Monday, October 16, 2006

Scottish Autumn Conference 2- What Happened

Well here is the agenda for this Autumns Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference, held in the Lib Dem held Westminster seat of Dunfermline and West Fife. Many of the delegates ahd been in the city at some point earlier in the year so Willie Rennie opened hte conference by thanking those of us who had come to make this a Lib Dem held seat. Something that Menzies Campbell and Nicol Stephen amongst others later added their thanks.

Basically the business of the day started with the motion on Tackling Serious Crime and Anti-Social Behaviour the admentment was the only issue causing any debate, also the fact that some crime was not covered was raised but did not affect support for the motion as a whole. In the end it passed unammended.

The second motion on Scotland's Burghs, Towns and Communities only had one speaker against the motion. Her view being that putting in another layer of governance was a backward step. Whereas others including myself had spoken about hte benfits to community councils etc on various of the levels that the motion laid out. This motion was clearly carried with the admentment taken on board.

Bright Future - A Vision For Scotland was the least controversial of all the debates of the day. As we discussed our pre-manifesto many of our brightest young people and candidates took to the podium to express they enthusiasm for various strands within the document. As this pre-manifesto is full of Liberal values it was passed unanimously.

The final motion of the day proved the most controversial. Two years ago at Autumn conference we had a tense debate about whether banning smoking in public places was a liberal action protecting the health of other or illiberal as it prevented freedom to a vast swathe of the population. In the end the ban was passed by a majority vote. This year we wer faced with the following motion:

Conference is well aware of the dangers of both smoking and passive smoking.

Conference notes that the law stipulating the minimum purchase age of 16 date back to 1937, a time when the dangers of smoking were unknown.

Conference therefore call upon the Scottish Executive to take steps to raise the Minimum age of Purchase of cigarettes in Scotland from 16-18 years.

Before I even turned up to conference I had difficulty with the last paragraph of the motion. We are proposing a pre-Manifesto which is giving young people more of a say in their own and their peers actions. Yet at the same time we were considering taking a choice, however bad it may be for them, away from them. During the day the feeling I was getting was that a number of others felt the same way I did.

Many of the speakers both for and against the motion mentioned that many people had already started smoking before the minimum purchase age anyway. So therefore raising the age restriction may not be the prime concern anyway but effectively managing the sale to, or purchase on behalf of, underage smokers may be a more valid motion.

Most of the speeches against the motion pointed out that this was different from the Smoking in Public Places debate as while the first affected others, this was a matter of personal choice. If there was a clapometer present I feel it would have been swiging towards defeating the motion more and more as the speech went on the the already quite busy room filled up more ready for the vote.

It was one of the final pleas in the summation that showed most how the room was considering voting. When the summator for the motion said that not one of the speakers against the motion spoke about lowering the age of alcohol purchase. Considering there is a dicothomy of two laws one that you cannot purchase alcohol before you are 18 but are allowed to drink it with a meal in a pub or restaurant from the age of 16. There were audible comments where I was sitting that this wasn't what the motion was about and mentioning the above.

So when it came to the vote this final motion of the day was defeated by a confortable majority.

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