Women in the justice system, CEO pay, Gaza and party reform: SNP conference agenda unveiled

Alasdair Clark

The SNP has prepared the agenda for its conference next month in Aberdeen where party members will discuss policy issues and party reform

SCOTLAND’S governing party will hold its annual conference in June, with SNP members set to debate policy issues such as women in the justice system, a Scottish National Investment Bank (SNIB) as well as internal party reform measures. 

Party faithful will gather at the Aberdeen Exhibition and Conference Centre on the 8 and 9 June, and as well as delegates motions and debates, they will hear set-piece speeches from First Minister and party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, and Westminster leader Ian Blackford MP. 

Early in the conference, Sturgeon’s new deputy will also be announced after a ballot between SNP minister Keith Brown MSP, councillor Chris McEleny and party worker Julie Hepburn.  

Resolutions submitted by the party’s grassroots will also be debated and could make their way into official party policy, which the leadership could consider to inform their programme for government in Scotland. 

Justice issues feature prominently on the agenda, with a motion for Deeside and Upper Donside Branch proposing action to be taken to improve the lives of women who encounter the Scottish justice system. 

Source: SNP Conference Agenda

The resolution welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to establishing more local, open community custody units for women but calls for more action to tackle the “poor experiences reported by many women going through the Scottish criminal court system”. 

A host of party reform measures will also be discussed before a thorough plan is put before the next conference in October 2018, including suggestions to strengthen regional representation within the party and explore the possibility of employing regional organising staff. 

As well as debate on how equal representation and women 50:50 should be achieved, members will debate the creation of a policy development committee which will oversee the creation of new party policy through an online portal for member discussion. 

Source: SNP Conference Agenda
Source: SNP Conference Agenda

Another debate, supported by a number of high profile party figures, including the SNP MP Chris Stephens, will be a resolution on the creation of a Scottish National Infrastructure Company (SNIC) to replace public-private partnerships in the building of public infrastructure in Scotland, a proposal given new energy after the collapse of Private Finance Initiative (PFI) firm Carillion in January, which managed a number of Scottish infrastructure projects.

The resolution calls on the Scottish Government to investigate the creation of a SNIC in light of what it says are the “failures and flaws” of relying on private companies to deliver public infrastructure projects. 

The conference will also discuss the possibilities of wage ratio legislation, a policy which would create a maximum wage, tying the highest earner in an organisation’s salary to the lowest earner. Research by The Herald in 2017 revealed that Scotland’s top chief executives brought home up to 39 times more than the average Scottish worker. 

Other points for debate will include discussion on Israel and Palestine, with calls for the UK Government to condemn Israeli settlements on occupied Palestinian land and to play a leading role in international efforts to end the siege on Gaza.

The way local authorities pension funds are invested will also be discussed, with proposals for pensions to be invested into the Scottish Government’s soon-to-be-established national investment bank. Another motion with potential impact for local authorities, ending the “right to sell”, is also tabled for debate. 

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The Scottish Government previously scrapped “Right to Buy” legislation, which allowed council tenants to buy their home, but local authorities are still able to sell off their housing stock. Aberdeen City Council group proposes that to protect social housing stock, local authorities should be prevented from selling social housing without “overwhelming evidence that a sale would result in additional council housing becoming available in the local authority area”. 

The motion proposes that local authorities would be prevented from selling social housing stock unless there was “overwhelming evidence that a sale would result in additional council housing becoming available in the local authority area”.

Although not officially on the agenda, the timing of any second independence referendum is likely to dominate discussion between members at the conference. The party’s leadership is thought to be under increasing pressure from the grassroots, a majority of which seem to prefer another referendum before the next Scottish Parliament elections in 2021. 

Picture courtesy of The SNP