• The Gaudie

Report: The Gaudie at the Scottish Conservative Conference

Boris Johnson and Douglas Ross come to Aberdeen for party's annual gathering


By Anttoni James Numminen


Leader Douglas Ross addresses the conference. Courtesy of Anttoni James Numminen.


The two-day Tory party conference took place Friday and Saturday at Aberdeen's P&J venue, with an estimated attendance of fewer than 500 people.


On Friday, prime minister Boris Johnson addressed the conference, speaking of the need to limit the use of Russian gas and instead rely more heavily on North Sea oil production.


But this has been seen by some as the government reneging on promises made at COP26 to move energy production towards renewable resources, including a pledge to ensure 'all new heating systems installed in UK homes are low-carbon from 2035'.


Environmental activists Bridgette and Sarah who were protesting the approval of a new North Sea oil field off Aberdeenshire's coast, told The Gaudie: “It’s disgraceful, we should be using the bit of oil we have left for a transition, not approving new oil fields such as Abigail.”



Protesting outside the conference venue. Sarah (left), Bridgette (right). Courtesy of AJN.


In January the government gave the go-ahead to the Abigail field, which lies about 233km from Peterhead


Nadim Zahawi, the Secretary of State for Education, spoke at a fringe event on Saturday afternoon about the importance of helping people to ‘upskill’ their qualifications.


He also spoke of his plans to encourage people to undertake more technical education such as apprenticeships, rather than ‘traditional’ university routes.



Nadim Zahawi speaks at a fringe event. Courtesy of Anttoni James Numminen.


Asked by The Gaudie about the role of universities and higher education institutions in Zahawi’s soon to be announced plans, the education Secretary said: “If truth be told, some university vice-chancellors have created courses at universities today that are probably designed to take advantage of the £9,250 system that we have created.


“This is rather than delivering a great outcome for that student when they leave with a great career-path and a fulfilling career. And I’m doing something about that.”


In 2012, the Conservative and Liberal Democrat government coalition increased tuition fees from £1,000 to £9,250 annually in England and Wales, which also applies to those students studying in Scotland.


"Why would you saddle someone from a disadvantaged background with lots of debt, and miss-sell them a course and they get no career afterwards?”- Zahawi

Zahawi added that he was interested in “outputs” when it came to university degrees: “It’s back to the vaccine rollout, I wasn’t interested in how many vaccines we bought or were sitting in the warehouse, I was interested in how many we got into people’s arms. Cause that’s how you save lives.


“And it’s the same with education. Where did that student end up? Why would you saddle someone from a disadvantaged background with lots of debt, and miss-sell them a course and they get no career afterwards?”


Responding to the comments, the SNP’s Education Spokesperson at Westminster, Carol Monaghan MP told The Gaudie: "I'm pleased to see the UK Education Secretary agrees with the SNP. Those from disadvantaged backgrounds shouldn't be saddled with lots of debt and in Scotland that won't happen because the SNP brought in free university tuition."


Meanwhile, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives Douglas Ross gave his keynote address on the second day of the conference, telling those gathered that the Tories needed to “take back Scotland from the SNP, and we know there is a majority out there to take us forward.


“The same silent majority that said No to Nicola Sturgeon in 2014.


“Our goal must be to bring that majority together again to break this deadlock.”


However, it comes as a poll suggests that Scottish Labour would be the second-largest party in Holyrood, if an election were held today.

Ross also criticised SNP and Scottish Labour rivals, saying: “Just like last year, as soon as the election is over Labour councillors will be making backroom deals to hand the keys to our town and city halls over to Nicola Sturgeon.”


But after the local government elections in 2017, local Labour councillors went into a coalition with the Scottish Conservatives, leading to the lengthy suspension of nine Aberdeen Labour councillors, though they have been readmitted under Anas Sarwar’s leadership of the Scottish Labour Party.


All students are encouraged to register to vote in May’s local government elections. The registration deadline is Monday 18th April 2022.