The final leg of our 2016 party conference tour sees us head to Glasgow where we’ll be joining Nicola Sturgeon and the rest of the SNP. Last year SNP conference was held in Aberdeen, but it’s a sign of the party’s success that the party have had to move away from their traditional venues in search of arenas with greater capacity.
The political dominance of Scotland by the SNP continues, even if the results at the Scottish elections earlier this year were a little mixed. The SNP saw their numbers in the Scottish Parliament reduced by six, whilst increasing their constituency vote but with a fall in their share of the regional vote. The net outcome of the result was that the SNP lost their majority, but are still the largest party by some distance, with the Conservatives replacing Labour as the primary party of opposition. As a result, Nicola Sturgeon continues as SNP Leader and First Minister.
A passionate speech in the European Parliament by Alyn Smith in the days following the referendum underlined the SNP’s commitment to the European Union, and Sturgeon was quick to meet with European leaders to discuss Scotland’s position. She has also – in collaboration with London Mayor Sadiq Khan – pushed for the Scottish Government to have a seat around the table when negotiations do begin, to help determine what Brexit will mean for Scotland.
The outcome of the EU referendum poses a number of challenges for the SNP and Scottish government. Voters in Scotland were in the minority across the UK by voting in favour of the continuation of EU membership – joining those in London and Northern Ireland. The vote has therefore led to much speculation about what the Scottish response will be, including whether there will be a renewed push for Scottish independence, or if there will be an attempt for Scotland to remain part of both the UK and the EU.
Polls since the EU referendum have shown little increased appetite among Scots for a second independence referendum – although support for this is already high. However, 53% of Scots believe that it would be “democratically unacceptable” if they are forced to leave the EU by the rest of Britain. Ensuring that Brexit works for Scotland will be one of the core challenges that Sturgeon and her team face in the coming years.
Of course, there are also domestic challenges facing Scotland, and charities offer a potential partner for government in helping to create many of the solutions. We’ve spent the past three weeks talking about opportunities for the UK government to work closely with charities, and the same rationale applies to the relationship between government and charities in Scotland.
We want to explore more about what the future holds for the bonds between charities and the Scottish government, as well as exploring the impact of Brexit and what it means for charities, looking at the challenges and possibilities that it may offer. We’ll be running our event in partnership with SCVO (Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations), and encouraging politicians, party members, charities and businesses to join us for what promises to be an interesting discussion about what Brexit means for charities, and what opportunities may emerge.
The details of our event are as follows:
The Impact of Brexit on Scotland’s Third Sector
1730 – 1830, Friday 14th October
Jura Room, Crowne Plaza, Glasgow
John Downie, Director of Public Affairs, SCVO
Alyn Smith MEP, Member of the European Parliament for Scotland
Maggie Lennon, Director, Bridges Programme
Paul Reddish, Project Scotland
Dr John Low, Chief Executive, Charities Aid Foundation