Tag Archives: Scotland

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?

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 40 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 7 Comments

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. 

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 38 Comments

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?

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 3 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | 10 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 62 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 22 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | Leave a comment

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”:

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 5 Comments

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, …

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 22 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 5 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , and | 12 Comments

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 23 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , and | 84 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 7 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 8 Comments

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:

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged , and | 5 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 13 Comments

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.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | Leave a comment

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.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 18 Comments

Willie Rennie makes fair student finance a Scottish budget priority

There is no doubt that Willie Rennie is being brave in his choice of priorities for this year’s Scottish budget. In truth, the SNP have an overall majority at Holyrood so they don’t need to give any sort of ground.They have done the last few years, though. Last year, they gave extra money for childcare and free school meals in response to Willie Rennie’s persistent pestering. The year before it was college places.

This year, he’s taking a bigger risk. There’s an issue which in the context of the Holyrood parliament represents one of our finest hours and in the context of Westminster our worst. It’s tuition fees. Way back in 1999, Liberal Democrats fought an election saying tuition fees would be dead if they were in government and they kept that promise. We know what happened in 2010. We shouldn’t have done what we did, but, as I wrote at the time, Vince had actually managed to create a system that was fairer than the one it replaced:

However, if there were a way to get it wrong well, he’s probably done that.

Imagine for a moment if the Tories had been in power alone. I very much doubt that their Business Secretary would have tracked down Lord Browne and bent his ear about the importance of the recommendations being fair and progressive. And they are to a point. To play Devil’s Advocate a bit here, if we can’t have no tuition fees (and I’m not conceding that we can’t), then isn’t this a better option than anything else? Nobody has to pay out anything to actually go to university so access isn’t denied to those from less affluent backgrounds in the way it would be today.

And Labour? Would they, still in Government, be talking about a Graduate Tax? Of course they wouldn’t. They’d bung on the fees – although I’m not so convinced that they would have necessarily covered all the angles.  I mean, it’s coming to something when it takes a Tory to bring up the issue I blogged about earlier about interest accruing if someone takes time out to look after children. He confirmed in the House today that interest would not accrue under these circumstances.

Annoyed though I might be with him, I have to at least give some credit to Vince for taking an hour’s worth of utter tripe from the Labour benches with patience and humour. I’d rate him above just about any Labour minister you might care to mention and definitely any Tory. I loved his line about the road to Westminster having the skid marks of unenacted pledges all over it.

Y

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 8 Comments

Jim Hume MSP writes…No room for complacency on mental health

With 2015 seeing the end of the current Mental Health Strategy we have a real opportunity to look at the successes and failure of the approach we take to tackling mental ill health in Scotland.

Our health professionals do fantastic work to help people suffering from mental ill health. But a lack of resources means that we are often asking medical staff to work with one hand tied behind their back.

Liberal Democrats in government have helped ensure that the NHS in other parts of the UK prioritise mental and physical ill health equally. But this is not yet the case in Scotland.

The Royal College of Nursing and other groups have been clear that mental health is often the poor relation to physical health when it comes to funding within the Scottish NHS. The impact of underinvestment in these crucial services is damaging for patients and medical professionals alike.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 8 Comments

Scotland’s Assisted Suicide Bill under further Committee scrutiny

Scotland’s Assisted Suicide Bill has been considered today by the Health and Sport Committee of the Scottish Parliament. This is the Committee which is taking the lead on the Bill, although the Justice Committee has also taken evidence on the legal aspects of the proposed reform.  The Bill was introduced by Margo MacDonald in November 2013 and has been taken forward since her death last April by Green MSP Patrick Harvie.

The Committee took evidence this morning from legal and medical professionals. I was surprised to see the Scotsman report say that the Law Society of Scotland is suggesting that the law as drafted might be against the European Convention on Human Rights. They say it’s in conflict with Article 2, the Right to Life. That hasn’t seemed to have been a problem for the Netherlands and Belgium, where similar legislation was introduced over a decade ago. The point, surely, is that the law gives people the choice about what they want to do faced with a terminal illness. What could be more liberal?

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 7 Comments

Charles Kennedy MP writes…Our challenge for 2015 is to make positive case for UK political reform

 

As the BBC Radio Scotland self-promotional message has been reminding us at regular intervals throughout the holiday period 2014 certainly was “Scotland’s Year.” The best of times, the worst of times. From the sporting triumphs of the outstandingly successful Commonwealth Games and the hosting of the victorious Ryder Cup through to the referendum and ending on the tragedy of the Glasgow bin lorry crash we have never been out of the news.

The ever-perceptive journalist and commentator Iain MacWhirter (like myself, essentially, a federalist – unlike myself a Yes voter) reckons that the referendum represented the moment at which Scotland became “psychologically independent.” It is an interesting reflection and one which will be further tested as soon as May in the looming Westminster general election.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , and | 5 Comments

First same-sex marriages take place in Scotland

 

At just after midnight last night, the first same-sex marriages took place in Scotland.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 9 Comments

What does Alex Salmond think he’s playing at?

 

When he saw the writing on the wall and was desperate to get people to vote Yes, Alex Salmond made a last ditch appeal on the Andrew Marr Show the Sunday before the independence referendum. He said that people had a once in a generation or even a lifetime chance to vote for independence and they should take it.

Now, it was fairly clear to me and I expect most other people that he absolutely didn’t mean what he was saying. There was no way that the entire nationalist movement was just going to give up and take up crochet if they lost. Of course they were not. They sincerely believe that independence is the best option for Scotland in the same way that I believe that a liberal approach to our problems is the best way to run a society. I’ll never give up my quest to see a truly liberal world.

