Opinion: Scotland’s Future – a view from the Gallery

I’ve recently had the chance to work in the Scottish Parliament during August, and it’s been a really great experience. On Thursday, I was fortunate enough to get tickets to the final debate before recess, courtesy of Liam McArthur MSP. By the wonders of technology, you can watch it too.

It was an interesting experience. Alex Salmond took the opportunity to note all the good things the Scottish parliament had done, and attempt to be fair to other parties. He did actually manage this; however, his argument that the parliament has done some great things and made some mistakes could apply to every parliament across the world, including Westminster.

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Safe standing at football grounds: “an idea whose time has come,” say Lib Dems

I can still remember my first ever live football match. It was a glamorous encounter between Everton and Newport County in the second round of the League Cup on 24th September 1986. A big part of what made it memorable was the electric atmosphere of the Gwladys Street stand at Goodison Park. I was nine, so everything seemed huge but the big scousers around me, shouting and cheering, made sure I could always get a good view of what was happening on the pitch.

I was reminded of all this by the headline in the The Mirror yesterday reporting Lib Dem plans to allow football clubs to introduce ‘safe standing’ areas at grounds:

mirror safe standing

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Opinion: Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel’s “Required reading” leaves a lot to be desired

Gaza Burns - photo by Al Jazeera EnglishReaders may recall that in May, the Liberal Democrat Friends of Palestine (LDFP) aroused controversy by posting a link to an alleged anti-Semitic article about Ed Miliband on its Facebook page. LDFP was roundly condemned for posting this link which was quickly removed. An apology from LDFP followed soon after. It is with this case in mind that I am surprised at the lack of response to what the Liberal Democrat Friends of Israel (LDFI) is promoting on its website.

Since 27th June, the LDFI site has featured a number of frankly outrageous articles. Contained within these articles are: baseless accusations of anti-Semitism; opinion pieces stating that protesters in London welcomed 9/11; interview write-ups condemning calls upon Israel to reduce civilian casualties; accusations that western journalists are feigning concern for the deaths of Palestinian children etc. At the time of writing, these articles still feature on the LDFI website. They are described collectively as ‘Required reading on the current situation in Israel and Gaza’.

photo by:
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LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League: how it stands after Week 1

Congratulations to Sam Barnett, Mike Matuszczyk and George Murray, who lead the LibDemVoice Fantasy Football League after its first full week, each scoring 70 points or more.

There are 122 players in total and you can still join the league by clicking here.

I merely mention in passing that two of the LDV team — Ryan Cullen and me — are in the top 10. That I mention it at all is because, at least in my case, I suspect it may be the only time I can make the boast…

ldv league wk 1

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By-election update: Pipped to the post

ALDC Master Logo (for screen)

This was a quiet week for by-elections. There was just one Council by-election in Wroxham (Broadland DC). The Liberal Democrats were piped to the post by just fourteen votes in the ‘Capital of the Norfolk Broads’. The Conservative candidate emerged victorious with 400 votes (45%) to take the seat from the Liberal Democrats. Malcolm Springall, the Liberal Democrat candidate, received 386 votes (43.4%) and Labour came third with 11.6%. This result is especially disappointing for the Liberal Democrats as they managed to win a by-election in the …

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Let’s Shout About Our Liberal Vision in 2015, Not Offer More of the Same

By William Barter, Sian Reid and David Grace

In 2005 we offered “the real alternative”. In 2010 we offered “change that works for you”. And in 2015 it looks increasingly likely that we will offer to “build a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life” (SEFS).

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Channel 4 announce Clegg film

Channel 4 have announced that there will be a 90 minute drama about Nick Clegg and the formation of the coalition, broadcast in the run up to next year’s General Election.

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The Independent View: An Arab EU could be the answer the Middle East needs

The Islamic State is a symptom of a much wider and more dangerous split in the Islamic world between Sunni, Shia and Kurdish communities across the Middle East. Whatever action Western governments undertake to stop the Islamo-fascists ISIS, more must be done to mend an age-old split between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

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Former Liberal Democrat MP John Barrett says he’s voting Yes in the Independence Referendum

imageWay back in January, former Edinburgh West Liberal Democrat MP John Barrett made a very intelligent contribution to the debate on independence in an article for the Scotsman. He said his vote was still up for grabs. He was fed up with the banality of the official campaigns and highly critical of the Liberal Democrats for participating in Better Together.

