Conference

By James Calder

Day 1

Nick Clegg addressing the Conference

The Scottish Liberal Democrat Spring Conference took place on the 10th and 11th of March this year over an action packed two days at the Dewar’s Centre in Perth. A number of motions and debates took place with a good number of the Dunfermline Liberal Democrats participating throughout. For the first time in as long as I remember one of our number also won one of the Party awards!

The Conference was opened on Friday by Perth and Kinross Councillor and good friend to Dunfermline Liberal Democrats Peter Barrett. Quickly afterwards we went into full flow in the morning session, with a motion on Protecting independent consumer advocacy and also one to Keep Highlands and Islands Enterprise Local.  These motions were followed soon by an impassioned speech by Alistair Carmichael, setting out the importance of us working to keep Scotland in the UK and the EU but also placing special importance in guaranteeing the rights of EU expatriates living in Britain. His speech was warmly greeted by the Conference.

We then came to lunch and the fringe meetings. My own choice was an (unsurprisingly) very well attended fringe meeting led by former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg on The global threat to liberalism from populism and nationalism. Nick provided a thoughtful analysis on the worrying upsurge in populist movements not only in the UK but also with Trump, Putin, Le Pen in France and Wilders in the Netherlands. His view were there are both long terms trends such as the end of the traditional right versus left dichotomy  as well as the significant impact of the global financial crisis of the last decade.

The afternoon began with a debate on Preventing drug-related deaths, which included moving away from criminalising possession for personal use to more attempts to help drug users. Interestingly two of our members, myself and Tom Leatherland, participated in this debate, both on opposing viewpoints, but of course in the normal good-natured Lib Dem spirit. Tom even made a television appearance for his speech on BBC. Afterwards the debates moved to updating the speed limits for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes.  After this one of the Conference highlights took place, with a speech from Nick Clegg following on from his very interesting fringe meeting earlier. Nick carried on with his theme calling on Liberals to fight right-wing populism at home and provide the opposition to the Tories over their hard-Brexit plans which Labour is failing to provide.

The final two motions of the afternoon included a motion on Frank’s Law and dementia in football, aimed and giving support for footballers suffering dementia as well as the wider and significant group in society suffering from this. The final motion, Education, had Conference agreeing that the SNP had failed in Scotish education and called for the Government to invest in education, stop school league tables and reduce teachers’ workloads.

Bryn Jones, Alistair Carmichael and Myself enjoying a dram

In the evening some of the Dunfermline Liberal Democrats attended a fringe meeting on Enterprise and Skills led by Universities Scotland. However I, alongside Dunfermline North candidate Bryn Jones decided to attend a very entertaining whisky tasting led by Alistair Carmichael and the Lib Dem Friends of Whisky. Afterwards we went to the Liberal Youth Scotland quiz where a team including myself, Aude Boubaker-Calder, Bryn Jones and Lauren Jones unfortunately failed to excel (or even register a score in double figures!)

Day 2

Saturday began with the Party AGM, with the most significant development being the agreement on where the all-female shortlists will be for the next Scottish Election. Afterwards we were treated to a speech from Baroness Sal Brinton, the President of the Liberal Democrats. This acted as a call to arms for us to go out and win our local elections this May.

We then went onto the first motion of the day, Fighting for our place in the UK and Europe. The mover was one of the Party’s rising stars, Alex Cole-Hamilton, MSP for Edinburgh West. However the undoubted high point of the debate was a speech by our own Aude Boubaker-Calder putting the case for her amendment to the motion calling for the UK to guarantee the rights of EU expats like herself. I also spoke in support of the amendment and the motion, and there was huge support for both across the Conference. Aude was delighted at her amendment passing!

We then moved onto a motion condemning the recent Tory UK budget as unfair, before settling down the fringe meetings at lunchtime. I went to a very interesting fringe led by the EIS for Standing up for Scottish Education. This led to much interesting discussion, and I also put forward a question on how we can better help teacher’s deal with ever-increasing workloads.

