It’s perhaps fitting that we meet here today in Perth for our Annual Conference.
It was here that I was first elected to my current role, a time that marked a significant change in my relationship with the YSI throughout my 6 years of being involved.
After two years – and a few extra unplanned months – the privilege that I have held of serving in the role of YSI National Convener will soon come to an end. Serving in this role has been a pleasure, a chance to learn, and often at times; it has been quite a bit of a stress!
But in my time as Convener, and indeed in the YSI in general, I’ve been continually astounded by the level of talent, principle, and determination of all the YSI’s activists.
Each and every one of you do the YSI, and the SNP, proud.
Over the last two years I’ve saw the organisation grow from strength to strength. The YSI is more confident than ever in its role in the party as the SNP’s pre-eminent campaigning and policymaking affiliate. That’s all down to your work.
Thanks to you, we are being recognised across Scotland as hardworking activists and effective policy makers.
In my time as Convener the YSI has successfully campaigned on 6 policy resolutions at the party level.
When I was first elected YSI Convener; I promised that we would call for an overhaul of our education system’s delivery of Sexual Consent Education, and I called for a wholeschool approach to mental health in Scottish schools – seeing both of these through in one conference was a moment of personal fulfilment.
More generally, the sheer amount of work put in by YSI Office Bearers regionally and nationally over the last two years has been staggering. I want to therefore take a second to thank every Office Bearer who has pulled their weight as part of the YSI team.
But I’d also like to thank each of you who don’t hold an Office Bearer position – but instead prefer to turn up when you can and do the work.
If you’ve come to any our campaign days or events – you’ve more than done your part. But if this is your first event, then I’m confident that there will be many more opportunities for you to learn and contribute to come – in the very near future.
If you’ll allow me; I’d like to reflect on the experiences that the YSI has given me personally. In many ways, this organisation has shaped who I am today.
I’m now 23 (the YSI is a tough paper round) but since around 17 it has been the YSI and its networks that have given me a home.
I am of the 2014 Independence Referendum generation – and yes, it was that campaign that gave my enthusiasm and commitment to the cause of independence.
But it was the YSI that taught me, trained me, and tested me. I know so many others in this room can tell similar stories.
The YSI has taken me campaigning in every nook and cranny of Scotland, from furthest North in Yell in Shetland, to Fife, Dunnoon, and the borders.
With the YSI I’ve watched police brutality unfold in Catalonia as citizens casted their votes with dignity, I’ve visited the European Parliament with just shy of 50 or so other members on what was supposed to be the eve of Brexit, I’ve learned a lot - from activists from Kurdistan to the Basque Country.
I’ve become acutely aware that the YSI is part of a larger, global, story of uncompromising social-democratic left wing values, and civic nationalism.
The more focused side of this story are the personal relationships the YSI can help you build with your fellow activist. For me; these relationships have helped me tame my own demons of chronic anxiety and depression. For that I cannot express how grateful I am.
The power and the potential that the YSI possesses – in every conceivable sense, cannot be overstated.
This organisation has meant a lot to me, and it always will. I can’t tell you how ecstatic I was to have been elected Convener here just over two years ago, especially after years of hard work in other roles.
When I was first elected Convener in 2017, I promised to do all I can to lift the YSI to the next level in every sense, I promised to do all I could to represent your interests as young SNP Members, and I promised to help raise your voices up as we build a new Scotland; brick by brick and policy by policy.
I hope that I fulfilled that promise.
Being your National Convener has genuinely been the privilege of my life. But very soon, you all will elect a new YSI National Convener, and a new NEC to take the organisation forward to new heights.
And this could not come at a more crucial time. As a nation we’re now in unchartered territory, with polls showing majorities for independence consistently - for the first time ever. That means that the next few years are going to be crucial both for winning our independence and shaping the early days of what that independence may look like.
The stakes could not be higher. So… no pressure.
I would therefore like to take this opportunity speak directly to all of you here who are putting yourself forward for Office Bearer roles today. Firstly, I commend you for doing so – I know just how intimidating it can be, but it is always worth it in the end of that I promise you.
As a side note – I lost my first two elections to the YSI NEC, so if you don’t manage today then take comfort in the fact that I know how you feel!
The important thing that you must remember is that playing your part in this way is a privilege that you shouldn’t take lightly. Serving on the YSI NEC is a lot more work than many may think. But the work is always deeply rewarding.
So – if you’re going for it, be prepared for a tough year of hard work volunteering much of your spare time, and your weekends.
But also, be prepared for the fantastic opportunities and experience that being an Office Bearer can bring.
Those of us that campaign for independence today stand on the shoulders of giants. The team you choose today is likely to be the one that will shape the YSI as we approach our independence.
Before I close – I would like to give my deep thanks to the outgoing YSI NEC. This group of people are extraordinarily talented and I could hardly ask for a better team
And I would like to give a specific thanks to our Vice-Convener, Jordan, who has done some serious heavy lifting this year. His contribution to the YSI can be matched by very few indeed. I’ve been lucky to serve alongside him.
Finally, I’ll close this last speech as Convener of the YSI by recognising that the opportunity to serve this organisation was given to me by you; the active membership of the YSI.
So – thank you for the privilege, and may I wish each one of you all the very best of luck in taking us forward.
I will miss the YSI – but I know that it will be in safe hands indeed.