Like a virgin

Our colleague Doug McIlroy gives his impressions on his first SNP conference

As a first timer to the SNP conference, there are a few things that I have found different and insightful, ranging from the novel to the more profound. 

The atmosphere and speeches are resoundingly positive, friendly and upbeat. This is hardly surprising for a party that is currently on the rise and may still not have reached its zenith. Don't get me wrong, there is extremely strong rhetoric in every delegate’s speech against Westminster, Labour and the Conservatives, but it is ladened with jokes and friendly patter on the speaker platform. What is even more shocking is that the jokes are actually quite funny. This friendly atmosphere crosses over to the delegates’ side, joking on the shuttle bus about the fact that you walk in without going through airport security. 

This optimisim is made even the more stark, coming off the back of Conservative party conference. With the Tories winning their first majority in two decades the mood was more serious than many were expecting. However, this does make sense. The Conservatives pride themselves on being a serious party that can take tough decisions – you can't exactly be glib when your economic policy is austerity. The SNP are serious as well, but their optimism is pervasive and the jovial atmosphere is infectious. 

Although not a a headline grabber, the engagement on policy issues is truly impressive, with standing ovations a regular occurrence. The attendance at resolution votes would make the Liberal Democrats blush.

But before it sounds like I have drank too much irn bru flavoured kool aid, I am constantly reminded that this is a nationalist movement, which does create a poltics of us vs them. More experienced SNP conference-goers have commented on the increase in anti-Westminster rhetoric, driving the party forward as much as the thought of independence. You can understand why Sturgeon now hopes that a Conservative majority government will shift public opinion toward independence. 

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