Tag Archives: Scotland

Willie Rennie: Liberal Democrats have been at the forefront of devolution

I was still living in England at the time of the 1997 election. As the results came through, I nipped upstairs in the sports centre in Chesterfield where I was at the count to watch some results on the telly. There were was one other person in the room, Tony Benn, who was eating a white chocolate Magnum. Anyway, I was quietly blubbing with joy because I knew that this result would mean that we would get a Scottish Parliament.

A lot has happened since then. Some of the Lib Dems’ finest moments came during their 8 years in coalition with Labour at Holyrood. Free personal care, STV for local government, free eye and dental checks, the smoking ban (ahead of similar measures down south), right to roam, decent freedom of information legislation were just some of the things that we got done. The paucity of the SNP’s achievements in their decade in power do not compare well.

On this 20th anniversary of the devolution referendum, Willie Rennie said:

Liberal Democrats are proud of the part we played in bringing about the devolution voted for in 1997 and enacted from 1999. A decentralised United Kingdom, with decision making closer to people, with a pluralist approach at its heart, reflected decades of campaigning for Britain to become a modern democracy.

Liberal Democrats were part of the civic movement in Scotland, through the Constitutional Convention, that set down the clear path for a devolved parliament with real powers. And they were able to take up their places inside the newly elected Scottish Parliament after the first elections.

Liberal Democrats can be proud that the big difference made to people’s lives in Scotland –free personal care for the elderly and the revolution in renewable energy to name just two – came as a result of the work of Liberal Democrats in the first term of office. People even now still demand that governments of all stripes get as much done in their terms of office as we did back then.

The whole of the UK has benefited from devolution and the transfers of powers that have taken place since 1999.

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LibLink: Willie Rennie: Lib Dems put forward a vision of Scotland at the heart of both unions

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are the place to be if you want to stay in the UK and the EU, says Willie Rennie. In a wide-ranging article for Holyrood magazine, he sets out what we would do to tackle the crisis in Scotland’s public services. Health, education and the Police are all in a mess and we have the ideas to fix them.

A strong education system is the key to a strong economy in the long term. It is critical that we educate future generations so that they have all the skills they need to succeed.

Failing at education is failing on the future of Scotland. The SNP have let Scotland’s world-leading education system fall from the best in the world to just average.

Eighty-six per cent of teachers say their workload has risen in the last year, yet John Swinney has his head in the sand and refuses to take action to relieve the pressure our teachers face.

We have had a year of assurances from the Scottish Government that they are tackling this major problem, but teachers say the problem is getting worse rather than better.

Instead of nationalist spin, teachers, parents and pupils want concrete action.

That’s why my party used budget negotiations to press the SNP over its dramatic cuts to college budgets, which have led to 150,000 fewer college places today compared to when the SNP came to power, as well as for transformative investment in Scottish education.

The health service in Scotland is under immense pressure. GP surgeries are closing their lists to new patients and others are contemplating closure because they can’t find the staff they so desperately need.

Meanwhile, children are waiting years to receive mental health treatment while the country barrels towards a staffing crisis that risks bringing the service to its knees.

This year my party have pressed the SNP to deliver the required funding and provide a new mental health practitioner in every surgery, relieving the pressure on other parts of the service. This is how we build a healthier Scotland.

Only the Liberal Democrats consistently opposed SNP centralisation of the police force and once again, this year we have been central to scrutinising the actions of the single force.

We told the SNP that their politically motivated centralisation of the police would damage those services, but they did not listen.

Instead, the closure of police control rooms in Aberdeen and Inverness has caused havoc to the services in the North and North East, leading to a series of serious and potentially life-threatening blunders, like sending police to Glasgow instead of Aberdeen.

Every time the SNP attempts another power grab, mistakes are made and our communities suffer.

The Scottish Government must call an end to the one-size-fits-all agenda and find a way to give powers back to our communities.

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Scottish Parliament calls for rollout of Universal Credit to be halted

Alex Cole-Hamilton was one of the MSPs calling for the rollout of Universal Credit to be halted during a debate in the Scottish Parliament today. Only the Conservatives defended the continued rollout.

We know that people are having to wait up to 6 weeks for any money at all. MSPs had some real horror stories to report which you can see in the full record of the debate here.

Alex’s speech was very well crafted – and it was candid, too. He both acknowledged and distanced himself from the Liberal Democrat role in the coalition government’s welfare reform. However, he was able to show that without us there, the Tories have done a great deal worse. Here’s his speech in full.

I often speak with hyperbole in this place about the various responsibilities that we as decision makers discharge both in this Parliament and at Westminster, but the safety net that we provide for those who, for whatever reason, cannot provide for themselves should be the measure of any civilised society. My party has a proud history in the genesis and introduction of the welfare state in the early days of the 20th century, with the first state pension introduced under Lloyd George. In the 1940s, that great Liberal William Beveridge was the catalyst for the advent of social security when he identified the original “giant evils”, as he described them, of ignorance, idleness, squalor, want and disease. It is a failure of progress that, if we strip out the antiquated language, many of those evils still hold sway in our society today.

We should remember that, until this decade, the systems of welfare in this country had not undergone significant reform since their introduction, despite generations of incremental modification. For decades, welfare reform was sought by poverty campaigners, third sector organisations and academics so that we could dispense with unneeded red tape and inject much-needed social mobility into the system.

It fell to my party, in its period of coalition government, to co-preside over that much-needed redesign. I would, however, that we had had different bedfellows in that task. There are elements of the system that underpins the process that I take no pride in at all, and there are aspects of the new system that I still find shameful. Nevertheless, I am glad that we were there, for I dread to think of the welfare system that our Conservative partners would have designed unencumbered. We all saw the measure of the ideological compass behind Conservative social policy in the ill-fated manifesto that Theresa May published in the spring.

