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Raising The School Starting Age: Success for Orkney At SNP Conference

A just transition in developing Scotland’s Energy needs; the introduction of a ferry link between Rosyth and Zeebrugge; and giving children in Scotland the best start, were just three of the policy areas discussed at the SNP Annual Conference.

Six Orkney SNP branch delegates attended the first in-person SNP annual conference for three years.

Orkney SNP delegates in Aberdeen, from left to right, Tommy Anderson, Moira Anderson, Robert Leslie, Kara Leslie, George Sandison, and Mike Robertson.

This was the 88th Annual Conference of the SNP, Scotland’s largest political party. Thousands of members from across the country debate key policy changes at the Conference. The SNP has been the controlling party of government in Scotland since 2007.

The Orkney delegation consisted of : Moira and Tommy Anderson, Robert and Kara Leslie, Mike Robertson, and George Sandison.

One of the major issues Orkney’s delegation was concerned with was Energy. A key area up for discussion was the need for a just transition to a low carbon economy, ensuring communities are not negatively impacted by the move from oil and gas to renewable forms of generation.

At the conference resolutions were passed promoting the deployment of rooftop solar energy and storage where possible across public buildings and new retail parks, and also for maximising solar PV panels and batteries on domestic properties as part of a resolution on energy efficiency measures for new and retrofit properties across Scotland.

Orkney SNP convener, Robert Leslie, said:

“It was a real buzz to be back in a conference venue instead of on a screen. I delivered a speech on the just transition from my kitchen at the last online conference, but this was so much better — getting to speak face-to-face with numerous folk I’d only ever encountered on Zoom in the past couple of years.

“It is a misconception, often promoted in the media, that SNP conferences are all about independence, and the breadth of topics discussed in the policy-making sessions shows a party in government striving to make things better for everyone in Scotland with the powers it has just now.”

Commenting on the other issues discussed at the conference Robert Leslie said:

“As well as key energy-related policies, there were ones on new transport links, such as a reintroduction of a ferry link to the continent, from Rosyth to Zeebrugge, which would obviously be very welcome as a direct link from Scotland to the EU and also on more realistic community bus services.

“One of the key policy changes for me was the move to raise the formal school age to six, with the introduction of a statutory play-based kindergarten stage for three to six year olds, similar to early years education in Nordic countries. This was voted through on the Monday morning of the conference to great acclaim from delegates, who recognise the need to give our children the best start possible.

“While no members from our neighbours in Shetland SNP made it to Aberdeen, it was good to see Shetland Islands Council leader Emma Macdonald and deputy leader Gary Robinson in attendance as observers. I know they had several meetings with ministers and MSPs during the conference, so it was good to see that kind of engagement from an islands council.

“While we look ahead to a vote that would allow Scotland to become a normal independent country, it is clear that the SNP, as the biggest party in Scotland and the governing party has a crucial job to do in protecting the most vulnerable in this country from the economic chaos unleashed by an increasingly fractured and rudderless Tory Westminster government. Four chancellors in four months and a hapless Prime Minister hanging onto her job after weeks in post has blown the ‘broad shoulders of the UK’ argument out of the water for good.

“With support for independence now at 52% in the British Social Attitudes Survey, compared to 23% in 2012 – and even higher among young people, there sometimes appears to be an inevitability about independence. However, everyone that believes decisions about Scotland’s future should be made by the people of Scotland needs to continue to make the case and win the argument ahead of another independence referendum. That is what SNP members and the wider Yes movement in Orkney will be doing in the weeks and months to come, and it is arguably more urgent than ever before.”

The Annual SNP Conference was held at The Event Complex Aberdeen, from Saturday 8 to Monday 10 October 2022.