I’ve been to every national conference for the past 5 years and each one has been memorable in its own right. However, on the drive up to Inverness on Wednesday evening I couldn’t help but feel that this year’s was going to top the lot.
With over 2,000 activists and visitors from across Scotland, and over 20 diplomats from countries on every continent this conference is already being billed as our biggest ever. From new faces experiencing their first ever conference to hardened SNP veterans attending conference number 35 there is a range and diversity of activists like never before.
There are also some, well 30 of us to be precise, who have come with the new role and responsibility of being MSPs. I think I can safely say on behalf of all of us that the last five months have been hectic, all of us trying to hit the ground running and change the world one piece of case work, debate or meeting at a time.
Coming to conference as an MSP is a completely different experience to attending as an activist. From the multitude of organisations that want a quick word, to the swathes of activists that want to know what it is like being part of the historic 69 and then of course there are fringe meetings to host and receptions to attend – as well as finding time to take part in policy debates. I often get asked by friends if party conferences are really just an excuse for a wee holiday, well if this is anyone’s version of a holiday then I’ll never take a vacation again!
However, the atmosphere so far is incredible and unsurprisingly upbeat, it is pretty clear that the euphoria of May 5th has not worn off for our activists. If anything they are growing in confidence as every day passes. It is almost as though activists feel vindicated by the Holyrood result after years, in some cases decades, pounding pavement during those cold, wet windy days when they’ve struggled to get a soaking leaflet through the letterbox.
As well as activists those charities, third sector organisations and businesses that have come to conference detect a buzz on the first day and keep asking me if the opening is always this busy –is it heck. But the feeling that we are living history and on the verge of something momentous is palpable and everyone in Eden Court can feel it. Personally I can’t wait to see what the next few days will bring!