Friday, October 26, 2012

Childcare, Home Rule and Hardest Hit - my most anticipated events at Scottish Liberal Democrat conference

Tomorrow we Scottish Liberal Democrats hold our Autumn Conference. We're going back to the Vine Venue in Dunfermline and have a really busy agenda.

For me, the debate I'm most looking forward to is the one on affordable childcare, calling on the SNP Government to do more to invest in nursery education for 2 year olds. They accept that it makes a difference for vulnerable 2 year olds, but only provide places for 1% of our toddlers as compared to 40% in England - a move championed by Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats.

I particularly want to talk about the difficulty of obtaining childcare outside normal working hours. It can be challenging enough finding it between the hours of 8 and 6 but imagine you're a nurse, for example. What if your relationship breaks down and there's nobody to look after your children? What do you do if yo have no family around and you have to work 12.5 hour shifts, day, night and weekend? You might, if you're lucky, be able to find someone who'll take your kids in at 7 am and keep them until 8 at night, but few would take them at nights and weekends. Your ability to provide for your family would be severely compromised. It would cost the state far more in the long run if you had to give up work than to provide some sort of affordable childcare.

The second thing I'm awaiting with great interest is the debate on the Home Rule Commission. As I said on Lib Dem Voice last week, the Report has been written both with intelligence and feeling, incorporating our values. I do think that it should have considered immigration, however.

There are fringe meetings on Land Reform, whether independence would be good for the environment, how Lib Dems can help with Better Together and the one I hope to get to, by The Hardest Hit. I'm glad that they are coming to talk to us. We need to know the specifics of how the welfare reforms are hitting vulnerable people to build an evidence based case for change. However unhappy I might feel about certain aspects of the reforms, I know that our ministers have succeeded in changing much. I am well aware that these reforms cause real suffering to people who are sick and disabled and it's not easy to live with. I will continue to try to change things, though and throw my energies into making sure Cameron and IDS don't implement their even crazier ideas to cut the welfare bill even more. Ken Reid, Chair of RNIB Scotland and Carolyn Roberts of SAMH are among the speakers.

All that and the hustings for the European election selection contest as well.... There will also be keynote speeches from Mike Moore and Willie Rennie and a Q and A with Danny Alexander.

That's a lot to pack in to a day. I'll be shattered by the end of it...I'll be tweeting my way through the day using the hashtag #sldconf.

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