling for a moratorium on benefit sanctions. People with mental health problems are being sanctioned "disproportionately", says MP for Banff and Buchan. Single parents are also being hardest hit. "We need a sanctions regime that takes account of people's real lives," Whitefod tells conference delegates. Proper review of the system to "make it fit for purpose" is needed, she adds. (AR) 

14.30: Delegates have this afternoon reaffirmed the party's commitment to free school meals after the Scottish Government earlier this year extended entitlement to all school children from primary one to three. SNP MSP George Adam, who moved the resolution, said: “The fact that all P1-P3 children are now entitled to a free school meal is a major step forward – and is a policy which is benefiting pupils and their families alike."

The full text of the resolution is as follows. 'Conference reaffirms its commitment to making Scotland the best place in the world to grow up; welcomes the SNP Scottish Government’s investment in our nation’s future by providing a free school lunch for every P1-3 child in Scotland; understands that this will benefit over 135,000 additional pupils and save families at least £330 per year per eligible child; and notes the impact that this investment will have towards eliminating the scourge of child poverty in Scotland.' (AR)

14.14: Two further resolutions to be debated at SNP conference this afternoon in Glasgow, one on free school meals and another on protecting Scotland's poorest. (AR)

13.37: Deputy First Minister John Swinney makes his way round the stalls at SNP conference.

13.33: Further questions fielded to the former FM. Follow @HolyroodDaily on Twitter for more updates.

13.21: First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been on Sky News this morning, reiterating that she will be the one to lead any negotiations after May 7. "I will lead negotiations; I will lead my party and hopefully I'll continue as First Minister of Scotland even after the Scottish parliamentary elections next year," she told Sky News' Murnaghan programme.

It follows Sturgeon insisting in an interview with Holyrood magazine earlier this week that her predecessor Alex Salmond is an "asset" for the SNP and Scotland. “If we are in a situation, and again I’m breaking my own rule here by getting into the realms of this discussion, then of course I will have to make sure that I am where I need to be to lead on any negotiations," she told Holyrood.

"These things are not about compartmentalising your time. The most important job I have, by a hundred country miles, is the job I do as First Minister and that will always preoccupy me and occupy my mind and that will always have the first call on my time.

"But most Prime Ministers are also party leaders and you do the different aspects of that job and you don’t divide it into wee chunks of time – it’s just part of the job that we do and this will be no different.

"If we are in that position then we will have a strong team of MPs down there who on a day-to-day basis in the House of Commons will be the ones doing the work but in terms of overall strategy and position and policy of the party then that’s my job as party leader."

Read that interview with Holyrood magazine editor Mandy Rhodes in full here. (AR)    

13.08: Former First Minister Alex Salmond has been paticipating in a question and answer session on his new book this last half hour or so. Here is a selection of what he has had to say.

12.28: Among the standing orders that were backed this morning for the SNP group at Westminster. (AR)

12.22: SNP MSP Stuart McMillan, who has been a vocal critic of FOBTs, said: “Despite the recommendations of the Smith Commission that the Scottish Parliament should be able to act, Westminster has chosen to ignore the problem by watering down the draft clauses to the point where they will not address the root of the problem.

“Westminster needs to think again and SNP MPs will use their clout at Westminster to ensure that Scotland gains the tools we need to tackle the scourge of Fixed Odds Betting Terminals – just as the Smith Commission recommended.” (AR)
12.14: Party members now debating resolution on fixed odds betting terminals. Motion calls for Scottish Government to be given legislative powers to "control the growth and impact of these machines". "They're simply evil and they need to go," says Glasgow SNP council group member Norman Macleod as he calls for FOBTs to be curbed. Resolution calling for powers to be devolved is passed. (AR)
12.04: Following this morning's keynote by the Deputy First Minister. (AR)

11.50: Deputy First Minister John Swinney has just finished delivering his keynote speech in the main hall at SNP conference in Glasgow. The MSP for North Tayside confirmed a return of the 50p rate of income tax will be among policies the party will argue for in order "to deliver fairness at Westminster".

"We want to take Scotland on a journey to being the nation it should be – a wealthier nation, a fairer nation," said Swinney. "Our message to Scotland is simple. Come with us on this journey to a better Scotland." (AR)

11.13: This morning's resolutions on internal party business were heard in closed session. Still waiting on final voting numbers but one MSP in the room told me the split was around 65-35 in favour of all-women shortlists. (AR)  

11.06: Speaking after this morning's resolution on all-women shortlists was passed, SNP National Women’s Officer Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh said: “Women represent 52 per cent of the population in Scotland – yet for too long have been massively underrepresented in Scottish public life.  And while the SNP has made some progress in our selection of candidates for the General Election, it was always clear that more action needed to be taken.

