Tag Archives: scottish parliament

Vikings, Unicorns and an open, inclusive Parliament to be proud of

Scotland’s Parliament is just 17 years old, but compared to its centuries old neighbour, it’s really been the grown-up this week. Four of its parties have really got to grips with strategic thinking, looking for ideas to help us through the current mire in which we find ourselves, a mire not of our making.

Today we had our equivalent of the State Opening of Parliament. It only happens once every five years and I was lucky enough to have a ticket. It\s very different from the Westminster event with all its pomp and tradition. True enough, there was a little bit of pomp, with the Queen’s Archers and bearers of such wonderful heraldic titles as “Unicorn Pursuivant.” However, this is very much an event for the people, filled with music, poetry and performance.

We were seated in the Gallery by 10am, an hour before the festivities were due to begin. We originally had fantastic front row seats, but were moved on because they were apparently reserved for the media. The National Youth Choir of Scotland sang songs including the Skye Boat Song, which has a special meaning for Lib Dems, and Burns’ Ae Fond Kiss.

At about 10:50, the state trumpeters who play the fanfare appeared near us. Screens showed the party leaders lined up outside, waiting for the Queen to arrive. We were slightly apprehensive about whether Willie would behave as he has form round royalty. Our fears were heightened when he bounded into the Chamber grinning and was the last to sit down and be quiet. We found out later that Prince Philip had complemented him on his buttonhole. The Duke wasn’t to know that five years ago, Willie hadn’t realised he had to have a buttonhole. His blushes were spared by Annabel Goldie, the then Tory leader, picking him a flower from one of Holyrood’s courtyard gardens.

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What Willie said…..when he stood for First Minister

Willie Rennie’s candidacy for First Minister in the Scottish Parliament this week attracted some comment in the press. Andrew Liddle in the Press and Journal was very complimentary:

While it was clearly going to end in defeat, it also offered up a golden opportunity for Mr Rennie to expound his platform.

True to character, it was an irreverent move, not a devious one.

Here is Willie’s speech – he combines exactly the right mix of self-deprecating humour and statesmanlike vision.

“Ohhhh dad. You’re not are you?”

Those were the encouraging words from my unimpressed 12 year old son when he heard on the radio this morning that I was standing for First Minister.

I told Stephen that I had been inspired by a women nationalist leader who stood up against the odds.

But unlike Leanne Wood I won’t be relying on UKIP votes today.

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It’s Willie vs Goliath in Holyrood

This afternoon, MSPs will choose the new First Minister of Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the largest single party will not be unopposed, though. Willie Rennie, on his fifth anniversary as Scottish leader, is standing against her. Willie is a massive optimist, but I doubt even he expects to get more than a handful of votes. We won’t have a Wales scenario in Edinburgh. However, it is important that someone lays down a marker that the SNP, which no longer has a majority, has to work to make its case to Parliament. Nicola Sturgeon’s comments that she expects Parliament to respect her mandate are not the sort of comments you would expect from a leader without a majority. She has to show a bit of humility and respect for Parliament.

This will not be the only time when the Liberal Democrats will lead the opposition to the SNP, as we did so often in the last Parliament. On Thursday, Sturgeon presents her list of Ministers to the Parliament. Under its standing orders, Parliament can only reject any new names. It can’t pass judgement on any of the people already in post. Willie Rennie has appointed Mike Rumbles to be Business Manager (or chief whip). This is a role that he took during the last period of Holyrood minority government from 2007-11. His experience of the Parliament’s procedures will be helpful.

The Liberal Democrats have been horrified at the total muck-up the SNP has made over payments to farmers. During the election, Tavish Scott slammed the SNP for seeking to charge interest to farmers on emergency payments made to them while they sorted out their IT system. It seems incomprehensible that Parliament should not even get a say as to the performance of the Minister responsible. The Parliament has an opportunity to assert itself and reject that Minister. The Press and Journal reports:

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Alex Cole-Hamilton’s first week in Holyrood

It’s been a wee while since we’ve had a brand new Parliamentarian. Here’s how Alex Cole-Hamilton, who gained Edinburgh Western from the SNP last week, spent his first week in office.

Monday

Outgoing Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick instituted a 3 day induction for new MSPs so that they weren’t just thrown in the deep end. Here’s Alex enjoying his new office:

BBC Scotland were there filming. Watch from around 14 minutes in to see him have a wee bit of a jazz hands moment:

Tuesday

We always knew Alex would be a hard-working constituency MSP. On election day, the Post Office closed a vital Post Office with no notice. Alex was quickly on the case supporting local residents and explaining why this was such a problem for the community:

It’s terrible. The other closures in the area were carried out with the assurance that the office at Duart Crescent would remain open. If you are elderly, infirm or have kids it is too difficult to get down the hill to St John’s Road.

A post office is the surrogate hub of the community and much more than just somewhere to pick up your pension. It is the only slice of social inclusion available to some of the elderly residents. As we close these counters it is another barrier to their involvement in society.

I am sure we have all heard anecdotes of people raising the alarm as someone has not collected their pension for a couple of weeks. That will all be lost if this is a permanent closure.

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Willie Rennie: I want Scotland to be the best

In today’s Sunday Herald, Willie Rennie talks to political editor Tom Gordon about the Scottish Liberal Democrat campaign. He sets out the key Liberal Democrat themes:

I want to get Scotland back up there, with an ambitious programme for investing in education with a penny on income tax.

Protecting our civil liberties, getting our police force to be the best again so that it’s got the confidence of the public but also police officers themselves.

On the environment, making sure we have a very strong programme on fracking and not cutting Air Passenger Duty . And on the health service, making sure mental health services get the support they need and recruiting more GPs. You couldn’t be more positive than that.

As Holyrood gains new tax powers, Lib Dem plans to increase income tax by a penny to invest in education is the most radical in a set of fairly modest measures put forward by all the parties. The SNP have always talked a good fight, but when they are actually given significant power, it’s like they’ve been given a Ferrari that they won’t take out of second gear. Willie talked about the SNP’s timidity:

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week?

Scottish Parliament 3What are our MPs, MSPs, MEPs and AM’s going to be talking about this coming week?

Holyrood

Women will be a key focus of the Scottish Parliament this week with a debate on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women on Wednesday which starts 16 days of activism lasting till Human Rights Day on 10 December.

There is also a debate on how welfare reform affects women on Thursday.

On Wednesday, controversy about the SNP Government’s decision to tender for the contract to run Clyde and Hebridean ferry services will be highlighted in a Labour Opposition Day Debate. No doubt Liam McArthur and Tavish Scott will want to mention the fundamental unfairness which has seen the Scottish Government cut ferry fares for islanders off the west coast, but not for the northern isles.  

The Senedd

AMs will be debating affordable housing, with North Wales Lib Dem Aled Roberts tabling some radical amendments calling for the planned rate of housebilding to be doubled. 

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MSPs reject Assisted Suicide Bill – read two compelling speeches from Lib Dems McArthur and McInnes

I was sad that Holyrood rejected the Assisted Suicide Bill yesterday, but I was heartened by the fact that support for such a measure is growing and I think the debate will continue.

It was also good to see that it was conducted in such a respectful and sensitive fashion.

I thought you might like to see the two speeches our MSPs made, one on each side of the argument from Alison McInnes and Liam McArthur. Both were brilliant, thoughtful and liberal. If I had been persuadable, Alison’s speech might have done it.

Alison McInnes:

I come to this debate as a liberal and

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