Aude Boubaker-Calder receiving her award

During the afternoon another Dunfermline Lib Dem, Lauren Jones, candidate for Dunfermline Central, spoke from her experience as a new mother in the debate on Maternal Mental Health. Willie Rennie then made his speech where he promised to speak for the majority in Scotland who want to stay in both the UK and the EU. After a Consultation session on Housing, the Party awards took place. I was incredibly proud to see my wife and our member Aude Boubaker-Calder win the prestigious best speech award, and in my opinion (not biased of course!) her speech was the highlight of the Conference it was well-deserved!

At that the Conference ended. A great couple of days, but both myself and Bryn Jones had to wait a little bit longer as we looked after his baby while Aude and Lauren attended a Scottish Lib Dem women’s event! I think I can speak for the entire local Party that it was a thoroughly enjoyable Conference and I think we have got a lot to look forward to over the coming months.

 

Aude with her trophy and Willie Rennie

Dunfermline Liberal Democrats are delighted to say that our membership secretary and prospective candidate for West Fife and Coastal Villages, Aude Boubaker-Calder, has won the Scottish Liberal Democrat award for the best speech at Conference yesterday, the Russell Johnston Trophy.

Aude’s speech was presenting her amendment to the motion Fighting for our place in the UK and Europe. Aude’s amendment called for the UK Government to give an unconditional guarantee to EU citizens living in Britain the right to remain, and her amendment was passed with almost unanimous approval.

Aude has said,

I was suprised and honoured to have not only win this award but also proud that my fellow Party members joined me in my battle to a provide a voice to the voiceless EU expatriates in the Brexit debate. It feels wonderful and inspiring to have my name amongst presitigious figures such as former Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace and Alistair Carmichael MP. I now call upon the British Government to take heed of the recent House of Lords amendment backing the right to stay for EU expatriates like myself.

You can read Aude’s speech below:

For the ones who weren’t there at the Autumn Conference I will present myself briefly: My name is Aude, I am from Belgium. I have been in Scotland for 4 years and a member of the Lib Dems for around 2 years. Since the 23rd June, I am like most of you. I an concerned about the unity of our country, our economy, our position in the EU and in the world but not only. In addition, I am worried about my place amongst you like the other 3 million EU expatriates.

Brexit causes distress for everyone in the UK. British families are unable to predict what their future will look like: professional and economical.

Myself, I am unable to plan my future and the one of my husband with this Damoclean sword hanging above me.

Not only did I not get a voice during the Referendum, but now the Tory Government has the audacity to use me and my fellow EU Expats a bargain ship in their hard Brexit negotiations.

EU Expats are threatened to lose the jobs, the houses and the lives they have built up here Some of them have applied in a hurry for a highly complex 85 page form to get permanent residency.

Lib Dem research has shown 28%, including those with British spouses and children, have been rejected, sometimes for an unticked box, and were told to prepare to leave the country.

Some of us have to face blatant racism. Someone told me when campaigning this week in Dunfermline to go back to my country. What I answered with a big smile is that my country is the UK and I will fight for it!

We all know uncertainty is bad for any economy. See the chaos that Brexit has already caused and what the future ahead is for the UK and Scotland. Some businesses are run by EU citizens as well as doctors, nurses, teachers and academics. We are already facing a shortage in our public services such Education and the NHS, who is going to replace them?

Some claim that EU Expats are scroungers or even beggars. Well, let set things straight: I have never received a penny in benefits in the UK. In fact, Government research showed in 2013-2014 that recent EU expats paid £2.54 billion more in tax than they received in benefits and as a whole they paid £20 billion more in tax than they received in public services. British citizens, on the other hand, received more in public services than paid in taxes.So the question is: can you afford to lose us? I don’t think so.

Britain was one of the first countries to introduce a parliamentary democracy giving a voice to the people. I have the feeling that the pride of this advanced nation has been tarnished by the Tories definition of democracy: the tyranny of the majority over the minority. David Cameron shut the fundamental right to be represented for the those of us who were the most affected by the Referendum. Theresa May followed his steps. A few weeks ago, we saw Mrs May and President Trumps walking hand in hand in The White House just like their policies. He attacks the Mexicans and the Muslims, she attacks the most vulnerable and the EU expats. What a brilliant couple who want to build walls against diversity!