Well, his vote isn’t up for grabs any more as he’s decided that he’s voting yes on 18th September and explains why in today’s Edinburgh Evening News.  Even though I reach a different conclusion on the question of independence, I can’t find much to disagree with in what he has to say about the quality of the two official campaigns:

I believe neither side is telling the whole truth and that the facts about the future of an independent Scotland, or one remaining in the UK, are not as clear as either side likes to make out. There are risks with either option and if either, or at least one side, would admit to this, they would gain more credibility in the public’s eyes.

Alex Salmond claiming he will get everything he wants in every single set of complex negotiations after a Yes vote is something I am sure that even he does not believe.

On the other side, the No campaign claiming that Scotland’s future use of the pound or membership of the EU will be something they will not support is equally hard to believe.

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Danny Alexander doing Facebook Q and A on Scottish Independence Referendum tonight at 6 pm

Danny's indyref q and a

 

 

Danny Alexander will be answering questions on Facebook tonight for half an hour from 6 pm. If you have a question, you can submit it via the “You Decide” Facebook page which is run by the Scotland Office.

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LibLink: Norman Lamb – Supporting general practice

Norman LambThe GP magazine has run a piece by Lib Dem health minister Norman Lamb on the party’s plans to support general practice.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Liberal Democrats are proud to have ringfenced health spending over the course of this Parliament. With an ageing population, and emerging medical challenges, such as the growth in long-term conditions, facing our health service it may be a given that protecting health spending is a sensible thing to do.

That was not, however, the case in 2010. The coalition has made sure that we have protected the health budget, but the Labour party said that this was irresponsible, and in Wales have cut the health budget by 8%. Sadly, on this crucial area there is simply not consensus.

When faced with these emerging challenges what is needed is to look at how we approach providing health care. We need big shifts in care: from repair to prevention, from fragmentation to integration, from impersonal to personal. That is why we are committed to providing better care, closer to home, and combining health and social care budgets. We also want to see more joined up care – hospitals working with GPs, district nurses and social care workers. There is also an opportunity to better utilise technology in our health service, but at the heart of any changes will be GPs.

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Opinion: Post Rennard: living up to our liberal values 

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKThe Rennard affair has been a very difficult and protracted period for all those involved, but also for the party. It has exposed the party’s over-complex structures and processes, which have spectacularly failed with this difficult case. But we delude ourselves if we think that this is only about the Rennard case – this is about living up to our liberal values.

As a party, we rightly condemn those in the public sector who do not look after those who are more vulnerable than ourselves. We expect managers to have the interests of those in their care, including staff and volunteers, uppermost. We express disgust when bullying and harassment are not challenged from the start. It is very difficult to have to look at our own party in that way too.

The Morrisey Report rightly identified some of the long standing problems within the party, many of which come back to fundamental principles of equity and fairness which we believe are at the heart of what we stand for.

Women and Black, Asian and Ethnic Minorities are poorly represented in the more senior roles in the party. This is appalling. We seem to believe as liberals that pure talent will out but then repeatedly select white men. I spoke to a colleague from our Dutch sister party D66 this week who said that they always have equal selection of female and male candidates, because it is part of their culture.

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Statement from Lord Rennard

A spokesman for Lord Rennard issued the following statement last night:

All allegations made about Lord Rennard have now been investigated thoroughly.  This included a seven month investigation by specially trained officers of the Metropolitan Police.  The police decided that there could be no charges and did not even a send a file to the Crown Prosecution Service.

In addition, there was a lengthy investigation by independent QC Alistair Webster.  He also concluded that there was insufficient evidence even to proceed to a disciplinary hearing.

The Liberal Democrat Party has now dealt with all the allegations and the matter is closed.

