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Mr Angry Visits Perth as Party Conferences Continue

Andrew McQuillan & Louise Wilson

The Lib Dems gathered in Perth for their conference on Friday 10th and 11th March. They were unlikely bedfellows with a group of curlers at the conference venue, although Willie Rennie didn’t tap into his inner Ruth Davidson and go for the photo opportunity, perhaps cautioned by his experience with the over-amorous pigs who became stars of the Holyrood election campaign. The mood of the conference was, as is the Lib Dem way, settled and uncontroversial. It took on the feel of a post-Brexit therapy session, with speaker after speaking reinforcing the need to defend the cause of internationalism.

Constitutional matters were never far from the surface, with fringe meetings and platform speeches simultaneously critical of the Scottish Government’s record and moves towards a second independence referendum. Glamour was added in the form of Nick Clegg, who has shaken off the Sad Nick Clegg tag - which spawned many a parody Twitter account - and morphed into Angry Nick Clegg. Angry about Brexit, Theresa May, Marine Le Pen, Nigel Farage and almost anything. His colleague, Alistair Carmichael, contrasted this mood by warning it was time “not to get angry, but get elected”. Buoyed by by-election victories in England, there was a scintilla of cautious optimism that the Brexit bounce may extend to Scotland come May. Whether that anti-Brexit sentiment will be enough to make them stand out in the crowded unionist field however, remains to be seen.

Meanwhile in Glasgow, another conference was underway...

Despite the party being the one likely to help the Scottish Government secure a second independence referendum, reference to it was light on the ground at the Scottish Green Party conference. Indeed, even Brexit only got the vaguest of mentions. Speakers and delegates very much had their eyes on the prize: the local authority elections.

The grassroots (and watermelons and lentils) of the party were proudly on show throughout the day. Here was a party confident about its prospects this May.

Rallying calls echoed through the main hall and the idea of getting more Greens than ever elected was a strong undercurrent at the external fringes and workshops (the one’s the media were allowed into, anyway). Indeed, it speaks volumes that the privilege of the closing speech was not handed to either Co-Convenor, nor even an MSP – but council candidate for Dennistoun, Kim Long.

Whether this enthusiasm will carry the party through to victory in May is, as with anything in politics, uncertain. The Greens have a long history of polling well right up until the election, before not quite managing to hit the mark on results day.

The impact of First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement this week could become a barrier to victory for the party – an election fought on constitutional groups will likely only be beneficial to the SNP and Conservatives. For this reason, several candidates have taken to social media urging council campaigns to continue to focus on local issues. We’ll soon find out if these calls were heeded.

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