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What's happening?

Guide for new delegates (and old ones who were afraid to ask), covering... Scotland meeting Procedures Speaking, lights and standing orders Card votes

With up to 2,000 delegates and visitors, Conference can be a daunting prospect, especially if you don't know what's happening.

But now you will, thanks to SiU's handy guide.

Scotland Meeting

Monday sees the all Scotland delegates meeting to give last minute information and discuss Scottish input. Other regions and branches attend to lobby support for their motions. It is also your chance to push your issues.

Credentials Bar Code

No this is not a secret sign to get a drink. This year the credential cards will have a bar code which will scan you in. You must wear the card at all times. Wearing it at your waist is not helpful to the scrutineers on the door, will lead to delays and may end up with more than you expected being scanned!

Seating Plan

There is a seating plan in the pack sent out to delegates. We traditionally get at least one seat wrong in the plan - so if you find yourself sitting on someone's knee, it's likely to be a mistake.

Conference Guide

This details all motions submitted. It also has more detailed useful information. You will also get a booklet with composite motions, listed by letters of the alphabet (usually with the numbers of the motions in brackets). After speeches by the Mayor and the President and various formalities - and no doubt wrangles and grumps and moans about the order of business - Conference eventually gets under way.


Seats for speakers FOR and AGAINST are labelled at the front. If in doubt, staff at the Rostrum Control will help. In any case it is best to tell them you want to speak because they may have a list - and with amendments it is not always clear which seat you should be in. It also helps to speak to the Scottish Regional Delegates first!

Speakers can speak only once in a debate (except for Continued overleaf Continued over Right of Reply The mover of a motion is allowed a Right of Reply at the end of the debate or before voting on an amendment (but not both). This is a reply to points raised in the debate and cannot be abused by introducing new material (although many try it).


Like any other formal meeting, Conference is run by a series of rules. This often seems very bureaucratic but the system ensures some semblance of order is kept. The President chairs Conference (Veronica Dunn this year) and their ruling on any issue is final.The chair can be challenged but this would require a two-thirds vote.

Card Votes

Normally votes are taken by holding up bright coloured cards and the President will decide whether a count is needed. If it is close, or a major issue is involved, the chair can call for a card vote. Delegates can also call for a card vote but only if 10% of us shout out with voting cards up immediately. If this is on an amendment, the debate is suspended until the result is known.

Branch card votes are stamped with the voting entitlement of your branch and with either FOR or AGAINST. The correct number must be used for the particular vote. As a reminder, this information is usually put up on electronic screens at either side of the stage.

Blinkin' lights and points of order

Time limits for speeches are shown by lights on the rostrum. Even if you don't notice the light, there is always some bright spark who will shout ‘time', usually when they're not agreeing with you.

It can be useful to have an ‘escape clause' in your speech to cut to so you can finish on a good note..

The lights mean.... Yellow Light: means the speaker has a minute to go. Red Light: means ‘zip the lip' now, not after you've made ten more points. Green Light: means a point of order has been raised and will be heard before the next speaker.

Points of Order

You can move ‘next business', ‘adjournment' or ‘private session' but the most used is ‘that the question be put'. The President must put this to Conference and, if carried, we go straight to the right of reply, and the vote on the motion or amendment. (The chair can caution there has not been enough debate.) You can only move most points of order if you haven't already spoken in the debate.

Did I just miss something?


Grab your anorak for all you need to know to bore them right back

"They've gubbed it under P11.2 but we're going to move reference back and hope we'll get priority under 11.4. Puzzled? Confused? Couldn't give a damn? - well, read on anyway.

After years of being caught out by jargon and sneaky procedural wheezes, your SiU scoop brings you a rough guide to help you out.

Standing Orders Committee (SOC)

Comprises reps elected by each Region (ours is Robin Hunter and he's really helpful) and three from the NEC who organise the order of business, composites and so on. The chair will report each morning on the day's business. Sometimes their rulings are challenged but it rarely makes sense to do so since the committee reflects regions' priorities.

NEC Positions

Most motions haven't got a chance of being heard and will be referred to the NEC, or somewhere. So it is worth looking to see what position the NEC has taken on your motion. Agenda and Priorities The running order (you'll get one at Conference) is set after consultation with regions on priorities.

Motions are grouped into ‘themes' to avoid duplication and the risk of voting against what we'd already voted for earlier (yes we've done that before!).

Has yours fallen off?

Come Friday (oh, come, come Friday), there is a chance to re-prioritise your pet motion that may have fallen off the agenda or was not reached.. On Thursday, we will circulate branches with a form to pick their priorities for Friday afternoon.

These will be collated, go to the SOC which will set out a Friday pm agenda that reflects (hopefully) Conference's wishes. That can be an eye-opener!

Emergency motions

Conference has to vote to hear emergency motions in the first place (after the SOC has decided it is an emergency and is relevant and competent - a tricky task by the looks of some of the dross that trickles through). To qualify for an emergency, it must have been impossible to submit the motion before the deadline. Even then, it has to be in five days in advance unless, of course, the emergency has not yet happened!


An amalgam of similar motions drawn together into one motion that nobody likes! Not fair really, because many composites do succeed in combining areas of agreement through negotiation.

Suspending Standing Orders

A super wheeze (needing a two thirds majority) often tried to get an outside speaker up or do something that's not on the agenda. To be avoided in most cases because it cuts across agreed priorities.

Grouped Debates

Where a pile of similar motions and amendments are all moved one after the other, there is an all-in debate and we vote on them one after the other at the end.

Scottish delegates

Mike Kirby and Mary Crichton are this year's Scottish Regional delegates. They are there to help (in seats at the back of the hall), especially if you want to get into a debate - they'll tell you how, who to see, and if you're not careful (or lucky), what to say! Sincerely folks, they are an essential source of advice, information and help.




Handy Hints

Card Votes
If you split your vote, make sure the figures add up
- make sure you've SIGNED your card
- and that the branch name is on it Credentials
- Get your photo in advance. Photo booths are few and far between.

We hope the Scottish Briefings will be of some use to you. But for safety, do not leave papers on the floor.