I was lucky enough to speak on all three days of last month’s SNP Conference in the Granite City itself, and a huge thank you to everyone who popped along and said hello. If you couldn't make it you can watch my speeches on the Alyn Smith Youtube channel. Foodbanks are a particular bugbear of mine, so Saturday's speech really hit hard. There are fine people who use them, there are fine people who work in them, but I think they’re a blight on our society and we cannot allow them to be how Scotland does business.
Both fringe meetings were packed, with every seat filled - and more! For those of you who couldn't make it along, here's more information on the fringe events. See you next time!
Palestine's future: What are the options?
When David Pratt, Sunday Herald Foreign Editor, and I opened a fringe meeting at the SNP Conference in Aberdeen, the situation on the ground in Israel and Palestine was much worst than anticipated a few months ago, when we were planning this discussion.
We knew that the Arab-Israeli conflict was at breaking point, and there would be more violence. Unfortunately, more bad news has emerged from the region in the last few weeks. The conflict has now escalated and is yet again stealing newspapers headlines.
Our discussions with a packed room of party delegates and external guests focused on unprecedented settlement expansion in West Bank and East Jerusalem, which have further dampened prospects for a revival of peace talks. We were pleased to welcome Yehuda Shaul from Breaking Silence and Rohan Talbot from Medical Aid for Palestinians, who travelled from Israel and London respectively to witness our party conference and take part in discussions surrounding the Middle East Peace Process, or indeed the lack of it.
David Pratt and I have recently visited Israel and Palestine. Tensions were high and every politician, official and an NGO worker I met at the time warned that the situation was going to escalate, that tensions continue to bubble beneath the surface and any moment we could see eruption of violence. Barely three months later, everything I feared would happen is happening. And it is going to get worse.
On our part, delegates were full of hope and eager to act to show both sides of the conflict that international law must be upheld. Our fringe meeting gave a platform for a very useful discussion within the party, it was an opportunity for various branch members to meet and exchange views. Also discussed were plans for future party resolutions
Refugees and Europe’s response to the crisis
I had a pleasure of hosting a very important fringe meeting during this autumn’s party conference, where delegates had a chance to listen and quiz a panel of experts on the causes, implications and consequences of the current refugee crisis.
While record numbers of refugees die trying to cross the Mediterranean, many EU Member States, including the UK, reject any calls for a shared resettlement plan for those who made it to Europe’s shores.
We concluded that the EU and UK must respond humanely and responsibly to this crisis and Scotland’s voice can lead this debate. Like never before, Member States must work together to ease the plight of refugees and the UK has the choice to make this situation better or worse.