We must advise anyone against publishing or broadcasting defamatory remarks. Accusations that were rejected by both the Metropolitan Police and an independent QC would be treated as such.

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Opinion: Post Rennard, what should the party do?

Liberal Democrat badge - Some rights reserved by Paul Walter, Newbury, UKThe news that Lord Rennard has been welcomed back into the fold has engendered both despair and joy across the party. Those who ‘never understood what the fuss was all about’, those who are no longer sure they want to be part of a party that doesn’t appear to live its values.  Lester Holloway, among others, offers an excellent analysis of the wider implications.

I have made no secret of my disappointment about the way this case has …

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Opinion: Liberal Democrats for independence

Scotland pipers bandHow has our party got swept up into the negativity of Better Together, and how does one reconcile that negativity with the commitment of the Edinburgh agreement to negotiate in a cooperative way?

The problem lies in a probably well-founded belief that discussing possible negotiations cooperatively in advance would lead to a realisation that they’re perfectly practicable, that Scotland could achieve political independence while maintaining close social and other ties to rUK. Hence the refusal to pre-negotiate, the refusal to investigate options – for example, to ask for an official EU position on continued membership for all present EU citizens – in favour of a simple scare story: if you vote Yes you will fall over a cliff.

In contrast, much of the Yes campaign is genuinely grass-roots, and conducted imaginatively, intelligently and with a sense of humour.

It is about self-determination, not nationalism. Indeed it is England that is becoming ever more narrowly nationalistic, as epitomised in the ludicrous promotion of `British values’: apart from being delusional, this concept has no traction in the wider world. We should condemn Islamic State for its gross violations of the UN Universal Declaration of Human Rights; if we condemn it for its violations of British values we will rightly be laughed at.

photo by: deejayqueue
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Norman Lamb announces task force to tackle “unfit for purpose” mental health services for children and young people

Norman Lamb, Minister for Consumer AffairsWhen your child suffers from a mental health problem, be it crippling, life limiting anxiety, devastating Depression, an eating disorder, schizophrenia or any other condition which causes them suffering and distress, you want them diagnosed and treated quickly and close to home. You want them to have that support for as long as they need it, not for it to be abruptly withdrawn at a particular date on the calendar.

There is nothing more devastating for a parent than to see your child suffer. You need to …

photo by: bisgovuk
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Saltire hunting

imageOne of the superb, and very enjoyable, things about Liberal Democrat Voice, at the moment, is that there is excellent coverage of the Scottish debate. This is helped by having a Highlander co-editor, the great Caron Lindsay. There are about two interesting posts a day about Scotland at the moment in the run-up to the referendum.

As honorary photo editor, or “photo-fairy” as I encourage the team to call me, this leaves me with a bijou problemette. At the height of our powers here at LDV Towers, we like to illustrate each post. But there are only so many Scots photos one can lay one’s hands through the good offices of Flickr/CCL.

Posted in Humour and Scotland | Tagged and | 1 Comment

Stephen Williams calls for zero tolerance of homophobia on football terraces

Stephen Williams MPLiberal Democrat Communities Minister has called for the FA, football clubs and the Police to work together to combat homophobia on football terraces.

From Pink News:

He said: “We need to stamp out homophobia on the terraces with the same vigour that we banished racism. It isn’t acceptable that footballers still feel the need to hide their sexuality out of fear of abuse.

“I want homophobia to be treated with zero tolerance just the same as racism and I want clubs, stewards, the police and FA to work even harder to

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Danny Alexander and David Torrance discuss the Independence Referendum

imageIt is an hour and six minutes of your life you won’t get back, but it is actually worth listening to this conversation between Danny Alexander and political commentator David Torrance as part of Dundee University’s Five Million Questions project.

David has just written a book on Federalism so it was obvious he was going to be quizzing Danny on that subject.

It’s also available on You Tube here. Enjoy. It’s much better than a lot of the hot air around the independence referendum.

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Tim Farron: I want the Liberal Democrats to become the “gold standard” for the way voluntary organisations treat volunteers and staff

Since the allegations against Lord Rennard were first aired on Channel Four News, I’ve worked hard with members, activists, HQ staff and our parliamentary parties to fundamentally change the way our party treats these matters.

