Tag Archives: Scotland

Last chance to convince MSPs on Assisted Suicide Bill

From the Facebook page of my friend Anne, reproduced with her permission:

My mother was riddled with cancer, according to the Coroner, when she planned her successful suicide in 1972 at the age of 54. She waited for her first grandchild to be safely born, chose a day my brother and doctor wife were visiting so that my father wouldn’t find her, left notes around the house re unfinished business (including knitting for her grandson), went to a spare bedroom and took sleeping tablets writing a note as she fell asleep. It was the only way she could make sure the family didn’t watch her die a slow and painful death.

Under the new legislation, she could have met her grandson and we could have said our goodbyes. I have waited over forty years for this – please don’t make me wait any more.

Tomorrow the Scottish Parliament debates the Assisted Suicide Bill. This Bill would give terminally ill people the right to receive assistance in ending their lives within a very tightly regulated procedure as set out (from the My Life, My Death, My Choice” website) below:

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Alison McInnes finds yet another Police Scotland civil liberties infringement

Police Scotland have been caught uploading custody shots of people who may not ever even be convicted or have even been charged to the national police database and then searching it using facial recognition technology. Over 600,000 photos of almost 335,000 people are involved.

The facial recognition technology can be used to cross-reference images of suspects from crime scenes with images of individuals kept on the database. However, experts have also raised concerns the system could be abused.

There is currently no framework to stipulate the circumstances in which the technology should be used – meaning it could be used to identify people from football matches or political protests. Fishing expeditions such as these could lead to potential wrongful accusations.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Alison McInnes found this out through Freedom of Information requests. She said:

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Rennie: Scottish Liberal Democrats are listening

It’s 4 years since Willie Rennie became Scottish Liberal Democrat leader this week. He was elected in the wake of a crushing electoral defeat and he celebrates this anniversary in the wake of another one. That is despite him regularly being credited with landing some real blows on the SNP administration at Holyrood with not even 5% of MSPs. Let’s just look at some of the accolades he and his small team have received.

Within weeks of him becoming leader the journalists were full of praise:

A doughty campaigner, with an unpatronising down-to-earth style, Mr Rennie may grow into an impressive leader, building a level of credibility… The Herald

Amid what was… a general air of gloom, there was one bright spark.  This was the performance of Willie Rennie, the new leader of the much depleted Liberal Democrats, whose brief sojourn in the Commons seems to have at least taught him how to frame decent questions, on this occasion about Mr MacAskill’s outrageous behaviour.”  Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph (not a known fan of the Liberal Democrats, to put it mildly)

“The former Scottish Lib Dem chief executive has made a decent start and showed he wasn’t afraid to throw a punch”  Andrew Whitaker, Scotsman

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In which I seriously contemplate voting Labour

You might find this hard to believe. I was a little bit shocked by it myself. You have to understand the situation I am in. I live in a seat which is, to all intents and purposes, a battle between the SNP and Labour. With a poll this week suggesting that the SNP could win every single seat in Scotland, the unthinkable had to be thought. Should I, could I vote Labour tactically  to try to stop that happening? A large group of SNP MPs primarily motivated by narrow nationalist interests is not something that I think would be healthy for our democracy.

I have voted either SDP or Liberal Democrat in every election since I turned 18 bar two. The first was in the 90s when there was no Lib Dem candidate in my council ward. There wasn’t even an independent. My choice was Tory or Labour. There was no way I could ever in a million years vote Tory, so I had to click my heels three times, cross my fingers behind my back and put my cross next to the Labour candidate. The second was the 1997 election when I didn’t vote at all. When I had headed over to Chesterfield on the Friday before polling day, I rather suspected I might get home before 10pm on polling day. It wasn’t to be. I don’t think Mrs Pankhurst would have minded too much, though, because I was working my backside of in one of the most fantastic campaigns I have ever worked on.

The thought of Scotland sending a contingent of 100% of nationalist MPs elected on barely half the vote was something that deeply disturbed me. they would then claim that they spoke for Scotland, dismissing those who didn’t support them. Don’t get me wrong, there are some issues where I have a lot of common ground with them. However, their nationalism and quest for independence aside, they have a strong authoritarian, illiberal streak which goes against all my instincts. If Labour were the only ones likely to be able to beat them, shouldn’t I hold my nose and just vote Labour?