However, in all darkness there is a sparkle of light. Last week, the Lib Dems accomplished a major achievement in the House of Lords. We ensured that the amendment guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK passed. It made me proud to be a Lib Dem!

Today, I would like this Conference to send a powerful message to Teresa May: not in our name! I ask Conference to give a voice to the voiceless and to pass this motion as well as this amendment and let EU expats and their families know they have a friend in the Liberal Democrats and especially the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

You can watch part of her speech this week on BBC iPlayer.

Wendy at the Conference

Wendy at the Conference

By Wendy Chamberlain

Having joined the party last year following the UK General Election, I attended the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference in the Autumn, but was keen to experience a Federal Conference. I was therefore delighted to have the opportunity to attend the Spring Conference last month in York, something that I would encourage all members to do at some point if you can – there is an access fund that helps those who may find it cost prohibitive.

I travelled down to York on Friday afternoon, dropped my bags at my B&B nearby and headed straight to the York Barbican for the Civic Reception. Caron Lindsay, Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and known to many Dunfermline and West Fife Liberal Democrats was my Newbie buddy for the weekend, and I met with her there. I then dropped into the First Timers reception and was really impressed by the numbers there, and that many of those there were members of longstanding, who had decided to attend for the first time. It was also great to have addresses from both Sal Brinton and Tim Farron – it really made us feel valued as a group.

The Conference rally was the main event on Friday night. This was focussed on the upcoming European Referendum – the speakers were hugely impressive, particularly current Welsh AM Eluned Parrott and Saleyha Ahsan –  a junior doctor who handed her membership form to Tim Farron from the stage! After dinner with Caron and some of her friends from across the UK, it was back to my B&B to actually unpack.

I was keen to use the Saturday to attend training and fringe events as well as the main conference agenda, so after attending the official conference opening in the Barbican main hall, I headed round the corner to the Novotel and a session hosted by Liberal Democrat Women with former MP Tessa Munt about becoming a candidate – very empowering and Tessa encouraged all attendees to keep in touch. Another session at the Hilton was run by the central elections team focussed on the Scottish Welsh and London Assembly elections. Unfortunately the debate on fracking was taking place at the same time, so it wasn’t particularly well attended. I did find out, however, that Limekilns was the most Lib Dem part of the Dunfermline constituency when Jim Tolson won the seat in the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections!

I then popped over to another Liberal Democrat Women event looking forward to the Electing Diverse MPs motion the following day. I was really encouraged by the turn out – standing room only! – as well as the range of opinions expressed. Off back to the Barbican (I should have had a pedometer attached to me!) for lunch and a look at the exhibition. There I obtained Joined the History Association and was directed to purchase my Liberator songbook for the infamous Glee Club.

I then spent the afternoon in Conference main hall. This included a really personable Q&A session with Tim Farron. As a former police officer I was keen to attend the Privacy and Security in a Digital Age debate, moved by Lord Paddick, and again I was really impressed by the variety of speakers – including a number of first time speakers – who always got a round of applause – and party members with a wealth of experience in the subject area.

I actually managed an hour or so back at my accommodation, before heading out again for the late night Glee Club – this is a conference tradition, and I was assured that I had to attend it once to fully experience conference – I would recommend that you do the same!

Caron Lindsay moved the most divisive and emotive debate of the conference – Electing Diverse MPs. Although the measures outlined were less radical than those approved at the Scottish Spring Conference there was a  great deal of debate and strong speakers on both sides, including a group of Liberal Youth wearing I Am Not a Token Woman tshirts. Current legislation only allows for shortlisting on the basis of gender and disability, and the motion was passed with an amendment to campaign to extend current legislation for all under represent groups. I did submit a card, and although not selected, was happy to have used my vote to support the motion.

Tim’s speech was brilliant and it was great to see the full hall – as I tweeted from the event: @nick-clegg 8th May 2015 your speech made me join @LibDems @timfarron your speech today made me proud that I did!

And that was it, by 1pm all over, back on the train and back home after along but exhilarating weekend!

