Delegates gather for SNP conference


Image copyright

Image caption

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon’s speech will bring the two-day conference to a close on Saturday afternoon

The SNP is to announce the winner of its deputy leadership contest as the party’s conference opens in Aberdeen.

Economy Secretary Keith Brown is the favourite to win the vote, with activist Julie Hepburn and Inverclyde councillor Chris McEleny also standing.

The two-day conference is being held at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, the party’s leader, will speak on Saturday afternoon.

In her welcome notes in the conference guide, Ms Sturgeon says the event “marks the start of a new chapter in Scotland’s road to independence”.

She also praises the party’s long-awaited Growth Commission report, which was published a fortnight ago and examines the economic options for an independent Scotland.

The 354-page report has received a mixed reception from independence supporters, with some expressing doubts about proposals to keep the pound and embark on a major deficit reduction programme in the first years after leaving the UK.

Ms Sturgeon said the document was “packed full of new ideas for Scotland’s future” and showed that “with our opponents stuck quibbling grievances of the past, we’ve moved on to a debate about how we fulfil the potential of our country.”

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

About 2,000 delegates are expected to attend this year’s conference

The Growth Commission report is not expected to be debated on the main conference floor – but will feature at a fringe event hosted by the Institute of Economic Affairs think-tank.

Ms Sturgeon’s speech is also not expected to reveal her thoughts on the timing of any new independence referendum.

She has previously said she will do so in the autumn, once the implications of Brexit become clearer.

Analysis by Sarah Smith, Scotland editor

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Tens of thousands of independence supporters marched through Glasgow last month

Nicola Sturgeon may be happy to bide her time until the circumstances are more favourable toward a second independence vote.

But many of her grassroots are getting restless. Huge rallies in recent weeks have attracted tens of thousands of enthusiastic supporters, many of whom march under the banner “Independence Now” and use the hashtag #readytogo.

Ms Sturgeon galvanised them into action last year with her call for another referendum. And having matched them halfway up the hill, the SNP leader isn’t sure how to get them down again.

‘Long and detailed conversation’

She would rather start a long and detailed conversation about the prospects and possibilities for and independent Scotland which is aimed at people who voted No in 2014.

The Growth Commission plans have already prompted No voters to look at the arguments afresh, argues the first minister.

Those same economic plans have also enraged many on the left of the Yes movement, who dismiss the emphasis on deficit reduction and tight public spending as “austerity lite”.

It may prove impossible to simultaneously reassure nervous No voters that independence is safe – while also exciting more idealistic Yes supporters about how radical it could be.

What should I look out for at the conference?

Image caption

Julie Hepburn, Keith Brown and Chris McEleny are standing in the deputy leadership contest

The first item on the agenda when the conference opens at 10:30 will be the result of the contest to succeed Angus Robertson as the SNP’s deputy leader.

Party members have been voting for their preferred candidate since mid-May, with a series of hustings events held across the country.

Elsewhere, delegates will debate issues including paternity leave, limiting executive pay, the situation in Gaza and women in the justice system,

And there will be speeches from senior SNP figures including Deputy First Minister John Swinney, the party’s leader at Westminster, Ian Blackford. and Scotland’s Brexit secretary, Michael Russell.

There will be live coverage of the conference – including the deputy leadership result – on the BBC news website, with Ms Sturgeon’s speech also being broadcast live on BBC2 Scotland from 15:15 on Saturday.

Source link