Tommy Sheppard: SNP should "review" corporate dominance of conference

Answering questions from members of CommonSocial SNP MP proposes reform to current conference arrangements 

TOMMY SHEPPARD has suggested that the SNP should review the way organisers engage with corporate organisations and grassroots groups at its party conference.

The comments were made during the OpenSpace Q&A online session hosted by the SNP MP who is running to be the party's depute leader.

The comments follow revelations by CommonSpace in August that the fees being charged for fringe activities at the SNP’s annual conference in October far exceeded the budget of many grassroots organisations and that many were being priced out of attendance. 

"I would keep this under review and see if we may need to introduce a policy of setting aside a certain proportion of available space for groups we know cannot pay a corporate rate." Tommy Sheppard

Replying to questions on the new social media site, the MP for Edinburgh East said: "I agree that the conference fringe is a vital part of the event and that grassroots organisations should be represented there. It would be awful if the conference exhibition just became an array of corporate stands and no one in the SNP wants that. 

"This year the conference organisers tried to sell as many of the stands as possible to companies at a corporate rate first. So for a period this was the only rate on offer. But a few weeks ago once that phase was complete they were able to offer space to no profit and campaign groups at a much reduced rate, many of whom have taken it up.

"The conference gets bigger every year and the party's success means that the world and its mother want to talk to us. I guess this might create a problem that demand from the corporates is so great that there's nothing left for the rest. 

"I would keep this under review and see if we may need to introduce a policy of setting aside a certain proportion of available space for groups we know cannot pay a corporate rate."

"The conference gets bigger every year and the party's success means that the world and its mother want to talk to us. I guess this might create a problem that demand from the corporates is so great that there's nothing left for the rest." Tommy Sheppard

Scottish charities have spoken out in opposition to the high conference prices, which mean that the cheapest stall available for charities was initially offered at over £3,000 for a 3 metre wide space, with the least costly fringe meeting for a charity costing over £1,000.

Last month CommonSpace revealed that SNP headquarters instructed politicians not to attend an alternative conference, organised to allow charities and campaigns to reach SNP members, due to run at the Glasgow Science Centre adjacent to the SNP conference at the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre (SECC).

In reaction to the news another depute leadership contestant Chris McEleny criticised the high prices and called on charities to approach him with their concerns.

The depute contest will conclude at the party conference which will take place fro 15-19 October. 

Picture courtesy of the SNP

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