We asked Helena Morrissey to look at our party’s culture and practices and her report helped us to recognise our failings and set about correcting them.

We have changed our rules and codes of conduct at every level, from grassroots members to parliamentarians so that everyone involved in the party is aware of their rights and responsibilities. We have changed how complaints are reported and addressed, and …

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Lord Rennard’s membership of the Liberal Democrats restored by Party Committee

It’s been announced tonight that the suspension of Lord Rennard’s membership of the Liberal Democrats has been lifted, bringing to an end the disciplinary process against him.

From the BBC:

The former Lib Dem chief executive was suspended after being accused of bringing the party’s name into disrepute for failing to apologise over sexual harassment claims.

He apologised in May for his behaviour.

A Liberal Democrat spokesman said the dropping of disciplinary proceedings had now brought the matter to a close.

A Party spokesperson is quoted as saying:

The Regional Parties Committee met this week to consider whether the party had been brought into disrepute by statements made by Lord Rennard, or on his behalf, following the publication of Alistair Webster’s conclusions.

It decided not to proceed with the disciplinary process against him. This brings the matter to a close and means the suspension of his membership is lifted.

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LibLink: Willie Rennie: Alex Salmond’s future looks bleak so he turns to the past

st Andrews flag saltire scotland Some rights reserved by Fulla TWillie Rennie has been writing for the Daily Express in response to Alex Salmond’s invocation of Robert the Bruce yesterday. The First Minister has obviously given up on the detail and is sticking with the Big Picture aimed at emotional appeal. I’ve always been one for tugging on the heartstrings. I go on about it all the time. You do need to have some facts in there somewhere, though. It helps if those facts have some relation to the truth, as well.

It’s been annoying me for some time that the pro UK side has not been quick enough to rebut the ridiculous claims that the pro-independnece side makes about the NHS. They claim that it’s been privatised in England. I’m no fan of the changes in the Health and Social Care Act of 2012, but I know that health care is still free at the point of need as it should always be.  It’s been annoying that few senior Labour figures have rammed that home to the SNP, perhaps because it doesn’t suit them to do so in a Westminster General Election context.  Willie makes it perfectly clear who calls the shots as far as the Scottish NHS is concerned:

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Opinion: Kippers’ squeals show we are a more liberal country

UKIP logoPoor judgment: that’s the reason UKIP MEP Janice Atkinson has given for referring to a Thai-born supporter as “ting tong from somewhere”. I was “completely tired out”: that’s how Farage explained his statement during the European election campaign that he’d be concerned if Romanians moved in next door. Excuses, excuses.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t ever consider whether or not to use a racial epithet. I don’t think to myself, on balance I judge it right to refer to that person as …

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Paul Burstow MP: Liberal Democrats announce package of measures to help carers

Care in the home Some rights reserved by British Red CrossThere are 6.5 million carers in the UK today looking after friends and family who started to need a little help to carry on their day to day lives. Sadly for both carers and those they care for, a little help can become a lot more as conditions deteriorate and people are able to do less for themselves.

That one in eight of us is willing to selflessly prioritise the needs of our loved ones is truly inspirational. But too often as …

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Sloths are cool – but they can’t run Liberal Youth

Sloths are coolThis little chap is a cutie, isn’t he?

He was the star of the email sent to Liberal Youth members kicking off the 2014 Annual Elections for which I am again the Returning Officer.

I don’t know yet how we’re doing but I am really keen for an email from me to beat the open rates of previous sloth emails sent from Liberal youth and, of course, the notorious one featuring Ed Balls.

Being involved in the running of Liberal Youth can be fantastic fun. It’s a long time since I was eligible but I really enjoyed being involved in Scottish SDP Students back in the day. I met friends for life during those years. Others have had the opportunity to head to places like Sri Lanka and Georgia to train young people in those countries.

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Revenge porn: Ministry of Justice launches consultation, Hannah Thompson interviewed on Women’s Hour

Smartphone bar.We’ve written about the issue of revenge porn extensively over the last few months, most recently covering the amendments introduced in the House of Lords which would make it illegal for abusive ex partners to upload intimate images to the internet without consent.