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Willie Rennie’s programme for government: Better schools, mental health care, more democracy in police

Yesterday the Scottish Government unveiled its Programme for Government for the coming year. It wouldn’t have to go far to beat last year’s which saw precious little legislation. However, there is some stuff that we can welcome, so long as it delivers what it says on the tin. Lib Dems pardons for those convicted of consensual same sex activity, consultation on gender recognition and more inclusive sex education, presumption against prison sentences under 12 months, free personal care for people under 65 with seriously disabling conditions and raising the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12. This last measure is one which they shamefully and resolutely refused to do during the last Parliament despite pressure from the then Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Alison McInnes.

There is still precious little investment in mental health. The warm words doesn’t match up to the facilities available on the ground. One real pinch point is the transition from child to adult mental health services. Young people have to wait up to a year and more to even be seen by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. Once they have managed to be seen, the treatment is good – but when they hit 18, there is very little for them and the services are arranged in a very different way. A child can go from fairly intensive support to nothing.

Below is Willie Rennie’s full speech in response to the Government’s programme in which he sets out Lib Dem priorities of using the tax powers to invest in education and to provide more and better mental health services.

He also suggests that the Lib Dems are sceptical about Holyrood voting against the European Withdrawal Bill because he thinks that the SNP are using it to drive a wedge between Scotland and England. Certainly the issue is more complex – both Scotland’s governments are letting it down in this regard.

“On Saturday afternoon, together with Alex Cole Hamilton, I joined a group of breast cancer survivors called the Port Edgar Dragons.  We were on their magnificent dragon boat Isla May on the River Forth.  They are a wonderful group of women who show gutsy human spirit to improve their health.

We had an alternative view of the Queensferry Crossing whilst thousands of lucky people enjoyed a stroll over the magnificent new structure.  The engineers and workers should be proud of their achievement.

“Those who argued it was not necessary only need cast their mind back to the winter of 2015 when the old bridge was forced to close or a little further back when it was discovered that the main cables were corroding.

“As with any project of that scale it has not been without its problems but it was a necessary investment to guarantee one of the major arteries down the east of the country.

“The summer recess should have allowed us all to reflect on one of the most turbulent periods in politics for some time.  With nine sets of elections and referendums in the last six years people have had their fill.

“People want elected politicians to deliver real improvements to their lives. They are fed up with the endless focus on independence. To give credit to the First Minister she recognised that in June when she signalled that she was cooling on independence.  I was sceptical at the time and will always be suspicious but for now we have a chance to focus on real change.

“And today’s announcement on a presumption against prisons sentences of twelve months or less is a start.  We have been calling for this for some time.

“After opposing it twice I am pleased to see the SNP are now prepared to raise the age of criminal responsibility. These are real liberal measures which we will support. Yet the problems our country faces are significant.

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Linda’s last day

I can’t quite imagine Clifton Terrace without Linda

What will we do without Linda?

An utter legend

Variants of the above have been said so many times in Scotland in recent weeks, ever since it was announced that our much-loved Party Manager Linda Wilson was leaving us.

For the last 8 and a half years, Linda has been the heart and soul of our headquarters in Edinburgh, running the party with incredible efficiency, with a tremendous capacity to sort stuff out.

She’s run our conferences so that they are enjoyable for media, members and exhibitors alike.

Everyone who has anything to do with Conference or HQ has something nice to say about her.

Apart from her ability to Get Stuff Done, she has a wicked sense of humour and has constantly made us laugh with her pithy observations about life and the universe. She has no reservations about telling people exactly what she thinks when they deserve to hear it.

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The Press Pack: A round-up of Lib Dem media comments – 22 August 2017

Here’s a roundup of  media comments made by Lib Dem parliamentarians and spokespeople today.

GP numbers

Norman Lamb slammed the Government for failing to deliver more GPs:

The government’s promise to recruit 5,000 more GPs by 2020 lies in tatters, with fewer GPs now than when this pledge was first made.

“The pitiful increase we have seen in recent months is nowhere near enough to cope with rising patient demand.

“This failure to recruit enough doctors will inevitably have a damaging impact on the ability of patients to access the healthcare they need.

“We are already close to breaking point, with people in many parts of the country struggling to get appointments with their GP.

“More doctors are urgently needed to guarantee a fully-staffed NHS that provides everyone with the care they need.

Swinson criticises UK support for Trump Afghanistan move

The government didn’t really get round to condemning Donald Trump’s appalling remarks in the wake of Charlottesville, but they were quick off the mark to support him sending more troops to Afghanistan. Jo Swinson said:

For once, sense seems to have prevailed in the White House.

“But to succeed in Afghanistan will require winning the hearts and minds of its people and working closely with neighbouring countries.

“On that front, Donald Trump has already done untold damage through his proposed refugee ban, Islamophobic comments and cack-handed approach to foreign affairs.

“The government’s rapid statement of support for Trump today contrasts with its failure to swiftly condemn his divisive views and actions in the past.

“Simply pouring more troops into Afghanistan will not work without a broader strategy involving careful diplomacy and redoubled efforts to build a stable government.”

Even Brussels must be tired of this waffle

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Willie Rennie – the “secret guilty pleasure” of singer and columnist Michelle McManus


MichelleMcManus2010
Michelle McManus

Winner of Pop Idol 2003, singer, broadcaster, actress and columnist, Michelle McManus must have brought blushes to the cheeks of Willie Rennie with this passage in her Glasgow Evening Times column:

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