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Opinion: We shouldn’t demonise the Scots or the SNP

I’m increasingly concerned at the way in which the prospect of SNP MPs at Westminster is being treated in the English media.

My fear is that the SNP is being demonised in a way that undermines the future of the United Kingdom by bracketing the SNP and the Scots together and demonising both.

I’ve heard many stories from people in Scotland of the bitter taste left by the Thatcher years, when the Tories foisted the poll tax first on the Scots, smashed industry and caused mass unemployment. All this led to a Tory wipeout in 1997 and they still have only 1 MP in Scotland, although they do have a sizeable contingent at Holyrood due to PR.

Both the SNP and Plaid Cymru pushed an anti-austerity agenda in the television debates. This chimes in with resentment at austerity across the UK but doesn’t make economic sense: cutting too much chokes (as the Tories propose) off growth, but letting the deficit grow undermines financial stability in a way that is just as dangerous. They both have a purchase on Labour because they chime in with Labour’s left wing.

The sociology seems complex, both within and between the countries of the UK, but short circuiting with cheap shots such as adverts showing Ed Milliband in Alex Salmond’s pocket, can only fuel resentment.

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Opinion: Why do I still care?

It is difficult to stop caring coming, as I do, from generations of politically active Liberals and having taken up the baton myself back in 1983. In 1997, I was handed the reins of the Scottish Lib Dem website which meant I was in sole charge of the content and design of the site. I ran it until 2008 when I resigned in disgust at the changes, and censorship, mooted by a newly-formed website committee. Since then, I have allowed my membership to lapse but, until now, have always voted Lib Dem.

Being in a coalition took Westminster Lib Dems by surprise in 2010 but it need not have done. They have, of course, done wonders as a brake on Tory policies but they will never have any credit for what they have done. What is particularly frustrating for me is that I had pointed out how to advertise their role in a paper I circulated in January 2005 because, by that time, there had already been Lib Dem Government Ministers for five years.

How easy it would have been, back then, to have had permanent footers on every London press release pointing out that the person in charge, in Scotland, was a Lib Dem.  How easy it would have been to have our Education spokesperson MP stop waffling on about what he would do and start saying this is what our Minister is doing, in Scotland.  No-one else was going to do so, no Westminster Minister was ever going to admit to covering only part of the UK, the only people who could blow the Lib Dem trumpet were the Lib Dems themselves and they failed, miserably.

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Willie Rennie accuses Conservatives of trying to pull the UK apart

For the third time in ten days, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has hit out at the Conservatives, accusing them of putting party before country and risking the future of the United Kingdom they say they want to keep together.

Their actions are very different, though. Last week, Michael Fallon talked up the entirely ridiculous suggestion of a deal between Labour and the SNP on Trident with the aim of persuading swing voters in middle England to vote Conservative. They also sent their Scottish leader campaigning in North East Fife, a seat they know that they can’t win. Willie Rennie said at the time:

Just the other day the Scottish Conservative Leader was visiting North East Fife claiming they can win.  It’s a seat the bookies say is a close race between the Liberal Democrats and the SNP.  The Tories are also rans.  The only result of their reckless actions would be to divide the non-SNP vote and let the SNP win.

Yesterday, Willie described the Conservative plans for English votes for English Laws as “unstable and reckless.”

We agree that there does need to be a stronger voice for England in parliament.

But we will not entertain a Conservative attempt to gerrymander those votes in order to give the Conservatives a majority say on these important matters when they don’t command a majority of peoples’ votes in England.

Like all other forms of devolution in the United Kingdom any change must be based on fairer proportional voting, not Tory plans to create a majority by the back door. The Conservatives unstable and reckless reforms threaten to undermine the future of the UK.

And, finally, today, he condemned a Conservative poster being shown in England, saying that the Tories have joined the SNP in trying to pull the country apart.

