This weekend saw John Smith House play host to the annual Scottish Labour Youth and Student Conference in what is arguably the most challenging of times for our Party.
Given the level of defeat Scottish Labour experienced in May, no one would have been surprised if this year’s conference was not as successful and enjoyable as previous years. However, the reality could not be further from the truth as this year’s attendance rate almost doubled upon last years and saw some of the most dedicated and well known faces within the youth movement, as well as an encouragingly high number of new Party members, travel from across Scotland to our annual Conference.
Unlike some recent Party events, Scottish Labour Youth and Student conference was not tainted by May’s election results; instead delegates and members in attendance were united and focused by our energy to deliver change within our movement. Our conference was engulfed by the notion of change and provided us with an opportunity to have a constructive debate about where we thought we lost our way, but more importantly to begin the process of repairing our Party.
Collectively we all agree that we need more members from different backgrounds in our Party, fresh ideas based on our values and most essentially that we must re-establish ourselves as a distinctive Scottish Labour Party that is not defined by our discontent for the SNP but by our drive to better the lives of Scots.
Nevertheless, we cannot be complacent in thinking that our future path to governance begins when we elect a new Leader and Deputy Leader. Our challenge runs much deeper than that and if we are serious about delivering change, every section of our movement has a role to play in delivering that change.
This weekend both Scottish Labour Students and Scottish Young Labour began the process of implementing the changes we need in our own respective organisations. This is proof that we are organisations of action, not simply talking shops that advocate change without deliverance.
On Sunday afternoon, delegates and members voted for who they want to lead both Scottish Labour Students and Scottish Young Labour on that path of change. Both organisations have a new talented Executive who will be unstoppable in changing our organisations by making them more representative and engaging. The mix of experience with new fresh faces is reflective of the wider party and is something we must capitalise upon. I want to congratulate the new Chair of Scottish Labour Students, Lewis Miller and Scottish Young Labour Chair, Darren Young upon their new appointments and look forward to the year of change that lies ahead.
However, the pool of talent within our youth wing is far more extensive than the new Executive Committees. We are the future of our Party and our conference highlighted our eagerness for the challenges ahead.
During the Leadership and Deputy Leadership hustings on Saturday, each of the candidates was thoroughly challenged on a wide variety of topics that sparked genuine and honest debate about the future of our Party. Our Question Time debate with guest panelists, James Alexander from the Scottish Council for Development and Industry, former Scottish Labour strategist and journalist for The Times, Lorraine Davidson and Richard Leonard from GMB, further demonstrated the pool of talent that Scottish Labour has in its youth and student ranks. The session saw us engage in real debate with genuine progressive policy suggestion based around our core Party values, something that we must cultivate to protect the future of our Party.
For too long, we have allowed the SNP and as a result, the wider media to say there is no talent in Scottish Labour and frankly that is simply not true. The Scottish Labour Youth and Student Conference was an insight into the extensive enthusiasm, ideas and potential that is active within our Party and more importantly highlighted that we are ready for the challenge that lies ahead of us.
Taylor James Scott is Vice Chair of Scottish Labour Students and works as a researcher for a Labour MP. He is also currently a student in his 4th year of university.