Scottish Conference 2014

Scotland hosted their first ever Sexpression conference in Dundee on 1st/2nd February in Dundee and it was a great success!

Dundee were fantastic hosts for the weekend, with great co-ordination of the event by Rachel Shedden the branch co-ordinator also. The collective effort by Dundee was great in facilitating a slick and very fun weekend. The conference was held in the aim to not only provide an opportunity for Scottish branches to attend a conference that was nearby as many missed the national conference in Leeds due to the distance of travel, but to also bring Scottish branches together for the first time. This aim was certainly achieved with representatives from each branch present to network, share ideas and get to know each other. We are now hopeful that in the near future a branch will start up in Belfast at QUB and that the Edinburgh branch could be rejuvenated too.

The Saturday kicked off with a great talk about the Human Trafficking Bill (Scotland) by Jenny Marra MSP. She explained the need for the bill and the current situation of trafficking in Scotland. There is also a great lack of provision in help for victims of trafficking and justice for the perpetrators. In Scotland, only four people are in jail convicted of human trafficking, yet ten survivors have been found, indicating that Scotland is only scratching the surface of the problem. The bill does make certain to bring justice to the perpetrators and not prosecute the victims that may be involved in illegal activity as a result of being trafficked. There is also not a ruling on whether the victims would be deported once found as that is the decision for Westminster. Ideally, victims should be offered a year visa to try and get a job then decide later what is best for them as many trafficked people are not wanting to go back to their country for various reasons. Jenny’s talk was inspiring, educational and great to see the Scottish government bringing in a well overdue bill for debate. When the bill is being debated in Holyrood, I will make sure to let our Scottish sexypeas know about it so they can support it if they choose to do so.

Next up was the enthralling Lucy-Anne Holmes from the No More Page Three campaign. She delighted us with her story of how she came to start up the campaign and how it has taken flight to be so well known and supported. She was many people’s favourite speaker and was very entertaining indeed.

We then had James Morton from Scottish Transgender Alliance. He told us about his personal story of being a female-to-male transsexual. The topic of transgender is very poorly understood in society and he was brilliant in depicting what it was, the struggles that are ongoing in the Trans* community and how great the Equal Marriage Bill (Scotland) has been in including equality for LGBT people. He highlighted the need for a provision for Trans* specific sexual health information and that is something we are looking into working with James to set up on our website in the near future. Please get in contact with us if you would like to be involved in any way as we will need a team of people for this.

After lunch we had external workshops from experts in various fields of Female Genital Mutliation, Rape Crisis Scotland, White Ribbon Scotland, NSPCC and the Sex Workers Open University. These workshops were fantastic in answering queries anyone had and providing educational discussion around the subject.

Lastly, we had a debate of Better Together vs. Yes Scotland on the upcoming 2014 referendum on Scottish Independence. This was a great discussion with two fantastic speakers, one of which was Patrick Harvie, the deputy leader of the Green Party. After the debate a vote was taken which favoured the Better Together viewpoint, which reflects current pols in Scotland on the issue.

The Saturday night was a fun-filled time of ceilidh dancing and partying in the Union like only Sexpressioners can do.

Sunday morning started with the usual battle to wake up and fight the effects of a night out that was thankfully met with a bacon and sausage breakfast, which we all know cures all. Ellen, our National Coordinator, then followed with a stirring motivational speech of how Sexpression is to grow this year, involve branches more as a collective effort and the many aims and ambitions which we have for the year as a national committee. Following this, was a talk by Roy Kilpatrick, former CEO of HIV Scotland. He gave us a greatly in-depth analysis of how HIV has affected Scotland and what is currently being done to help those affected by the virus. Roy is a great speaker and a renowned expert in the field of HIV/AIDS and was great to hear about the subject which we at Sexpression should be doing more to educate the children and young people we meet in school visits. HIV rates are not dropping as they should do and unprotected sex is on the increase, which could be due to the fear factor of AIDS being reduced due to better treatment. This is an issue that must be tackled and advocated upon.

We then had our new national committee explain their ideas for the year and how to get involved. Behrouz will always be on hand to help with funding so please use him as a beneficial resource. Charlotte ‘Cuddles’, the Branches contact, is great in being at hand to any branches for any reason so please get do get in contact with her, especially for Child Protection reporting and Monitoring and Evaluation. Pippa is organising a board of trustees so if you have any ideas for that let her know, think big! Josh is our tech guy and will be launching the YouTube channel this year to a bigger effect so stay tuned for that. Emma will be carrying on as training coordinator, so if you need any training information, especially for new branches, please contact her. I will be advocating for many issues that we will support which will be announced on our website and social media. We will also be lobbying MPs and MSPs and the Welsh AMs to introduce statutory comprehensive SRE, of which a template letter is available on the website to use and alter as you wish, please do send it!

Our weekend ended with internal workshops by Anna Peacock of St. Andrews on sexual harassment; Nick Batley of KCL on sex in the media; and Calum McPherson of Aberdeen on teaching SRE to Primary Schools. We hope there will be a blog supplied by these lovely people soon so to pass on the information to everyone.

The weekend in Dundee was brilliant and a great way to start the year. Thanks to Dundee again for being magnificent hosts, and to those at Aberdeen and St. Andrews who also helped organise the weekend. We now very much look forward to the General Assembly hosted by the KCL branch on March 29th/30th which will feature lots of training opportunities for branches to learn a lot from. We hope that everyone at the conference left feeling energised to be involved with Sexpression, to have learned lots, understanding more how they can get involved nationally and that above all, had a fun time.