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Willie Rennie takes his son to work

Willie Rennie’s campaign theme today was all about the support Lib Dems offer families. Note the impressive absence of the awful phrase “hard-working families” from any of his utterances.

He also had his son, 11 year old Stephen, with him as he and Alan Reid visited a nursery in Argyll and Bute as part of a Take your child to work day.

Here are the pair setting off from home:

And once there, Stephen really got into the swing of things and was totally undaunted by all the attention:

Willie outlined all the things Liberal Democrats would do to help families:

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Sir John Major certainly knows about parliamentary mayhem

If I was doing one of these word association games, the first word that comes into my mind when I think of Sir John Major is “b******ds”. This Guardian report from 1993 reminds us of the frustration he felt as a Prime Minister who was frequently embroiled in parliamentary mayhem, not knowing whether he was going to be able to win crucial Commons votes. Except it wasn’t nationalists, pesky or otherwise, who caused him the problems. It was his own party.

Mr Major: “Just think it through from my perspective. You are the prime minister, with a majority of 18, a party that is still harking back to a golden age that never was, and is now invented (clearly a reference to the time of Mrs Thatcher’s leadership). You have three rightwing members of the Cabinet who actually resign. What happens in the parliamentary party?”

Mr Brunson observes that Tory MPs would create a lot of fuss, but that Mr Major is prime minister. He could easily find three new cabinet members.

Mr Major then bares his soul. “I could bring in other people. But where do you think most of this poison is coming from? From the dispossessed and the never-possessed. You can think of ex-ministers who are going around causing all sorts of trouble.

“We don’t want another three more of the bastards out there. What’s Lyndon Johnson’s maxim?…”

Major’s words might be aimed at scaring Middle England into voting Tory while annoying Scottish voters into voting SNP to give the Conservatives more chance of winning that increasing elusive parliamentary majority, but what it actually does is remind us how dangerous the right wing of the Conservative Party, especially if combined with UKIP and the likes of the DUP, could be. A tiny Tory majority would give the likes of Nadine Dorries and Peter Bone the run of the place, a point well made by Nick Clegg last week with the launch of the Blukip site. Frankly, the Blu on its own is bad enough. The Kip would only be the sour on top of the bitter.

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Willie Rennie launches Scottish Liberal Democrats manifesto for a “Decade of Opportunity”

Edinburgh West is clearly the place to launch your election manifesto these days. However, when Willie Rennie, Mike Crockart and Jo Swinson launch the Scottish Liberal Democrat manifesto it won’t be in a massive venue surrounded by an audience of cheering party supporters, it’ll be in the heart of the community, in a small business, in South Queensferry.

Ironically, it’ll be almost exactly opposite the spot across the Firth of Forth in North Queensferry where he gave his first interview as Scottish leader in May 2011.

Last year, Willie talked about a “sunshine strategy” and it looks like he’ll be getting plenty sunshine and 15 degree temperatures for the launch.

Willie said:

Liberal Democrats are driven by our ambition of creating opportunity for all.

Our prospectus to the people of Scotland is proudly Liberal Democrat. Standing on the record of progress in government and vision of the future.

In just five years we have got the economy back on track and done so fairly.  We are now closer to our ambition of creating opportunity for everyone.  But with wins for the Liberal Democrat in this election we can make it a decade of opportunity.

With Liberal Democrats we can create opportunity for children by investing in education especially in the early years.

With Liberal Democrats we can create opportunity for everyone by investing £800million in our NHS and bring mental health care to the fore.

With Liberal Democrats we can create opportunity for workers by creating even more jobs and cutting their taxes too.

With Liberal Democrats we can create opportunity for Scotland by delivering more powers to the Scottish Parliament.

These are Liberal Democrat ambitions because they build a stronger economy and a fairer society, in a stronger Scotland.

It is a positive offer to create a decade of opportunity for everyone in our country.

The manifesto can be read here.