Posted in News | Also tagged , , , , and | 31 Comments

Scottish Liberal Democrats announce their list selections – and for the second time in a row manage to put one of their best MSPs in a more challenging position

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have been holding their regional list selections for 2016 Scottish Parliament elections and yesterday announced the top 3 in each region* .

Willie Rennie said on the team announced:

We are first off the mark with our candidate selection and this is a clear statement of intent. We have a team of passionate, dedicated campaigners who are up for the fight and will be working hard for their regions every day between now and the next Holyrood elections.

Our list candidates offer a mix of youth and experience that gives people right across Scotland the opportunity to elect a strong liberal voice to represent them at Holyrood. The new Home Rule powers Liberal Democrats are helping deliver for the Scottish Parliament mean it is more important than ever that we have a team of MSPs who will always stand up for their local area.

With the SNP taking their eye off the ball with the referendum it was Liberal Democrats challenging Scottish Government ministers over the pressure facing our NHS. We led opposition to damaging college cuts and helped families by expanding free childcare.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 19 Comments

Labour’s attitude to abortion devolution says a lot about their attitude to Scotland

When I wrote about the Smith Commission report last week, I was intrigued by its decision not to devolve abortion law to Scotland despite all the parties wanting to do so,  Here’s a reminder of what I said:

One last point: I’d quite like to know the story behind the fudge on abortion and embryology:

  • The parties are strongly of the view to recommend the devolution of abortion and regard it as an anomalous health reservation. They agree that further serious consideration should be given to its devolution and a process should be established immediately to consider the matter further.
  • The devolution of xenotransplantation; embryology, surrogacy and genetics; medicines, medical supplies and poisons; and welfare foods (i.e. matters reserved under Sections J2 to J5 of Head J – Health and Medicines, Schedule 5 to the Scotland Act 1998) should be the subject of further discussions between the UK and Scottish Governments. Those discussions are without prejudice to whether or not devolution takes place and in what form.
  • If they all agree, why not just devolve it?

    Scotland on Sunday had an explanation. Apparently, it was Labour who vetoed its inclusion:

    Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 17 Comments

    An overview of Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference

    Scottish liberal democratsFor the first time in 5 years, and only the third in the almost 15 years we’ve been back in Scotland, I missed a Scottish Conference this weekend. I had a particularly unpleasant bug that kept me in my bed for almost 3 days. Be gentle with me because I’m still not quite recovered.

    The event had keynote speeches from Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael and leader Willie Rennie, a discussion on the manifesto led by Jo Swinson and motions on subjects such as access to mental health services for young people and putting more NHS resources in areas of deprivation – a patient premium. The conference also passed a landmark motion calling for decriminalisation of sex work. You can have a look at the motions up for debate here. There was, I am told, even a good old-fashioned tammy on amending Conference Standing Orders which the Establishment won – but only after a counted vote.

    My colleague Dave Gorman, from Falkirk gave a brief summary of the day on Facebook and I have his permission to reproduce it here:

    My experience of being a Liberal Democrat, and the vitriol and nonsense written and spoken about us, causes me to write this. Today we agreed policy on, inter alia, widening participation to democracy including giving a duty to electoral officers to stimulate voting; providing new rights to sex workers and decriminalising it; extra funding for GP practices based on special funding in deprived areas; new support for poorer workers and much more. I remain proud to stand with fellow Liberal Democrats to promote opportunity and to promote the rights and opportunities of the minority, the oppressed and the poorest. So there.

    Posted in News | Also tagged | 7 Comments

    Opinion: The UK is not working

    WalesFor 45% of Scots and for many in the NW, the SW and in Wales (which I refer to as the devolving regions), the UK doesn’t work, and this should matter to a Unionist Party. As a Welshman who was forced, as were my parents, to spend decades working in England the reasons are only too clear.

    In England we are quite often subject to xenophobia. And while our local colleagues go for exotic weekend breaks, we have to struggle back home to tend to ailing relatives via a crazy London-centred transport network that means that the quickest route from Penzance or Aberystwyth to Dover or Great Yarmouth is via the M25 or Paddington. The quickest route from Liverpool to Southampton is via the M25. And to get to Paris on the HS2 the whole country will have to stop off in London.

    photo by:
    Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 63 Comments
    Advert



    Recent Comments

    • User AvatarAlex Sabine 21st Apr - 1:52am
      I think Clarke was right and the Wets were wrong about the 1981 Budget, although the scale of the tax increases was necessitated by the...
    • User AvatarMichael BG 21st Apr - 1:30am
      BigMak 20th Apr '15 - 9:43am From the comments under “@ JohnTilley/Michael BG” you seem to be under the impression that I wanted us to...
    • User AvatarPhilip Thomas 21st Apr - 12:38am
      Yeah, I guess using "wet" as a synonym for "Clarkeite" is not sensible. Jane, in case you meant me, I do not think we should...
    • User AvatarAlex Sabine 21st Apr - 12:25am
      @ Philip Actually I think Ken Clarke is an interesting case of someone who has held very much the same views for 35 years. He...
    • User AvatarDavid Evans 21st Apr - 12:20am
      @Rabbi. Sadly you still have no facts, just putting words in other people's mouths. If you can't defend it, don't say it.
    • User AvatarDavid Allen 21st Apr - 12:06am
      TCO Well spotted. I should have said, "five more years of power, this time with an absolute majority, so no need to butter up Clegg...
    Sat 25th Apr 2015