Tag Archives: scottish parliament

Willie Rennie’s masterclass in what to do when you say something you shouldn’t

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie was interviewed today on Sunday Politics Scotland. Like Tim Farron earlier, he made some excellent points on the issues of the day.

This week, it looks as though the SNP could fail to get their budget through. The SNP does not have a majority at Holyrood. The Greens are pushing them for a 60% tax rate, which finance minister Derek Mackay has ruled out. Willie has been talking to Derek Mackay for weeks now and has made clear that unless he is prepared to put in significant investment in mental health and education, then the Liberal Democrats won’t support it.

Willie made that point very clearly in the interview, coming across very reasonably. You can watch the whole thing here towards the end of the programme.

It was when he was asked about the possibility of an election, that he made a wee slip of the tongue, though. We know that he loves campaigning. Remember the fun he had in last year’s election.. Unfortunately, rather than saying “I love campaigning”, he said “I love myself.” Believe me, those of us who work closely with him will make sure he never hears the end of that one.

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Rennie says SNP Government must put more into mental health, the police and helping disadvantaged kids in schools

It’s time for the Scottish Parliament to debate the Government’s budget plans for the coming year. It’s particularly interesting this year as the SNP no longer has a majority and must secure the backing, or at least the abstention, of others in order for the budget to pass.

Willie Rennie has written to Derek Mackay, the SNP’s Finance Minister, to set out the changes that the Liberal Democrats wish to see before they could consider supporting the budget.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that he is sticking to the priorities we outlined in our manifesto for the Scottish elections last year – more money for disadvantaged kids in schools as we implemented successfully south of the border, an expansion of mental health services, particularly for young people, and more funding for the Police who are struggling to cope with the SNP’s disastrous centralisation.

It’s quite important that we have all this in mind in everything that we do during this Parliament. We need to think about what we want to achieve and what we will have to say to voters in 2021 about what we have fought for and where we are not prepared to settle for tepid, unambitious half-measures. In the last Parliament, where the SNP had a majority, we still made issues like early years education, colleges, the Police, civil liberties and mental health our own and won significant concessions from the SNP in budget discussions. Now that there is no majority, we need to push for more.

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week? 12-16 September 2016

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

Holyrood

On Tuesday, MSPs hear a statement on how the SNP government intends to resolve the mess they’ve made on agricultural payments.

There is also a debate on housing. Given that the government moved the goalposts on house building and the number of houses built for social rent has fallen well below both need and target, there is a great deal of jelly to be nailed to the wall.

On Wednesday there is a debate on Brexit and the UK’s negotiating position.

Domestic abuse law comes under scrutiny on Thursday

The Senedd

The Welsh Assembly is back this week.

On Tuesday they will debate substance misuse, implications of Brexit and First Minister Carwyn Jones will face his first question session.

Wednesday is an opposition day, with Plaid, UKIP and the Tories each having an hour for debate on a subject of their choice.

Westminster

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week? 5-9 September 2016

Scottish Parliament 3So, it’s term-time again. After a frenetic and dramatic end to the last parliamentary session, everyone has done their best to make sure it looks like nothing is happening over the past 6 weeks.

That’s all over now, though. The Westminster and Scottish parliaments are back in session this week.  Wales has another week off.

It’s time to get to grips with the major issues around Brexit. That’s going to be the only game in town for quite some time.

Holyrood

There are three major items of business this week. The first is a two day debate on the SNP Government’s plans for the year ahead.

They will include a Social Security Bill to take account of the new powers coming to Holyrood. The government has also stated that its key priorities are educational attainment (which it intends to tackle by national testing rather than more resources) and the economy. They will also be introducing measures on warm homes and climate change.

Nicola Sturgeon will be making a statement on Scotland’s place in Europe. Last week, Willie Rennie said that she was talking too much about independence. Will she offer any other approach?

Finally, there will be an update on the controversial named person scheme which was ruled illegal earlier this Summer. How will the government tackle the requirements of the court judgement?

Westminster

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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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