Tag Archives: willie rennie

Willie Rennie’s message for St Andrew’s Day – a plea to help refugees

Saltire and Forth BridgeToday is St Andrew’s Day. Here is Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie’s message to the people of Scotland:

Our Patron Saint was born in the village of Bethsaida, a short distance from the troubles in today’s Syria.  As we celebrate St Andrew’s day this year, millions of people across Syria and the Middle East need our help.

Last week I visited an Edinburgh charity which has been collecting clothes for refugees who have made the perilous journey from Syria to Europe.

In many respects they embody the values that St Andrew taught. Tolerance. Generosity. Openness. We need Scotland’s two governments to follow their example.

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LibLink: Willie Rennie on St Andrew’s Day – “No Racism: Refugees Welcome Here”

Willie leader launch crouching in front of bridgeThe St Andrew’s Day Anti-Racism March and Rally will focus on refugees this year, under the theme No Racism: Refugees Welcome Here.  It will start at 10.30am from Glasgow Green. Willie Rennie has been explaining the importance of this year’s march to the Scottish Trade Unions Congress.

The refugee crisis is the biggest humanitarian challenge that Europe has faced since 1945. Our response to the crisis needs to match the scale of this challenge. And just as we speak out against racism, we need to ensure that we are challenging those who would see us ignore our obligation to help.
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Monday morning cheer – better than David Laws and Pingu

I hate this time of year. I do not like getting up in the dark, nor do I like it being dark before 4:30 pm. Cold weather, slippery pavements, driving rain, wind and all sorts of Winter nastiness conspire to make me want to hide away for 3 months, or run off to sunnier climes.  Maybe one of these days, I will.

To cheer you up this Monday morning, here is a picture that is guaranteed to make you smile. It’s even better than this old favourite:

David Laws and Pingu


Here’s Willie Rennie getting up close and personal with one of Canine Concern Scotland’s wonderful therapets. 

These therapets visit places like care homes and hospitals so that people who can’t have a pet full time can experience the companionship and comfort a dog can give.

Willie Rennie caught up with one:

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40% of Liberal Democrat MSPs win awards

Last night the annual Scottish Politician of the Year Awards took place in the opulent surroundings of the Prestonfield House Hotel in Edinburgh.

Predictably, and deservedly, Nicola Sturgeon won the top award, Politician of the Year. However, it was great to see Willie Rennie and Alison McInnes both won. That means 2 out of the 5 Liberal Democrat MSPs finally got the recognition they deserved after a gruelling 5 years holding the SNP to account and winning significant policy changers.

Alison McInnes has done more than anyone else to force the SNP to change their minds. On stop and search, on armed police, on highlighting the many problems with the centralisation of Scotland’s police, she has been a true liberal champion. She won the Committee politician of the year.

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“I realised my vote was not enough” – why Wendy Chamberlain joined #libdemfightback

One of the highlights of Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference last Saturday was seeing new member Wendy Chamberlain introduce Willie Rennie for his keynote speech.

This is what she said:

Firstly, may I offer my thanks to Sheila Thomson and the Conference Committee for asking me as a new party member to speak and introduce Willie to you to deliver his leader’s speech.

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I am not my gender


I’ve written about this on the Lib Dem Voice before so I apologise if I’m repeating myself but once again we’re discussing the idea that we need to get more women into politics as parliamentarians. Once again I’ll repeat myself in saying that this is not something I disagree with. But to have Willie Rennie say “I know many in the party instinctively do not favour positive action but I need to be frank with you. Nothing else has worked.” is actually incredibly concerning for me.

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Six highlights of Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference

I have to be honest. I was none too chuffed at the prospect of dragging myself out of bed at 6:15 yesterday morning and heading to Dunfermline for Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference. Dunfermline is half an hour from where I live, but I’m currently on holiday in the blissful Black Isle. This view from our holiday cottage will perhaps help you to understand my reluctance to leave:

Roebuck at sunset

That was sunset on our first night last Saturday.

Ultimately, though, I ended up very glad that I’d gone. Here are the things I wouldn’t have wanted to miss:

New Members

At one point in his his speech, Willie Rennie asked all the new members to stand up. They made up about a third of the audience and spoke in many debates. One, Wendy Chamberlain, introduced Willie and explained why she had joined the party:

Every new member I spoke to had a great time at Conference. One told me “Now I know I’m in the right place.” That theme of feeling at home was repeated by many others.

It was also fantastic to see people who had returned to the Lib Dem family, such as George Boyd from East Lothian.

Tim Farron

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In full: Willie Rennie’s speech to Scottish Lib Dem Conference

Here is Willie Rennie’s speech to Scottish Lib Dem Conference in full, delivered 15 minutes late after the conference was evacuated when the fire alarm went off.