Conference Attendees

Conference Attendees

By Tom Leatherland

 

The Scottish spring conference this year was in Edinburgh’s Assembly Rooms on George Street, making it an easy venue for those of us in Fife to get to, except for the many members who are still at work who therefore couldn’t make the Friday. The band of pensioners who went along on Friday were fortunate to hear some of the best debates, before numbers were increased on Saturday by younger elements of the team.

As ever, the atmosphere throughout was positive and cheerful, with a real feeling that with a good effort and some effective campaigning on the Liberal Democrats’ positive policies in the lead-up to the May Holyrood election, we should be able to get back more MSP’s than won seats in 2011 when anti-Westminster coalition feelings were at their strongest.

As an environmental scientist, I was particularly supportive of the second motion on ‘Tackling Climate Change and Protecting Nature’. There was a proposed amendment, making the point that fracking could be adequately regulated to ensure that it didn’t cause excessive local environmental damage. The debate was particularly lively, but unfortunately my bid to speak against the amendment wasn’t called. While I agree that fracking could be adequately controlled, the regulatory measures required could make it uneconomic if the price of oil stays low, and it would increase our carbon emissions. I’m pleased that the executive has subsequently confirmed that our manifesto will confirm our continuing support for the current moratorium on the grounds that it would be incompatible with Scotland’s aim to meet carbon dioxide emission reduction targets. My wife was luckier, and did get invited to the podium to make her point.

The ‘Plan for the Islands’ promoted (unsurprisingly?) by Tavish Scott and Liam McArthur, sought an ‘Islands (Scotland) Bill’ which would among other things transfer management of the seabed around islands to the relevant Councils, rather than to Holyrood; extend ‘road equivalent tariff’ ferry fares to the northern as well as the western isles and introduce a working, active ‘Islands Plan’ to address the interests of islands including better mobile phone and broadband coverage. It was passed unanimously.

Willie Rennie’s clear and rousing address was perhaps inevitably very well received, but his themes of fairness and actions to ensure equal opportunity for all, in all things but particularly through the education system, must surely chime with us all.

The last two debates on Friday concerned ‘Empowering Public Sector Workers’ and ‘Supporting the Rights of Children and Young People’. The first of these called for the Scottish Parliament to champion a liberating agenda to roll-back the top-down, target-driven, one-size-fits-all culture coming from the SNP which distorts our public services, a reduction in form-filling by staff and the safeguarding of public sector workers who whistle-blow on practice which may put individuals or communities at risk. The second gave rise to some lively contributions on whether or not all physical punishment of children should be prohibited by legislation.

Saturday brought an even more lively debate on Willie’s plan to get more women MP’s and MSP’s elected by having all-female candidate short-lists in the 5 top Scottish seats most likely to be won and not held by incumbents. Several of the contributions were clearly heartfelt, and it’s noteworthy that the award given at the end of the Conference for the best contribution from the floor went to a lady who’d gone to the podium and put up a terrific  argument against positive discrimination in favour of women. This was however ultimately the losing case, and the crucial amendment was passed with a 75/25% majority. I voted for the change, but this was only after I’d had a chat with Willie about it one (freezing, damp) day when we were out campaigning in Anstruther.

Other highlights of the second day were Tim Farron’s speech, which demonstrated just what a good ‘front man’ and presenter we have as our new leader; the financing of local government (we voted for changes to the current banding system, to collect more ‘top-end’ money, plus seeking additional new income sources, rather than making a wholesale change to some sort of local income tax); and our ‘pre-manifesto’ for the Holyrood election. While I’m happy with the pre-manifesto as far as it goes, I did submit a speakers card seeking to try to emphasise that Scotland doesn’t just need ‘an innovative economy’, it needs a ‘growing and thriving innovative economy’ with wealth-creating industries (includes food & farming) helping generate the taxes and personal incomes we need to support the services and welfare provisions we need. I again wasn’t called to speak, but this didn’t stop me from subsequently submitting my views to the policy team, and I’ll be interested to see if they’re picked-up in later editions of the manifesto!

All in all it was an interesting couple of days and we were sent away by Tim Farron to go out and get our message across to voters, maybe on the doorstep, before the May election.