Yesterday, the Ministry of Justice launched a consultation on the issue, saying:

The Government is keen to understand more about the scale of this issue, whether incidents are being reported to the police or other authorities and, where they are, how these are being dealt with. This will allow us to

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Let Kirsty Williams know your views on nursing levels in Wales

Kirsty Williams and Peter Black visit nursesWelsh Liberal Democrat leader Kirsty Williams has been on a mission for some time to ensure minimum nursing levels in Welsh hospitals. She explained on this site why this was important in a post in March this year.

Evidence is increasing from across the world on the positive impact that nurse staffing levels have on patient care and the recruitment and retention of staff. Nurses who have fewer patients to tend are able to spend a greater amount of time with each patient and as a result can provide better care. If they are more easily able to identify potential problems with a patient’s care, then they are able to play a preventative, rather than a simply reactive, role and consequently reduce the level of treatment needed and the cost of this care to the NHS. It also means better support for staff which leads to more manageable workloads, increased job satisfaction and reduced levels of stress or burnout.

Kirsty’s attempts to put staffing levels on a statutory footing has now reached the next stage. She has published a draft Bill and is currently running a consultation on it. You can access the Bill and the Consultation Document here.

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Danny Alexander says Liberal Democrats will continue free museum access

Danny Alexander at 10 Downing StreetAccess to museums and galleries such as the British Museum, the Tate Modern, the Science Museum and the V & A will remain free under new Liberal Democrat proposals according to The Guardian which quotes Danny Alexander as saying:

Our museums and galleries are some of the best in the world. They are a source of inspiration and education for millions across the country. As Liberal Democrats in government we’ve played our full part in making sure they have the funding and operating freedoms to widen access to all parts of society. The fact that attendance is at record levels and that last year was the first time that a majority of people had visited a museum or gallery shows that free access is a policy that works.

“We’re now committing to maintaining that free access in the next parliament so that people from all backgrounds and income groups can make use of these great institutions without concerns about the cost. I see this as another way of helping make sure that as many people as possible have the best chance of getting on in life.

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Danny Alexander: “We would all be diminished by Scottish independence”

imageWith just a month to go before the referendum on Scottish independence, Danny Alexander gave an interview to yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph emphasising that a vote for independence would be forever and that he would be “desperately sad” to see the UK, with its strong social and economic ties, break up.

He suggested that people from other parts of the UK could urge their family and friends in Scotland to vote No on September 18th.

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Life on the Campaign Trail #1: Ibrahim Taguri, Brent Central

Liberal Democrat posters - Some rights reserved by Brett PattersonLiberal Democrat Voice has asked key Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidates to give us an insight into what they’re doing in their areas and what they want to do for their communities. Ibrahim Taguri, PPC for Brent Central kicks the series off by saying that he would dedicate his first term to eradicating child poverty by 2020. Read on to find out why this is so important to him. 

Being a parliamentary candidate is a huge privilege. Especially for my home town of Brent. Having …

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged and | 2 Comments



Recent Comments

  • User AvatarMike Ward 2nd Sep - 10:05am
    " These feelings can be particularly acute in London, especially around Heathrow, where residents endure noise and dread the prospect of more flights." Not just...
  • User AvatarDavid Bertram 2nd Sep - 10:04am
    Expected, but still very sad, news. We have lost a thinker, a humourist, a connoisseur of life's finer things and an all round nice bloke....
  • User AvatarTony Rowan-Wicks 2nd Sep - 10:04am
    Perhaps the awaited email was too complex for the team to handle. Actually, I thought the piece above was about the maximum we could expect...
  • User AvatarLinda Jack 2nd Sep - 10:01am
    Thanks Caron - whenever things like this happen and I throw up my hands in despair - your piece and most of the subsequent comments...
  • User Avatarjedibeeftrix 2nd Sep - 9:33am
    Can we do the same for defence?
  • User AvatarMark 2nd Sep - 9:11am
    Welcome back!