I have been a member of the Liberal Democrats for twenty eight years.  
I have stood up, spoken up and campaigned for this party all over the country. 

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Willie Rennie to highlight gender balance in his Conference speech

We know that Willie Rennie is determined to improve the appalling gender balance record of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. He has to persuade a party which has historically rejected any proposals for positive action in candidate selection to adopt proposals to be drawn up by a working group made up of himself, Jo Swinson, Sophie Bridger, Sheila Ritchie and Fred Mackintosh. The ultimate aim is for half of Scotland’s Liberal Democrat parliamentarians to be women within 6 years.

The proposals will be debated at the Scottish Party’s Spring Conference just a few weeks before next year’s Holyrood elections. You can’t accuse Willie of not being willing to take a risk. He will be talking about it in Saturday’s speech to Autumn Conference too:

I want our party to change.

All our MPs in the United Kingdom are men. And four out of our five MSPs are men too.

I know many in the party instinctively do not favour positive action but I need to be frank with you.  Nothing else has worked.

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Willie Rennie and Kirsty Williams challenge Scots and Welsh Tory leaders to disown Theresa May’s “borderline xenophobic” comments

Tim Farron was quick to condemn Theresa May’s speech yesterday, saying that she, not immigrants, were damaging to social cohesion. I think it was one of the most disgraceful speeches we have ever heard from a Home Secretary and, let’s face it, Jack Straw, John Reid and David Blunkett had already ensured that the bar was in the gutter. At the time of writing, the Leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition has not yet deigned to challenge her.

We’ve seen over the Summer how the Welsh and Scottish Tory leaders have set themselves apart from the wilder rhetoric coming from senior Conservatives, such as the “swarm” comments of the Prime Minister. Their Liberal Democrat counterparts Kirsty Williams and Willie Rennie have challenged them to dissociate themselves from Theresa May’s comments.

Kirsty said:

Andrew Davies must speak out against Theresa May’s outrageous speech or we must assume that he shares her views. He was right last month to call for extra help for refugees fleeing the crisis in Syria, but his position is at odds with the borderline xenophobia we heard from the Home Secretary.

Britain is socially, culturally and economically richer for our outward looking, tolerant approach. Yet this Conservative government is whipping up fear and mistrust.

Willie added:

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Does Scotland need Home Rule, or just to use the powers it has?

Siobhan Mathers, Scottish Liberal Democrat activist, former (and, I hope, future) parliamentary candidate and policy convener argues in today’s Sunday Times (£) that it’s time that Scotland got a full home rule settlement. She sets out what she means by that:

I will use the fiscal definition that Scotland under home rule should raise what it spends — self-sufficiency — and the sovereignty-focused philosophical definition of Steel: “The principle of home rule is different from devolution. Under home rule, sovereignty lies with the Scottish people and we decide when it is sensible to give powers to the centre on issues like foreign affairs and defence.”

She says that there is no point waiting for the UK to sort out a federal structure for itself because it’s just not going to happen any time soon and that it’s in Scotland’s “enlightened self interest” to pursue full home rule to see off the demand for independence:

It strikes me as an act of misguided altruism to wait for the constitutional laggards, our bedfellows in the UK. Yes, it would be nice to help sort everyone else’s problems in how they relate to the constitutional parents in London, but it is not a priority for many.

During an air emergency, passengers are advised to put on their own oxygen masks before helping others. I would argue that Scotland’s relationship with Westminster is at such an emergency point and we need to pursue enlightened self-interest by focusing on our own problems first.

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Jo Swinson to take part in Willie Rennie’s gender balance working group

Willie Rennie has announced the four members of his working group into improving gender balance which he announced last month. He made it clear that he wants to see the party adopt a raft of measures including all women shortlists. Today he met with the Women 50/50 campaign to discuss improving gender balance.

What’s interesting about the make-up of his working group is that it includes people who have historically been sceptical about measures such as all women shortlists. If they support his plans, it will be a very clear message to the party that it is time for serious change. I would be very surprised if they didn’t come up with other measures, such as intensive support for the campaigns of female candidates. They should make sure that they consult LGBT Plus Lib Dems to ensure that the plan that emerges is fully inclusive for transgender, genderqueer, genderfluid and non-binary people.  Steering clear of long-term proponents of procedural measures to achieve gender balance may well be a clever move by Willie.

The members of the working group are:

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In full: Willie’s story

We gave you the preview yesterday, now here’s the whole thing. The Scottish Liberal Democrats have finally found some production values in a very well produced Party Political Broadcast:

The transcript is below:

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Preview: Scottish Liberal Democrats Broadcast: Willie Rennie’s story

Scottish Liberal Democrat party broadcasts have previously been in the, shall we say, Blake’s 7 school of production values. That’s not to say that there wasn’t great content, but it came across as homely.

