Well, hello world. I have arrived at #snp12 or SNP Annual Conference, as it known to most outside of twitter.
Had my lunch – a passable lentil soup but if the wee cafe at the conference centre doesn’t gear up and fast, there will be hordes of angry, hungry delegates all weekend. First day tends not to be busy but it had already run out of food….
Managed too to introduce my pal to a lovely and longstanding SNP councillor, and they just happened to have gone to the same primary school. Scotland is indeed a village and daily I am reminded of this.
Found my way to the press room – accredited blogger dontcha know, the ONLY accredited blogger – and it is a hive of activity. Lord alone knows what they are all writing about but it’s a kind of herd mentality. If one starts tapping furiously, they all do. So I feel a bit left out, not yet having much to blog about. But I will.
Tonight, I will be doing the rounds of the NATO fringes and will bring you blethers about it all. Recent tweets and newspaper articles from the leadership suggest they think they’ll win the resolution comfortably. There is a quiet confidence being exuded and that always means they think they know it’s in the bag. Still, we are in for a rip-roaring debate tomorrow.
Otherwise, there are few contentious resolutions, but plenty to get the juices flowing, particularly the ones having a pop at welfare reform.
And lots of fringe meetings. And of course, set-piece debates from Cabinet Secretaries, the Depute First Minister and the main man himself.
So what will be appearing on this blog? Instant analysis of and reaction to some of those speeches, and hopefully one or two wee exclusives along the way too. Party conferences – and the SNP one, in particular – are notorious for their social strands. Every time I come, I vow not to be last woman standing and every time, I fail. So expect a blog round up of some of the highlights – and lowlights – from the after hours activity.
And I also intend to meet some new folk. There are 2000 delegates at this year’s conference – a record. And that’s not including the exhibitors, observers, media and party members who just decide to come up for the day. Perth will be thronged, and tomorrow and Saturday, the conference hall will be bursting at the seams. Last year, there were five overflow galleries for the First Minister’s speech – will that record be broken? So, lots of old friends to re-acquaint with but also lots of new members and supporters. I will have no shame in walking up to them and having a blether, and with their agreement, recording their thoughts and views here. New voices are much needed and welcome.
But a general first impression. It is said every year, and it is becoming a bit of a truism but the SNP has never been in better fettle. If last year everyone was in celebratory mood, gathering to let their hair down and revel in their astonishing electoral triumph in May, this year there is a different feel. One of quiet, cautious optimism, but tempered with realism at the work ahead. Getting the agreement on the referendum process signed and sealed on Monday was a necessary precursor to avoid a conference dominated by ifs, buts and maybes on procedural detail.
Now delegates can focus on the task at hand. Gone is the triumphalism, and in its stead, a determination to get down to it and get on with the work of persuading the persuadables. The few chats I’ve had are all about the Yes campaign and using the next two years – every minute of them – wisely. The SNP knows what it has taken on, knows that it needs to work differently and forge a campaign that lacks the formality of party activity but engages communities, families and individuals. But it also knows that a yes vote won’t be delivered without it and without all of its people and resources committing to it fully. A Yes vote is within sight – as the First Minister said, the SNP has never been closer to its goal – but there’s a lot of hard work ahead to get there. Expect this theme to be emphasised and reiterated in speeches relentlessly.
So, onwards and upwards. Here’s to a packed conference agenda and lots of blogging highlights.