Billy Sangster

Stuff out of my brain

First SNP Conference

Up early and excited this morning, today was the day I’d been waiting for, for quite a while now. I was going to my first Scottish National Party Conference.

I’d been having a quiet few weeks work-wise, so I wasn’t going to be a problem finding the time off for it. I had my breakfast and coffee and contemplated what time I should head into the AECC for the event.

Ring ring, bloody ring. I glanced over at my phone, contempt in my eyes. It was the quarry. Some daft ten minute job no doubt. Well today, they’d just have to wait. Today was my day. I’m going to a proper political event. The ringing stopped. The guilt set in.

Ring ring, bloody ring again. I allowed myself a sneaky look out of the corner of my eye. Quarry once more. Must be serious. I looked at the clock; 8:02am. Gazing upwards, with unseeing eyes, I quickly calculated the time it would take me to go there (40min) do the job (20min? 30?) get back (40min). Ach, I’d still have enough time to catch the start of the speeches. I answered the phone.

Two hours later I was arriving home again. The job had been simple enough. I quickly got in, threw my faithful tweed suit on, donned my bag with the pass in it and ran out the house. I jumped back into the van and roared off to the Bridge of Don.

I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. I’ve been an SNP supporter since I left school, a member since 2007, but I’ve never been active in this time (apart from the branch meeting I attended two weeks ago).

I entered the reception and noted all the yellow-lanyarded delegates and visitors milling around. For a minute I wondered what I was doing there. This was no place for a common or garden self-employed sparkie from Peterhead, these people were all politicians and important people. This wasn’t for the likes of me. A tiny voice told me I should turn around and head back to the world I knew, but another voice told that first one to bugger off. I was entitled to this and I was going to do it. I walked into the smaller room with the stalls in it and immediately started talking to the first man I saw. His stall was dealing with wind turbines. Anti-wind turbines, actually. I found myself engaging with him though, and before you knew it, I’d taken a leaflet and had shaken hands with him and was soon onto the next stall. I was getting stuck in and I was enjoying it.

The speeches had started by the time I got round the stalls and once I’d located where in the hell they were I made my way in past the suspicious security man and found a seat up toward the back of the auditorium.

Cameras were in abundance. The lighting was bright and TV friendly. The feeling of deja-vu was palpable. I hadn’t been to this place before, but I’d seen it on the television. And now I was actually here, in real life. I listened to the resolutions and amendments (see, learning stuff already!) and before I knew it, we were stopping for lunch. For one and a half hours. What on earth was I going to do for all that time?

I queued for a sandwich and found a rare spare seat at a table with a couple of politicians at it. I made polite conversation and eventually they moved on, an older couple immediately filling their places. I seemed to be able to hold a conversation with these people. Maybe I wasn’t an alien here after all? Maybe I was finding a talent for acting? Whatever it was, I realised I was having a great time. I even started to imagine myself as an enigmatic James Bond figure – infiltrating some kind of high-society party. Any minute now I’d be found out and Dr. No (or Dr. Aye, maybe?) would set the dogs on me. It didn’t happen however, and before I knew it it was time to go back in for more speeches.

More resolutions, seconded, commended to the delegates (nice and short actually, due to time constraints). I’d been a bit braver with my choice of seating this time, venturing slightly closer to the front of the stage. Time for the main event.

Deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon arrived and proceeded with her speech. Now, I don’t know if it was just because I was actually there, or if I’d been taken up in the moment, but damn, that speech was powerful. I even found myself close to shedding a tear at some parts, don’t ask me why. She finished to rapturous applause and a well deserved standing ovation.

Another resolution or two and that was that.

Time to go and pick up my bairns. I had them the next day, so I wouldn’t get to return and see First Minister Alec Salmond’s speech. I didn’t mind though, what I’d seen and experienced today was enough for now. I felt energised to do more for the YES campaign, felt a little more understanding of the world of politics. Well worth the effort.