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That’s not how we used to do politics in the Highlands: SNP candidate takes supporters on aggressive visit to Charles Kennedy’s office

The very first election I was ever involved in was in 1983 in Caithness & Sutherland. It was the first election since Bob Maclennan had left the Labour Party and was standing for the SDP/Liberal Alliance. It’s fair to say that there was a bit of bad blood from his former Labour colleagues. Not once, though, do I remember them coming round mob-handed and shouting at the people in our office. Their aggression was limited to filthy looks at hustings.

What on earth has happened to the peaceable Highlands?  I’ve just been speaking to members of Charles Kennedy’s team in his office in Fort William. They told me how the SNP candidate for the area, Ian Blackford, stormed in this morning with 4 supporters and shouted at everyone, wagging his finger at a member of staff. If he’d tried to do that at the doctor’s surgery or to a member of Scotrail staff, for example, he’d have found himself in big trouble. Why, then, did he think it was acceptable to treat young people in that way?

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Willie Rennie loses patience with the Conservatives, saying they put party before country

Let me take you back to 7 am on 19th September last year. In Scotland, we’re emotionally drained after a brutal 2 year referendum campaign. After some real fears that the result might go the other way, No campaigners were relieved rather than triumphant.

Then David Cameron comes out of Downing Street and starts picking a fight with Labour, trying to paint the opposition as anti-English and talking about English votes for English Laws. That was the moment that you needed a Prime Minister to bring the country together, not exacerbate divisions.

Since then, the Tories and the SNP have been doing this strange harmonious dance. Alex Salmond has been trolling Middle England talking about various demands he’d make in the event of a hung Parliament. The Tories have fed that fear with their posters showing a pathetic looking Ed Miliband in a smug looking Alex Salmond’s pocket. That, of course, suggests to me, as I wrote at the time, that David Cameron thinks he’s been in Nick Clegg’s pocket these past five years. Michael Fallon’s insinuation that Ed Miliband would do a deal with Nicola Sturgeon to get rid of Trident is fanciful in the extreme, but it all seeks to scare swing Tory voters. You just wonder what “secret Ed/Nicola pact” the Tories will come up with next. Compulsory Gaelic lessons? Installing Alex Salmond as News Editor of the BBC?  Making a deal with the Loch Ness Monster to crash the Stock Exchange (as a friend of mine suggested on Facebook)? The list is endless.

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Opinion: The regret of voting Yes

I voted Yes in the Scottish Referendum. As a card carrying member of the Liberal Democrats this was not the same choice as most of my peers. It would be easy for me to say that I got caught up in the moment and temporarily lost my mind, but I try to never make excuses for my actions. My five years of studying international relations have taught me that small nations can be successful and happy places, but also that there are alternative modes of governing. Voting yes for me was an opportunity to break down the current government structures and build fresh ones, from the ground up, to make new political structures that are inclusive and do not lock out women and minorities from participating. It was idealistic and hopeful and heavily influenced by my Masters thesis on Women’s Political Participation and a heavy dose of critical international relations theory. It was a glorious time, a time where I could transform my abstract learning into something tangible. I was hopeful. I thought we could have a society where all could participate, where all views could be accepted and valued and where we did not exclude those on the margins.

And then I came to stark realisation that underneath all the hopeful rhetoric was a large dose of Nationalism. (I probably should have realised this earlier, my bad.)  Nationalism is nasty, as I’m sure anyone who has picked up a history book will have come to realise. Nationalism is an ideology that requires the people who live within the country to attach their own identities to that of the nation, to form what could be called a homogenous national identity. For those who happily identify themselves as Scottish, this isn’t really an issue. But nationalism scorns those who do not subscribe with gusto – creating division and closing down spaces for conversation and criticism. 

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The two most talked about things from last night’s Scottish Leaders’ debate and two things the press got wrong about Willie Rennie

At Wimbledon, you generally, if you’re lucky and it hasn’t been raining, get a day between matches. This isn’t the case for Scotland’s political leaders. After a two hour marathon on STV in Edinburgh last night, Nicola Sturgeon, Jim Murphy, Ruth Davidson and Willie Rennie head to Aberdeen where they will face another hour of debate, joined by the Greens’ Patrick Harvie and UKIP’s David Coburn. The moderator will be BBC Scotland’s James Cook, who took a bit of a pasting from cybernats for daring to suggest that he’s had SNP sources tell him that a Tory Government would be the best option for their independence cause.

