Sturgeon address highlights weekend; bevy of resolutions passed
By Kani Barzani
photo courtesy of Nicola Sturgeon Twitter
On Saturday the 8th of October, Aberdeen had the honour of hosting the 88th annual Scottish National Party conference. The conference was held at The Event Complex Aberdeen and spanned three consecutive days during which resolutions were discussed, addresses were given, and issues of importance were debated at length. MSP and Deputy Leader Keith Brown kicked off the weekend by welcoming delegates and visitors to the first in person conference since COVID began.
Debate began with the first resolution, Rerailing Northeast Scotland, as soon as Brown concluded his speech. Supporters of improved rail links argued that the devastating cuts to the Northeast rail system (begun in the 1960s and 70s) cut off towns like Peterhead and Fraserburgh from the rest of Scotland. This has affected many in these communities, including commuters and students alike.
“The region has generated billions, it’s time to invest some back,” Karen Adam MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast stated as she told the audience on how rerailing can connect Scotland back to Europe, an issue the SNP is passionate about as a party.
Adam and her Head of Office, Josh Mennie, dove further into the economic standpoint of a town like Peterhead, Europe’s largest fishing port. They asked how it is possible that the rail links of such an important element of the Scottish economy have been cut off, concluding ‘‘We have abandoned the Northeast.’ This resolution was ultimately passed.
Another resolution of interest to the Muslim community at the University was
Resolution 5: Adoption of the definition of Islamophobia in the Scottish Government. The first
speaker on this resolution, Kaukab Stewart MSP, first discussed recent reports of Islamophobia in Scottish news; going on to state that this is not what Scotland stands for, that the nation should strive to be welcoming and outgoing.
Councillor Dinash Ashraf spoke on the movement’s imitative and stated how the movement is not about Islam or religion or faith. He stated that the resolution is about combatting the increase in hate crimes and prejudice against the Muslim lifestyle.
MP Anim Qaisar also spoke on the racism present in politics, especially in the House of Commons. Scottish born and raised, Qaiser commented that the viewpoint the ex-prime minister and Conservative Party have towards Islamophobia should not be accepted anywhere, especially not in Scotland. She further highlighted the negligence that reports of Islamophobia often receive, commenting that even the reports that are investigated are not often considered serious. A remit to the resolution was raised by SNP veteran member Gerry Fisher, yet after a brief debate, the resolution was quickly passed.
The passing of Resolution 12: Transition to Renewable Energy, was a win for environmentally-concerned students, especially with the recent protest that occurred at the Sir Duncan Rice Library. The SNP believes that this transition, just like the industrial transition, will result in the creation of new jobs as well as lower electricity and gas costs, as well as encouraging businesses to expand, and aiding in the aim to tackle global warming.
The discussion was focused on the statement: “Scotland has the energy; we just need the power.” This movement towards a net zero Scotland was further supported and discussed during the address given by MSP and Deputy First Minister John Swinney. Swinney went on to announce that £500 million had been invested in Aberdeen alone to aid the transition from oil & gas. Swinney argued that Scotland has the energy capacity and security, but with Westminster in charge, the future is held back; with the UK having the highest cost of gas in Europe.
Swinney stated, ‘Tories really are reckless hypocrites,’ commenting that the Conservative party are threatening the financial security of citizens for their own benefits while the SNP’s financial resources would be used to fund public services. As SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said, “This is Scotland’s energy and should serve Scottish people.”
Topical resolutions regarding the war in Ukraine and the continuous support from Scotland
were met with praise as Ukrainian politician Lesia Vasylenko spoke eloquently on the need for the elimination of Putinism, asking the UK to continue making Russia weaker.
MP Alyn Smith said in support, “Ukraine’s fight is our fight.”
The anti-government protests in Iran, sparked by the murder of Zhina Amini, were also brought up in the last session of the conference. Attendees asked for the UK government to acknowledge and condemn Iran’s actions towards innocent women and men simply trying to be free of the Irainian regime. Councillor Roza Salih, a Kurd herself, repeated the chant ‘Zhin, Zhian, Azadi’ that translates to ‘Women, Life, Freedom.’
The highlight of the conference occurred when the first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, addressed the conference on the final day. Sturgeon touched on many notable matters such as the fight for Scottish independence, which has a court hearing happening soon on the subject and a referendum by next year if all goes well, stating, “We are the independence generation.”
She also went on to express her support for the many significant
tragedies happening internationally, ‘To women in Iran fighting for basic human rights. We stand with you. To girls in Afghanistan demanding the right to go to school. We stand with
you. To men and women risking their lives in opposition to Putin in Russia, or his sidekick in
Belarus. We stand with you. And to the people of Ukraine – fighting for your very existence.
We stand with you.’
During her speech, she announced funding for 22 projects in support of
green hydrogen, development of tidal and wave technology, and more, all aimed towards making the North-East a net zero capital of the world. She touched on conflicts with the UK government, and her distaste towards Lizz Truss creating a growth in inequality between the rich and poor.
The Scottish government has increased funds to tackle child poverty by raising the Scottish child payment again as well as extending the age limit to 16; Sturgeon also announced the doubling of the December Bridging Payment to £260 in time for Christmas this year. It is estimated that over 145,000 children will benefit from this payment, made possible by a 19 million pound investment by the Scottish government.
Sturgeon concluded her speech by urging the conference to never stop fighting for independence, proclaiming, ‘With optimism, confidence, and determination. We can now finish the job. And we will.’
Similar addresses given by SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford and SNP president Michael Russell further scrutinised the UK Government's decision making. They boosted morale by reminding the conference of the SNP’s electoral victories and assuring them there is a better future in the hands of the SNP through Scottish independence. Russell commented, ‘It can be better than this. It has to be better than this.’
Deputy Leader Keith Brown also addressed the crowd at various times, with one talk highlighting the issue of international students studying in Scotland.
When asked how Scottish independence would aid international students arriving in the country, Brown commented, ‘What we’ve seen is the barriers have been put up as a result of Brexit and I would very much hope that both the fact of independence and subsequent joining of the EU would open up opportunities for international students.’
When pressed about the various issues faced by international students in Scotland, he went on to say, 'It is completely self-defeating, it is the same thing the United States a few years ago then they realised the fallout of it because they were cutting the tap of themselves as well.’
‘People are [going to] come to your institution to broaden the horizons of people and vice versa. And I want the best and brightest to come to Scotland, so I very much hope that the fact of independence and rejoining the EU will get more international students here to Scotland.’