Campaigners unveil ‘Festival of Ideas’ to coincide with SNP party conference in Glasgow


Campaigners to set up alternative venue at Glasgow science centre

A RANGE of leading campaigning organisations and charities are organising a festival of political ideas to coincide with the SNP’s annual conference between 13-15 October.

The event, which is being organised by the Common Weal leftwing think tank and partners, is an attempt by campaigning organisations and charities to reach the hundreds of SNP delegates at the flagship annual event of Scotland’s governing party, and will take place at Glasgow science centre, next to the SECC.

Planning for the parallel event, provisionally called “IdeaSpace”, began after organisations decided they could not afford spaces at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), as the SNP had hiked prices considerably since the party’s last annual conference in Aberdeen.

Robin McAlpine, director of Common Weal, one of the organisations that initiated the event, told CommonSpace that it was important that delegates to the conference had access to radical ideas.

He said: “The SNP has some of the most active and interested delegates of any party conference and our experience has been that they really enjoy engaging with big ideas.

“There are many of us who very much wanted to engage with these delegates and discuss big ideas with them but who are just not able to afford the increased costs of exhibiting or running a fringe meeting at the conference this year. So a number of us have got together to produce this initiative which we hope can help people involved with the SNP get access to some genuinely big thinking that they might not otherwise have had a chance to hear about.”

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Organisations including Oxfam Scotland, the tenants union Living Rent, land reform movement Our Land, the leading think tank Compass, the New Economics Foundation, Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign, Friends of the Earth Scotland and Scottish Global Forum, will gather at the Glasgow Science Centre, directly across the river Clyde from the SECC. The festival will last for the full three days of the SNP conference.

Meetings will be held on a range of subjects including local democracy, lobbying and transparency in public life, workers rights, how to create a low carbon economy, land reform and a national investment bank for Scotland.

The SNP conference comes after an earthquake in UK politics, when the UK voted to leave the EU on 23 June. During the 2016 Scottish election campaign, which was the last time the SNP membership had a national meeting, party leader and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon argued that circumstances where Scotland voted to remain within the EU and the rest of the UK voted to leave could be cause for a second independence referendum.

Conference discussions are expected to focus on the future of Scotland’s relationship with the EU, and the possibility of a renewed drive for Scottish independence. The conference also comes in the wake of the devolution of further tax and spending powers to the Scottish Government, and plans by the SNP to overhaul the welfare system in Scotland with a new social security system.  

The SNP now has a membership somewhere in the region of 130,000, making it by far the largest political party in Scotland, and per head of population one of the largest political parties in Europe.

Picture courtesy of Artur Salisz

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