Last night’s debate took place in the Assembly Rooms in Edinburgh. The format was a bit weird. There was a 20 minute session at the start where the moderator, Bernard Ponsonby, had a chat with some people in the audience and then put some questions to the leaders. Then they each had a 10 minute session on their own, giving a statement and taking 8 minutes of audience questions. That dragged a bit, to be honest. Then there was a 45 minute Question Time style free for all. It wasn’t as relaxed and well-behaved as the one at Glasgow University last month, but there were a few noteworthy moments. The most talked about on social media was the man in the crowd wearing a false moustache. Who could it be?

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The Herald: “All power to the Lib Dems for standing up for our liberties”

Willie Rennie - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsHerald columnist Ian Macwhirter is not known for writing nice things about Liberal Democrats. In fact, I think it actually causes him pain to do so. It is always welcome when someone who is not your biggest fan says nice things about you. He was very complimentary about Willie Rennie the other day. As someone pointed out on my Facebook when I posted this originally, “All Power to…. is not the most civil-liberties friendly headline, but it’s appreciated nonetheless.

As James Baker wrote a few weeks ago, the Scottish Government were trying to sneak in plans for what is effectively a massive ID database capable of even more surveillance than that set up by Labour. Once Willie got to hear about it, he set about questioning it and used a rare Liberal Democrat opposition day debate in Parliament to highlight the issue. He called for the creation of such a database to be the subject of primary legislation. He was never going to win, because, you know, SNP overall majority and all that – and they don’t take kindly to rebellion or even criticism from their parliamentarians – but he inflicted a bloody nose on the Deputy First Minister John Swinney.

Macwhirter wrote:

I think now we have an answer to what the LibDems are for: they’re the only major party, Greens aside, that really takes issues of civil liberties seriously, as we saw yesterday with their debate on the Scottish Government’s plans effectively to create a national identity database.Leader Willie Rennie’s motion to stop the measure being rushed through without proper parliamentary scrutiny succeeded by 65 votes to 60 in the Scottish Parliament after an intelligent and thoughtful debate; a rare occasion on which Deputy First Minister John Swinney was sent back to think again

We need parties that keep a vigilant eye on government. Labour has never quite got this privacy thing having been, for most of its existence, a party very much of and for the big state. The Tories are supposed to be the party of the individual but their law’n’order populism, hostility to immigration and preoccupation with state security have made them suckers for any agency – police, spooks, tax authorities and so on – that wants to snoop into our affairs.

The Tories seem to recognise threats to civil liberties when in opposition. Their spokeswoman Liz Smith MSP is opposing the latest plans from the Scottish Government as “identity cards by the back door”.

The SNP are similarly schizophrenic. They opposed the introduction of a national identity database in 2005 when it was proposed by Tony Blair’s Labour government. But once the Nationalists got into government they started succumbing to the same pressures to tighten up all round and, of course, to praise our wonderful police, as Nicola Sturgeon did last week.

That would be the same wonderful police, by the way, whose senior management are, for the second time, being hauled back before a parliamentary committee for failing to deliver what they said they would. On both stop and search and armed police they have not kept their word and their chief constable has not shown an acceptable attitude towards scrutiny.

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Ashcroft polls predict SNP gains – including Bob Smith and Charles Kennedy’s seats – but don’t panic yet

If tonight’s Ashcroft polls are worrying for Liberal Democrats, they will be petrifying for the Labour Party – and not just in Scotland where their new leader Jim Murphy’s seat is on a knife edge. Of the eight Scottish seats polled, six are predicted at this stage to go to the SNP. These include the seats of Liberal Democrats Bob Smith and Charles Kennedy. The loss of these  north east and highland heartlands would be a massive blow to the party.  You can see the figures in this table:

Ashcroft polls 4 March 2015

The race in Charles’ seat is pretty close, with just 5 points between Charles and the SNP with 22% of a squeezable Labour and Tory vote. It is very clear that this is a two horse race. Labour and Tory voters will have to think about who they want in Parliament to represent them. Do they want the independent minded, popular Charles or an SNP MP who will have to sign up to do exactly what his political masters tell them without criticism.