“Women are bearing the brunt of the Tory government’s austerity cuts, suffer from the effects of a gender pay gap and a clear lack of representation.  In 21st Century Scotland this is simply unacceptable and shows exactly why we need Scotland’s women to be fully represented in our national parliament.
“Today’s move will enable our party to take reasonable and sensible action to ensure gender equality amongst our candidates – and to guarantee that there are no longer any barriers to women playing a full role in the political process. 
“The SNP is the only party which stands up for all of Scotland – and today’s agreement by Conference will allow us to become fully reflective of the nation we represent.”

11.02: Looks like Perth and North Perthshire MP Pete Wishart was sitting in another debate this morning.

10.58: The resolution will also ensure that in any constituency in which more than one candidate is nominated, at least one candidate must be a woman. The resolution agreed also makes clear that the NEC may take steps to balance the number of male and female candidates being submitted for ranking on the regional list. (AR)

10.50: Delegates at party conference have this morning backed the potential for all-women shortlists. Under the rule change, the National Executive Committee "may" move towards an all-women shortlist where any incumbent constituency MSP announces their intention to stand down. (AR)

10.15: Labour are struggling to win back voters who have switched to the SNP, with the British Election Study showing almost all are "certain" to vote SNP on May 7. The survey has the SNP in front on 44 per cent of the vote compared to 27 per cent for Labour, which, on a uniform swing, would see the SNP gain around 47 seats at Westminster with Labour's representation reduced from 41 to 10.

Asked on the The Andrew Marr Show this morning whether Labour had any plans for potential post-election deals, Shadow Foreign Secretary Douglas Alexander said: “I'm not going to play Alex Salmond's game. This is the Marr Show, not Match of the Day 2, I'm not going to engage in post-match analysis before the game has actually begun. We are working for a majority in every part of the United Kingdom." (AR)  

10.00: If passed, the National Executive Committee (NEC) "may direct that an all-women shortlist should be submitted by the Constituency Branch or Association" where an incumbent SNP constituency MSP announces their intention to stand down. The rule change would also require in any constituency where more than one candidate is nominated, at least one of them "must be" female. This plus the NEC would be able to "take steps to balance the number of male and female candidates being submitted for regional list rankings" and have the authority to nominate additional candidates in order to achieve it.

An amendment put forward by Avondale Branch would seek to halt a move to all-women shortlists and make it 'preferable' that at least one candidate nominated is female rather than a 'must'. SNP Trade Union group have also proposed an amendment of their own which, if backed, would mean where the top spot on a regional list is allocated to a man the second-placed spot is allocated to a woman. (AR)  

9.43: Good morning and welcome to day two of Holyrood's live blog from SNP conference in Glasgow. An internal session on changes to the party's standing orders and constitution is underway now, including a vote on all-women shortlists. (AR)  

Day Two

16:00: That's it for us today, we will be back at the conference tomorrow for events as they unfold, while Liam will be on the look-out for sketch material. See his piece on the Lib Dem conference last week (Warning: contains Zombies).

15:55: If the first half of Sturgeon's speech had an eye on English voters and Labour's threatened refusal to work with her party, the second half was more focused on domestic issues. She praised NHS staff and repeated her commitment to keep university tuition free. There were also some announcements. A new 500 target was set for companies to sign up to the living wage, an extension of the educational maintenance allowance to 10,000 more school and college students, and £20m additional support for the victims of domestic violence. (TF)

15:35: Nicola Sturgeon, introduced by her deputy Stewart Hosie as “the only political party leader across these isles that people actually like,” was in relaxed mood. Membership was up to 102,143, she said. The referendum showed people what it was like to be in charge, and although the country voted no, “it was a moment of liberation” Sturgeon argued.

Her argument was an attempt to place a vote for the SNP was not a vote for independence, but to “shake up the Westminster establishment”

“We pose a threat to their vested interests,” she said, and this is why others from across the UK can look at the SNP with solidarity. To Ed Miliband, David Cameron and Nick Clegg “if you think the SNP are a threat to Westminster’s notion of democracy, you had better believe we are,” she said.

It was a direct appeal to English and Welsh radicals. She said the SNP was willing to work with others to ensure a public NHS, scrapping Trident, and electoral reform.

