Even just a few years ago, when they were in a relatively small room, Scottish Labour struggled to fill all the seats at their conference.

But with the party no longer toiling in the post-referendum doldrums, this year’s event in Glasgow is already over-subscribed.

One HQ source said they've had to close accreditation. “We've never had to do that before," they added.

There are more members, more visitors registered, more press attending, more businesses taking part in the business summit, and more charities and organisations taking stalls, hoping to lobby politicians and delegates. 

It's clear who they all think will form the next government. 

“People think that Labour is very much back in business,” Dame Jackie Baillie tells The Herald. “And they want to talk to us and we absolutely want to talk to them.”

READ MORE: Keir Starmer can inspire Scottish Labour voters - Anas Sarwar

There will even be a protest, with thousands of those taking part in a national demonstration calling for a ceasefire in Gaza on Saturday expected to head down to the Scottish Exhibition and Conference Centre.

Scottish Labour's deputy leader says many of those inside the hall will share the views of those outside: "We need to have an immediate ceasefire given the scale of the devastation that's being visited on the Palestinian people and those communities."

She describes the looming invasion of Rafah in the south of Gaza by Israel as “terrifying” with over a million refugees like “sitting ducks”.

Many of those currently crammed in the city have fled there from other parts of the Palestinian enclave. The UN has warned that many of them have little food or access to medicine.

Asked if the situation in Gaza, and Sir Keir Starmer’s reluctance to call for an immediate ceasefire has caused difficulty for the party, Dame Jackie said: “The loss of innocent civilians has touched everybody wherever they are. And I think what we've been very clear about, certainly Anas Sarwar and Keir have been clear about, is that we are calling for a ceasefire.

“There needs to be a negotiated settlement. There needs to be a two-state solution and I think what's going on at the moment in Rafah, frankly, is terrible.

“I mean, it's terrifying as well.

“And whoever has any influence over Israel, and indeed over Hamas need to get them around the table to sort this out.

“We cannot have continued destruction of innocent people or indeed the communities in which they live. And I'm appalled to think that you've got almost a million if not more, people crammed into a tiny bit of Gaza, which is Rafah. And they are just there like sitting ducks and we need that ceasefire. And every international effort must go into making that happen.”

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Sir Keir’s speech is not listed in the programme for the conference, though it is expected to take place on Sunday.

At the time of writing, it has been a rotten week for the party leader, with two of his candidates in England suspended over antisemitic comments, and his MPs still split over the £28bn green prosperity plan u-turn.

Yesterday, in their latest poll, Survation suggested Labour had lost seven points in a fortnight. Nevertheless, their lead over the Tories remains significant.

In Scotland, the polling has Labour and the SNP close, with Humza Yousaf’s party no longer enjoying the lead it had in the days of Nicola Sturgeon.

“I think part of the trigger for that was the Rutherglen by-election,” Dame Jackie says. “People understand that after now 17 years of the SNP and 14 years of the Tories, this is not as good as it gets. They've had enough of two governments failing them, and they want change.”

The MSP - who was named MSP of the year at last year's Herald Politician of The Year - said that as she chapped doors in the South Lanarkshire seat she was speaking to people who were voting SNP and had done so for a number of years, but who “had simply had enough".

“When you've got almost one in six people on an NHS waiting list, it's somebody you know, and that's what we were finding on the doors of Rutherglen and indeed all the doors I've chapped since.

“People really care about the NHS. It's probably our most loved institution, but they are seeing it at a crisis point where it's unable to treat people despite the valiant efforts of the really hard-working professional staff that we have.”

The Herald: Dame Jackie Baillie

This weekend’s conference will be mostly about Westminster and the General Election, but Dame Jackie adds that the party will spend “quite a bit of time talking about the direction of travel” for 2026 Scottish Parliament vote.

The MSP for Dumbarton is a veteran at Holyrood, having been elected 25 years ago for the first Scottish Parliament of the devolution era.

The parliament has, she adds, brought “decision making closer to people".

“For an institution that's 25 years old, which actually in relative terms is quite young, we have become embedded in the nation's conscience.

“They expect the Scottish Parliament, they understand it's there, like it or loathe it.

“It's become an institution. And I think that's been a success of devolution.

“We have to do so much more though. We're not using all the powers that we've got. It is about taking decisions differently.

“We set it up because Scotland really voted a different way to the rest of the United Kingdom.

“And we were sick of having the Tories in charge.

While the SNP’s polling may not be as strong as it once was, support for independence remains relatively stable, around or just below the 50% mark.

Is that a problem for Labour?

“We are the party of devolution,” Dame Jackie replies. “And we have plans to have further devolution for the Scottish Parliament and indeed, for regions and nations across the United Kingdom.

“But let me tell you what's going on at the doorstep because that to me is the barometer of how people are thinking.

“I'll go up to a door step and people will acknowledge that they still believe in independence, but there's no clear route to it.

“The SNP have had I think, 10 or 12 different variations of how they would get there.

“One minute, they're going use this general election as some kind of proxy referendum if they got most votes, and then it was most seats, and now it's changed to, well, we know Labour's going to win so you don't need to vote for them you can vote for us instead.

“I mean, that's a disaster.

“So the reality is people acknowledge there's no clear route to independence, and they are living with real life consequences just now.

“There are people who can't pay their bills, who turn the heating off as a result of it, whose mortgages are spiraling out of control. These are families who have scrimped and saved, have some assets to their name, now really struggling.”

"These are things that are more important to them than independence. And whilst the Scottish Government may publish endless papers that we've all seen before, there's no clear route to that end destination, and people need help.

READ MORE: SNP poll boost as Scottish Labour prepare for conference

Dame Jackie tells The Herald she is “impatient for change.”

“I don't see the pace of change in Scotland the way I want it to be. The SNP have been in charge for 17 years. Some of that time they were a majority government. They could have used that majority to actually affect change at a much faster rate.

“What I fear is happened is they've simply stuck to the status quo.”

“They've been too timid,” she adds. “The SNP have simply been too timid and not engaged in the kind of structural change that I think is required and the reform that's required.”