The situation in West Aberdeenshire is, in this poll, more complex with support apparently split between Liberal Democrat and Conservative. However that rather flies in the face of the Conservative retreat from this constituency. You would think that they would have some reason for making that decision. The Tories know that they can’t win. I suspect that Bob Smith will be making sure that everyone knows there is simply no point in voting Tory and he will pick up enough of their vote to hang on.

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Opinion: Scottish Lib Dems should abandon their suicidal complacency and promise to devolve oil and gas

It seems now clear, after months of polling, that nothing will disengage the Scottish electorate from its preoccupation with its place in the Union.   The latest TNS poll shows the SNP on 46%. Even a fall to below 40% will win the SNP most constituencies under FPTP.

We have heard much about Scottish Labour’s slump in the polls (from 42% in 2010 to 30% now), but the poll shows that their Lib Dem counterparts have collapsed from 19% to an appalling 3%. Lib Dems MPs look like being down from 11 to between 1 and 3.

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Things to do in your lunch hour: Last chance to respond to Scottish Government’s ID Database consultation

A couple of weeks ago, James Baker told us why the proposals in Scotland to use the NHS identity database and use it effectively as a surveillance tool was wrong and dangerous:

One of the stated aims of the changes proposed is that it would make it easier to ‘trace people’, the examples given are tracing missing children or ‘health tourists’. This is a giveaway as to the increased surveillance capabilities the scheme would create. If it’s able to trace children through civic transactions recorded on the system then it will be able to trace political campaigners, people’s whose library books are overdue, potentially anyone who comes to the attention of the authorities.

The consultation is alarmingly lacking in detail as to how the new database system would work, and what safeguards would be put in place.  If implemented as suggested it would almost certainly raise the possibility of a legal challenge over the breach of people’s right to privacy, and additional  compliance issues with data protection laws. At the very least such a major change in people’s relationship to the state  should be the subject of a public debate, not rushed through by officials using changes in obscure regulations. If these changes are to occur they need to be done through the use of primary legislation not a change in regulations. This seems a request it would seem hard for any reasonable Scottish Parliamentarian to deny.

The Scottish Government is consulting on this and today is your last chance to make your views known. You can do so here. It is worth a few minutes of your time to ask the Scottish Government to think twice before introducing such a step.

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STV report talks up Tory chances in seats the party has written off

The Scottish Conservatives meet in Edinburgh today for their Conference. The other day, the STV political correspondent filmed with them and talked up their chances in seats like Argyll and Bute and West Aberdeenshire. He can’t have realised that those seats are among five Lib Dem seats in Scotland that appear on the list of seats that the Tories are not targeting in Scotland as Mark Pack reported last week.

The Tories have also written off their chances in Edinburgh West, Ross, Skye and Lochaber and North East Fife.

Shetland MSP Tavish Scott described the Tory leak as a “letter of surrender”:

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Willie Rennie MSP writes…You wouldn’t put UKIP in charge of Europe, so you wouldn’t put the SNP in charge of the UK

If you ask me about coalitions and the SNP, I will keep it simple.

Just as you wouldn’t put UKIP in charge of Europe, you would not put the SNP in charge of Britain. It’s not going to happen. Anyway, the SNP leader at Westminster told an interviewer from the New Statesman last week that he wasn’t interested. So, it’s definitely not going to happen.

I know from long years in politics that parlour style discussions about hypotheticals and coalitions don’t translate onto the doorsteps.

We’re in the Liberal Democrats because we want to build a stronger economy and a fairer society, …

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Manifesto front page: Welsh and Scottish versions

As we said in our post about the front page of the manifesto, the Welsh and the Scots would have slightly different versions. Here they are:

The Welsh version says we’ll deliver a stronger Wales, with more powers, home rule and fair funding. Devolution means that our priorities on health and education need to be tailored. We’ve already ensured that the Pupil Premium, which delivers extra money to help disadvantaged kids in school, has been implemented in Wales and say we’ll deliver continued investment. On health the priority is more resources and safe staffing levels, consistent with Kirsty Williams’ bill to put staffing levels on a statutory footing.

