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Sunday, March 15th, 2015
The Scottish Green Party Spring Conference 2015 reported by Mark Stephenson
The Dundee and Angus branch had the honour of hosting the Scottish Green Party spring conference last Saturday. The event saw Greens from all across Scotland converge on the University of Dundee.
I had volunteered to help out and found myself on the front door meeting and greeting the hordes of smiling “greenies” as they made their way up from the train station. Being an IT professional I am usually more concerned with technology than hospitality but it was good to be out of my comfort zone for a while (that while didn’t last very long – I was helping out with tech support matters in the lecture theatres before long… ).
Richard Holme from the Dundee branch welcomed everybody to the conference and introduced the Dundee West candidate Pauline Hinchion who gave a fantastic opening speech and reminded us that “Unfettered free markets cannot solve injustice and environmental damage”.
Alison Johnstone (MSP) then rounded off the welcome session by highlighting the campaign to ensure the Fracking moratorium becomes a permanent ban and that as a party “We’ll keep campaigning for a just, sustainable society where everyone has the opportunity to flourish.”
We then broke into the first of two discussion sessions arranged for the morning. From the list on offer I chose ‘Westminster: organising a constituency campaign’.
Some members of the Edinburgh Green party led this session and shared their experience and tips with us.
For my second morning session I chose ‘How to talk about: TTIP’. This was led by a member of the UNITE union. The session started with a short video explaining TTIP from the campaign group 38 Degrees –
followed by many, many questions from the floor and many, many answers from fellow Green delegates. It was great to see how knowledgeable and informed some party members are.
During lunch there was no time to rest. Instead I sat in on a brief session to look at some of the techniques and tools used by the Edinburgh Greens to help them keep track of their canvassing and leafleting areas.
After lunch it was time for all attendees to meet up in the main lecture theatre to be welcomed back by our very own David Mumford. In an interesting and amusing talk David covered various subjects including the local press coverage from the recent coffin ceremony for East Coast trains ‘death’ held in Arbroath.
For the third and final discussion session of the day I chose ‘Jobs and Austerity’. This session was chaired by Maggie Chapman (co-convenor of the SGP) and explored alternatives to the current austerity policies. Katherine Trebeck (Oxfam) and Stephen Boyd (STUC) gave inspiring and informative speeches and were then joined by Eurig Scandrett (UCU) for a Q&A session. This session ran over by about 20 minutes but in fact it could have done with a longer slot – there was so much to talk about and interesting questions raised.
But the day had to end some time (many trains to catch!) and so we finally got to the closing address by Patrick Harvie. In an energising and punchy speech Patrick stated that the party was “committed to ending austerity” and committed to a more equal greener society. He talked about the other political parties and in regards to UKIP pleaded “We can’t allow a party of racists, misogynists & homophobes to pose as an anti-establishment voice of people”
A standing ovation was the appropriate response to Patrick’s speech and the entire room of 300 duly delivered this.
Then it was over. We all handed in our badges, to be recycled of course, and some made their way to the pub while other volunteers set things up for the evening social event (I had commitments elsewhere so can’t report on that).
The day’s events, talks and informal chats on social justice, equality, anti austerity and the environment reaffirmed my decision that I had joined a political party to be proud of.