Over 40 organisations come together for radical policy festival at SNP conference


Seventeen fringe meetings shows “appetite” for radical ideas among party delegates

OVER 40 organisations are supporting a festival of “major policy thinking” at the SNP’s 2016 conference.

Groups supporting IdeaSpace, which will take place at the Glasgow Science Centre (GSC) across the Clyde from the SNP conference at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC), include SNP affiliated groups SNP Youth and SNP socialists, think tanks including the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and the Electoral Reform Society (ERS), and leading pro-independence groups including Women for Independence and the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC).

Meetings and stalls at the festival will be held across the full 3 days of the conference from Thursday 13 October to Saturday 15 October. The event is free for both conference delegates and members of the public.

Robin McAlpine: “Everyone I’ve worked with on fringe meetings at recent SNP conferences has been amazed at just how much appetite there is for discussion of major policy thinking. IdeaSpace is providing an opportunity for both delegates and members of the public to hear about big ideas which aren’t going to be represented or debated at conference this year. I think the range of organisations and issues being covered at IdeaSpace is a testament to just how vibrant public debate in Scotland is just now. The will to transform Scotland did not end with the referendum in 2014.”

IdeaSpace was organised by the CommonWeal think tank and activists network after it became clear that many organisations would not be able to afford increased prices for charities and campaigning organisations to hold fringe events at the SNP conference.

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

Fringe events and receptions at the conference will be dominated by corporations and lobbying and public relations (PR) groups including the Confederation of British Industry (CBI), Scotrail owners Abellio, leading Scottish PR group Charlotte Street Partners, banking group Santander and Coca-Cola’s European operation.

Writer and commentator Lesley Riddoch said: “IdeaSpace is offering space to groups with big ideas rather than big wallets. I hope MPs and MSPs join delegates in coming over. Who knows IdeaSpace could change the look of party conferences from now on.”

Liz Murray of Global Justice Now, which is also a partner organisation for the event said: “In the past when we’ve held fringe meetings in the SNP conference, it’s been clear that the party members are really interested in approaching big issues like the economy, global trade and international development with radical thinking that challenges the status quo and is truly internationalist.

“IdeaSpace will provide that in spades this year.  We’ll be there with our ideas on creating a trading system that puts human rights and the environment ahead of profits for big business; ideas from our allies in the global south on taking back control of the global food system; information on why we think that energy democracy is the answer to the Big Six; and our ‘red lines’ for a progressive Brexit.  We really hope that SNP party members and politicians will take the opportunity to visit IdeaSpace, and make the most of the wide range of organisations and some of the most radical and innovative thinking around.”

George Kerevan MP defies party instruction to speak at SNP conference fringe festival

Operations Manager for CommonWeal, Tiffany Kane, said: “For me, the most exciting thing about IdeaSpace is that none of this was planned well in advance. The initial idea was to hold a stall at the SNP annual conference with a few other organisations, and focus on a few important policy ideas that can really change Scotland. As plans transpired, we quickly realised we could never afford the asking price. Rather than accept it, we found an alternative, and it proved to be a solution for over 40 organisations. We refused to allow our bank balance determine our choices, and instead, created a vibrant, stimulating event with great thinkers, researchers and campaigns all under one roof.”

Further information about the free, three day event can be found here.

Pictures: CommonWeal

Check out what people are saying about how important CommonSpace is. Pledge your support today.