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Yet again Scotland’s political leaders outclass their Westminster counterparts

Prime Minister’s Questions was even worse than usual today. Both Cameron and Miliband jumped into the gutter from the start and neither of them emerged. It was bizarre watching these people who had blocked every single attempt to reform party funding argue about each other’s paymasters. It was a matter of some considerable annoyance that Cameron kept saying how his government had done more to make sure people paid their taxes than the last one. Does anyone seriously think the Tories, left to their own devices, would have done that? Errr, no. That’s all been down to our man in the Treasury, one Danny Alexander. Cameron taking credit for our policy is bad enough. Using our success to cover his own party’s issues is worse.

It was all a bit classier in Scotland, though. Remember a couple of weeks ago how Scotland’s party leaders joked on Twitter about cancelling FMQs and drinking Pimms in Nicola Sturgeon’s office while watching Andy Murray’s semi-final in the Australian Open instead?

Well, they’ve done it again. After a journalist teased Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson about the fundraiser where a mega-rich Tory donor paid £17500 for a shoe-shopping session with Theresa May.

To cut a long story short, a shoe shopping session with all of Scotland’s political leaders is now to be auctioned to raise money for Scottish charity Cash for Kids. Buzzfeed has the story.

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Campaigners flock to Gordon to help Christine Jardine

Christine Jardine canvassing selfieI wasn’t surprised to see Alex Salmond ahead in the Ashcroft poll on Gordon. After all, he’s been everywhere at the moment. He has even, entirely coincidentally, of course, started a regular column in one of the local papers.

The thing is, Christine Jardine and her campaign team have always known that they faced a challenge. She doesn’t have the benefit of incumbency, apart from anything else. That’s why they have been working so hard in the year since she was selected to fight the seat. What the Ashcroft poll put beyond doubt was that she has firmly established herself as the clear challenger to Salmond and the SNP. If you are an undecided voter in Gordon who doesn’t want Salmond or the SNP to win, the poll makes it clear that you need to vote for Christine.

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Oops! 15 Ashcroft Scottish polls published early by mistake

With a hat-tip to Mark Pack, LDV alumnus.

We were expecting Lord Ashcroft’s Scottish polls today.

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Alistair Carmichael moves order giving power for votes at 16 to Holyrood

I can’t imagine Alistair Carmichael will have been much prouder in his political life than he was that night when he stood at the Despatch Box in the House of Commons and gave the Scottish Parliament the power to do something that he’s wanted to see for many years – give the vote to 16 and 17 year olds.

He said:

On 18 September last year, the people of Scotland, including tens of thousands of 16 and 17-year-olds, voted in the Scottish independence referendum, and made the historic decision to remain a part of the United Kingdom. The participation of our young people in the vote was truly historic and inspirational to witness. We saw the young people who took part in the referendum in great numbers listen to the arguments, frequently ask the toughest questions, and make up their own minds in a mature and reasoned way. They showed that they were more than capable of being a part of Scottish democracy when they helped their country take the biggest decision we have faced for centuries.

Evidence suggests that, having listened to the arguments and participated in the debate, 16 and 17-year-olds voted in the same way as the population of Scotland as a whole—to maintain Scotland’s position in our family of nations. This is, of course, welcome in itself, but it also puts paid to the notion that those who are old enough to marry and have children are not old enough to weigh up the issues and decide how to cast a vote. It demonstrated the desire to be involved in an event that would shape the future of the country, and it demonstrated to us all that when people understand the issue before them, hear the arguments and know the facts, they want to use their democratic right to make a difference.

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Three things you need to know about the new powers going to Scotland

There are some very interesting articles about the forthcoming Scotland Bill, the details of which were unveiled on Thursday, in today’s press.

The Tories were trying to back out and Clegg, Alexander and Carmichael wouldn’t let them

According to Michael Moore in Scotland on Sunday today.

 It is not a surprise to me that the Conservatives fought tooth and nail to remove some of the key elements of the Smith agreement.