Wendy on Stage at the Conference

Wendy on Stage at the Conference

I was one of a number of Dunfermline and West Fife members to attend the Scottish Conference at the Vine Centre, Dunfermline on Saturday 24th October. As a new member, having joined post the General Election in May, this was also my first conference. I’ve been asked to write an article for the newsletter to give an overview of the day and my impressions as a first time attendee.

 
On arrival, I picked up my identity card (which is also used for voting) and headed through to the main hall where members of the Conference Committee provided new members and first time attendees with an overview of the day and what to expect in terms of debates and processes. We were also given bright yellow shopping type bags that will be great for leafleting in future!

 
Just time for a coffee before introductions and the first debate of the day (a penny for the NHS). I was really impressed with how inclusive and non hierarchical the whole day was. Debates were introduced and supported by the members who had raised the motions and there were plenty of opportunities for everyone to get involved. I lost count of the number of new members and maiden speakers who contributed. Local members were well represented – James Calder, Beryl Leatherland and Matthew Hall all spoke eloquently on motions including an evidence based approach to GM crops and a genuinely impassioned debate on developing a federal approach to the future of the UK.

 
I made a concious decision to remain the hall and get a good handle on the debates and processes. I plan to get better involved in the training, fringe events and exhibition stands at a future conference!

 
Having attended a Scottish Liberal Democrat Women’s event in August, I was approached by the Conference Convenor prior to the day and asked to introduce Willie Rennie as he made his leader’s speech. After a delay caused by a fire alarm and evacuation, I was used the opportunity to detail my own journey to membership and the friendly welcome I have received locally and at other events. If you are a local member who hasn’t attended any events as yet, I would encourage you to do so – everyone will be delighted to welcome you!

 
Following a typically rousing speech from new Federal Leader Tim Farron, the day ended with an emotional tribute to Charles Kennedy. This included photographs and recorded memories from senior MPs, as well as very touching recollections from friends in the hall.

 
A final chat with everyone over a glass of wine and I left tired, happy, energised and keen to develop the party locally.

Wendy on Stage at the Conference

Wendy on Stage at the Conference

Firstly, may I offer my thanks to Sheila Thomson and the Conference Committee for asking me as a new party member to speak and introduce Willie to you to deliver his leader’s speech.

My name is Wendy Chamberlain and I joined the party earlier this year, like many others, just after the May General Election.

Although I now live just outside of Dunfermline, I’m originally from Greenock. My Argyllshire grandfather was always a Liberal and I remember Rae Michie visiting my grandparents’ small hotel for a convivial afternoon chat. My father has also advised me that he knew Jo Grimond, so I very much grew up with this Liberal tradition. I also recall a small hardworking number of Liberal Democrat councillors in Inverclyde – an area in which – until recently, the Labour vote was weighed rather than counted.

Since joining in May I’ve attended a number of party events, including the Scottish Parliament policy events, an everyday sexism open mic and the leadership hustings in Edinburgh (I met Tim in Haymarket station afterwards – I know he made it to Aberdeen as I must have directed him to the correct platform). At each I’ve been made to feel hugely welcome – thanks especially to the Leatherlands, James Calder, and other Dunfermline and West Fife members.

At a number of these I’ve been applauded as a new member. I’ve met some of my fellow new members this morning, and I might be speaking for myself here, but I don’t feel I deserve this. I’ve engaged with the party in the past, and even delivered a few leaflets. The Liberal Democrats have always had my vote, but the 8th of May (and in particular Nick Clegg’s impassioned speech) made me realise that having my vote is not enough. I needed to be active, involved and part of the fight back.

So, I apologise, for not being here sooner and for letting all of you here, the members and activists of longer standing, shoulder the load to date.

Willie’s victory in the Dunfermline Westminster by election was the first time that a person that I voted for in a first past the post process actually won – it was both a novelty and a great feeling!

As liberals we have a different set of priorities to the SNP. And Labour and the Tories too. Our values are what make us liberals. They are what define our party. We all took different paths to joining the Liberal Democrats. This was Willie Rennie’s journey.

Ladies and gentlemen, please join me in welcoming Willie Rennie to the stage.


