Just as the conference recess ends and Parliament returns for business, the third party in the UK meets for its annual conference in Glasgow.
Westminster still has not caught up with the new Parliamentary reality and this curious three week recess continues to accommodate 8 Liberals MPs whilst ignoring 54 SNP ones.
Where the Labour conference was dominated by its annual leadership contest and the Tories were consumed by their new found enthusiasm for xenophobia and ‘hard Brexit’, the SNP will meet as the Government of Scotland, off the back of another convincing Scottish election victory. The big themes will be debated in Glasgow. The prospects for a second referendum and how Scotland responds to the growing move towards a ‘hard Brexit’ in a country that voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU.
These issues are inextricably linked. There is a real tension in the reality of referendum politics in Scotland in how we as a nation accommodate both a vote to remain in the UK and a vote to remain in the EU. It now increasingly looks like they both cannot be achieved at the same time. For the SNP, it is about assessing if the mood is growing about whether a choice should be offered about which union Scots most value. Expect lots of talk about this in the fringe events and bars, particularly when Scotland is now just expected to let the Tories get on with making Scotland’s arrangements to exit the EU.
We will also see the conclusion of our deputy leadership contest, a contest conducted amongst colleagues and which couldn’t be more different than the internecine hate-fest of the Labour leadership contest.
But conferences are now mainly about mood, and scale. Glasgow will simply be huge and as the third party in the UK, there will be a real interest in what issues are consuming the SNP. What observers will see at Glasgow is a confident, assertive party still securing almost unprecedented levels of support after 10 years in Government. A party that is united, focussed and determined. They might not give us time off at Westminster for our conference, but that will not stop a nationwide interest in what’s happening in Glasgow.
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