We saw in the commission itself they adopted two or three different positions in the space of 48 hours on welfare and were clearly in touch with London colleagues at every stage.

We resisted it there and I am glad that my Liberal Democrat colleagues have resisted it in terms of the bill. There is no question in my mind that without Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael, Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg digging in on this over the last crucial 48 hours before the bill was published, we would have ended up with the whole Smith process unravelling.

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LibLink: Michael Moore: The Smith Commission has delivered

The Vow deliveredThis was the week that the Government unveiled the 44 clauses of the Scotland Bill which will be debated after the General Election. Former Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore was a member of the Smith Commission upon whose report the clauses were drafted. He says in an article for the Scotsman that the Commission has delivered and “the Vow” has therefore been kept:

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A sign of the trouble Labour faces in Scotland?

Liberal Democrats face their challenges in Scotland, there’s no doubt about that, but what about the party that that for so long dominated Scottish politics? The Evening News reported this week that the Labour Party has had to cancel a fundraiser due to lack of interest in one of their key seats in Edinburgh:

Deputy Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale, local MP Sheila Gilmore and a shadow minister from Westminster were among the speakers lined up for the Edinburgh Eastern fundraising event on Saturday.

But after poor ticket sales, the local party executive decided to cancel the supper, promising refunds to those who had booked.

Former Edinburgh East Labour party chairman Paul Nolan said the event had been a popular fixture in the diary for many years and usually attracted up to 150 people.

But he said he understood fewer than 50 tickets had been sold and admitted the situation was embarrassing.

He said: “It is worrying that we can’t get members to come to a fundraising Burns Supper two or three months before an election.

“If we can’t get the activists motivated, it’s going to be even harder to get ordinary voters to turn out on polling day.”

Mr Nolan said last year’s Burns Supper had raised around £1000.

Edinburgh East will be a key constituency at the general election in May as Labour fights to stop a predicted advance by the SNP across Scotland.

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Willie Rennie warns SNP over ID database

Willie Rennie got a pretty good splash of headlines yesterday after he raised his concerns over SNP plans to create a massive ID database in Scotland. The Scotsman has details:

The Scottish Government is considering an extension of the NHS central register, which is already the “most complete and authoritative record of individuals in Scotland”.

It currently covers about 30 per cent of people, but ministers want to extend this and share information stored with more than 100 government agencies – including HMRC for tax ­purposes.

A similar population register was ditched south of the Border when controversial and expensive plans for ID cards were scrapped in 2010.

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Alistair Carmichael MP writes…A proud day as we move nearer to Liberal Democrat vision of home rule for Scotland

Saltire - St Andrews Flag - Scotland - Some rights reserved by byronv2One of my first political campaigns was the 1979 referendum on a Scottish Assembly, as it was then styled.

The failure of that campaign was formative in my political thinking.  We all learned the hard way some simple political truths. Constitutional change is only achieved by working with people from other parties and of no party and that our liberal vision of Home Rule for Scotland within a strong federal United Kingdom is more relevant today than it has ever been.

As a teenager growing up in a small tight-knit island community I also quickly realised that local communities were best placed to make the decisions that affect them. We also understood that Government in Edinburgh was just as capable of getting things wrong for us as government in London.

Fast forward thirty five years and it was a proud day for me as Secretary of State for Scotland when we won decisively the vote to keep our 300 year old family of nations together with a promise of extensive new powers for our Scottish Parliament.

We set up the cross-party Smith Commission to bring people together and build consensus on what these new powers should be.

No party got everything they wanted but we owed it to the majority of Scotland who made the democratic decision to reject independence to see through their desire for more powers – a desire shared by our party.

I was pleased the Smith Commission aimed high.

The draft clauses I have published today will mean our Scottish Parliament will raise over half of what it spends. It will create a new Scottish Welfare State System with a starting budget of more than £2.5 billion.

And it will introduce votes for 16 and 17 years olds for Holyrood and local government elections.

Smith also made another important point that has not received the attention that it deserves, namely that the process of devolution should not stop in Edinburgh but should be driven to local communities across Scotland.

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