You can watch Willie Rennie’s speech in the video below:

Dunfermline Lib Dems with Willie Rennie at the Conference

Dunfermline Lib Dems with Willie Rennie at the Conference

The Scottish Lib Dem Conference took place yesterday in our very own Dunfermline at the Vine Venue. In a bustling atmosphere, filled with many new members, we were treated to a host of debates, speeches and fringe events.

The morning started with a number of debates, including ‘A Penny for the NHS’, ‘Evidence based policy on genetically modified crops’, ‘VAT on feminine hygiene products’ and ‘Creating opportunities for young homeless’. Dunfermline Lib Dems Beryl Leatherland and James Calder rose to the podium to take part in the GM Crops debate.

The morning finished with a speech from Willie Rennie. Another Dunfermline Lib Dem, Wendy Chamberlain, introduced Willie, making an excellent speech in the process on her first Conference. Willie’s speech emphasised the need to take on the SNP on their failings in public services, and called on voters whether they voted Yes or No at the referendum to give the Lib Dems a chance.

The afternoon commenced with an emergency motion calling on the Government to do more on the refugee crisis. Later we debated ‘Towards a new Federal United Kingdom and a new Treaty of Union’ and ‘Putting democracy back into Scottish policing.’ Matthew Hall from Dunfermline Lib Dems rose up to debate on the Federal UK motion and Wendy Chamberlain came back on stage to use her experience in policing to for the police debate.

Later we were treated to a rousing speech from UK Lib Dem leader Tim Farron, where he emphasised the need for strong liberal values in the face of attacks on civil liberties from both the SNP and Tory Governments. Later we also heard back from the Policy Roadshow, before the Comference ended on a touching note with an emotional tribute to Charles Kennedy.

The Conference saw many great discussions, debates and speeches in a friendly atmosphere. We will be publishing more on the Conference later this week.

James debating GM Crops

James debating GM Crops

Wendy on Stage

Wendy on Stage

Beryl Addressing Conference

Beryl Addressing Conference

Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference

We are fortunate to have the Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference taking place this Saturday at the Vine Venue in Dunfermline. We would encourage all Dunfermline Lib Dem members to take the opportunity to come along. You can find out more details at this link.

 

Dunfermline Liberal Democrat AGM

This year’s AGM has been announced to take place on the 12 November. We would encourage all local members to come along and help shape the direction of the Dunfermline Liberal Democrats. The AGM will help us decide on Office Bearers and Committee Members. If you want more information please contact myself at james@dunfermlinelibdems.org.uk

Last week the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference took place in Bournemouth. The first Conference since both the General Election and also the election of Tim Farron as our new Party Leader, this featured inspiring speeches from a number of figures, including of course Tim as well as Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie.With Britain facing illiberal Governments in both Westminster and Holyrood, the theme of the Conference naturally focussed on the importance of liberalism and the Liberal Democrats in a society where the politics of division and fear were allowed to take centre stage in the General Election.

Tim Farron, in his first Conference speech since becoming Party Leader, discussed a number of topics, including his own background to becoming a Liberal, our contribution in the last Government, the importance on speaking up for the poor and disadvantaged, the upcoming EU referendum and the current refugee crisis.

Tim noted our Government achievements, including lifting millions of the poorest workers out of income tax altogether, legalising same-sex marriage, free school meals for millions of children and of course helping to make Britain the fastest growing economy in the G7.

After he continued to mention where we as Liberal Democrats are looking to achieve in the future – including improving rail infrastructure, increasing affordable housing, having Britain take a more liberal and caring stance towards refugees, working towards keeping Britain in the EU in the upcoming referendum, supporting green initiatives and of course making sure we are in a position of power to ensure a Liberal future.

You can watch Tim’s speech in the video above.

Willie Rennie’s speech focussed on a number of issues facing Scotland currently. This includes failures in Scotland’s mental health services, policing and education under the SNP Government, as well as the SNP’s illiberal plans for the Super ID database. He then continued to discuss Liberal Democrat plans for the 2016 Scottish election. This includes getting Mental Health taken seriously, restoring democracy to Scottish policing, empowering public sector workers and bringing childcare and the Pupil Premium to those who need it.

You can read Willie’s speech on this link.