“We’ll push for a fair voting system to be put back on the agenda,” she said, adding “the House of Lords has no place in a democratic society.”

But she also warned against complacency amid high poll ratings, calling for hard graft to shift “hefty majorities” across Scotland. She reminded delegates that any seats above 11 would be record-breaking for the party.

If the Labour party refuse to work with the SNP, she challenged, they will usher in the Tories, which would represent “the final nail in the coffin of the “branch office” of Scottish Labour.

14:50: We get a glimpse of the new SNP ppb. It features a red car driving about in slow motion. Not unlike a car advert in fact... (TF)

14:30: Tasmina Sheikh calls Trident an indefensible obscenity. "The road to global disarmament will be long and winding, but we are committed to getting there," she says, criticising Jim Murphy's commitment to renewal. "Only in the warped world of Jim Murphy" would you try and get rid of Trident while voting for it, she says. The motion is carried overwhelmingly, but it is the first motion of the day not passed by acclaim. (TF)

14:20: The first slightly dissenting voice of the day criticises the motion for not including a "red line" on trident renewal which would keep Faslane open as a conventional naval base. 

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14:18: Bill Kidd says there's nowhere else in Britain to put Trident. He says the SNP has international support on nuclear disarmament. Strange that the motion has been doubled up with austerity though. "It's about bairns not bombs, dignity not despair," he says. Mike Weir MP says cost of Trident is "insanity". (TF)

14:14: Kilt watch score: zero


13:15: The SECC is a large place, but every cafe, shop and bar is full of delegates, and every fringe meeting with queues out the door. Fringes include one on democracy from the Electoral Reform Society and the Common Weal, and it's standing room only. The meeting is looking at the new political voices and organisations that have emerged from the referendum campaign. Are the SNP merely trying to assimilate thought? See the link in the previous post for my column on this topic.

Another busy fringe is being held by the Health and Social Care Alliance, and is looking at how a focus on prevention can relive pressure on the NHS.

For those who didn't squeeze into a fringe, like me, it's either sit in the corridors of the SECC, or start queuing for Nicola Sturgeon's speech, which is still over an hour and a half away.


12:11: Morning session is brought to a close. Fair to say the morning has flown by quickly, what with wifi problems and overcrowding (I'm writing this from a throng). Speakers were dominated by candidates and MSPs, and we didn't hear much from the new grassroots supporters who now make up the majority of the party. Will this pose problems for the party in the future? I explore the notion here (TF) 



12:02: Emma Harper, who is standing in Dumfries and Tweeddale receives an applause for several minutes after introducing herself. "I'm the nurse who's going to kick the last Tory out of Scotland," she said. (TF)

12:00: Midlothian candidate Owen Thompson asks traditional Labour voters to "come with us", after criticising the party of not delivering on Gordon Brown's promise during the referendum campaign. Nicola Sturgeon later is predicted to take a more conciliatory approach, asking for 'solidarity'. A Labour spokesperson told us this was hypocritical. Nicola Sturgeon's real message to the people of England and Wales is to vote against Labour. She is the head of an anti-Labour coalition across the UK," he said. (TF)

11:50: Strong feelings in the hall on Human Rights. Rutherglen candidate Margaret Ferrier says: "A minimum wage is not enough. We need a living wage" to loud applause. (TF)

11:43: Although the conference is busy and buzzing, it's difficult to get a sense of the atmosphere in the hall, given it is so cavernous. Warm applause for motions on TTIP and Human Rights though. Glasgow MSP Bob Doris talks of his constituents in deprivation. "The UK Government breached human rights with the bedroom tax," he says, calling for a bill of rights. 

10:55: A show of hands reveals how many new members are here:

10:11: The hastag, #snpconf, is trending across the UK, although this has been helped by Labour politicians and supporters using it to post a warning video which depicts David Cameron walking into Downing Street on the back of a strong SNP vote at the General Election (TF)

10:04: Things starting to get busy at the SECC.

08:30: Good morning! This weekend is dominated by the biggest political party conference in Scotland for a great many years, as 3,000 delegates are expected to descend on the SECC in Glasgow today for the SNP's pre-election Spring conference. 

New members will be keen to get stuck into debate, and this morning's resolutions include motions on TTIP, the third sector and human rights. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is up at three.

If you just can't wait, read our editor Mandy Rhodes' interview with Sturgeon here. “I’d never want to be part of the so-called Westminster establishment and I’m never likely to be part of it. I think this is a time, not just for people in Scotland, but for many people in the UK to see that Westminster is really, really broken," she told us.

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