Well, all that’s changed with the new broadcast being aired tonight.

Here’s a tiny snippet. You’ll be able to watch it on tv and on here later.

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In Full: Willie Rennie’s speech to Conference: Our liberal, radical offer to create real freedom for people in Scotland

Scottish Liberal Democrat Willie Rennie gave his speech to Conference yesterday. Unlike Kirsty, he didn’t dwell on the coalition years. He did, however, offer a devastating critique of the SNP Government, citing its illiberal and centralising instincts.

He set out his agenda for the elections to the Scottish Parliament next May:

Our election campaign will be about liberal values.

At our heart we want every individual to achieve their potential.

So we will bring in childcare and the pupil premium for children who need it, wherever they live in Scotland. Giving opportunity to every child to get up and get on – no matter the circumstances of their birth.

We stand with the powerless against the strong. Mental health will be taken seriously. No more six month waits. Professionals on standby in every A&E.

We say power is safer when it is shared and will trust communities and individuals with the power to control their own lives – putting an end to the Holyrood-knows-best mentality.

So we will put democracy back into the police and return to traditional Scottish policing by consent.

We will empower public sector workers – teachers, doctors, nurses, police and more;

Stripping back top-down targets, controls, league tables and testing to give them the freedom to do their job.

And we will share power across the whole UK to give a stable constitutional future for Scotland;

A federal system is a positive, unifying future for Scotland and the rest of the UK.

This is our positive vision;

Here is the speech in full:

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Conference Countdown 2015: How to learn lessons and not blow the EU referendum

In the run-up to Autumn Conference in Bournemouth, we’ll be looking ahead to examine the highlights in the debating hall, the fringe and training rooms. You can find the papers here. You can find all the posts in the series here.

Willie Rennie has finally written a frank and fascinating assessment of the flaws in the Better Together campaign. He draws a number of important conclusions which need to be learned if the EU referendum is not going to fall foul of the pitfalls that beset not only Better Together but in starker and disastrous form the incompetent Yes To AV campaign in 2011. All the articles are well worth a read.

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Willie Rennie on “dark, secretive” Better Together and “despicable” Cameron

Willie Rennie has gone to town on the Better Together pro-UK campaign in an interview for the Sunday Herald. He described it as “dark” and “secretive.”

Labour had a dark campaigning style. It was very secretive. Everything would be last minute. You would never be told much about what was going on until it happened. We all suffered. The Tories and ourselves suffered more, but some in Labour were out of the loop as well.”

You mean an inner circle ran everything? “Yes. It was Blair and Rob . People like that were making decisions and had this addiction to secrecy.

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Police Scotland go too far again – and the irony behind Rennie’s reaction

Another day, another example of Police Scotland’s disrespect for civil liberties. Hot on the heels of arming police on routine duties on quiet highland streets against the wishes of the local community and pursuing a highly illiberal stop and search policy, interspersed with some casual spying on journalists, we now have compulsory drug testing outside nightclubs.  From the Daily Record:

Customers queuing outside clubs have been approached by officers who swab their hands for traces of illegal ­substances.

Those who don’t co-operate are refused entry while those who test positive are questioned and face being searched and arrested.

Politicians and licensed trade bosses yesterday criticised the tactic as heavy-handed and a breach of young people’s rights.

I have never ever been an enthusiastic nightclubber, but this actually makes me want to go and protest against such disproportionate action. How dare the Police, who would have no reason to suspect me of any breach of the law, stop me going about my lawful business because I refuse to comply with an arbitrary check.  This must surely be a good issue for some cross-campus campaigning as universities resume.

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Jim Hume MSP: SNP risks making GPs an exclusive service that many can’t access

I was interested to see this report in today’s Scotsman which featured Labour and the SNP slugging it out over cuts to GP training posts. People are finding it more and more difficult to get an early appointment with their GPs. You would think that the service that is the most common way for us to access the NHS would be better funded, but primary care now accounts for just 7.8% of healthcare funding, down from 9.8% in 2011.

It is causing a fairly massive amount of concern. You’d think that they’d want to discuss it in Parliament.

Oh wait – they did, but the Scotsman didn’t feel the need to talk about the debate initiated by Liberal Democrat health spokesman Jim Hume just yesterday afternoon.

Jim warned that the failure to recruit and train sufficient GPs risked the service becoming inaccessible to many people. He cited a survey carried out by the Scottish Liberal Democrats which showed that 4 in 10 respondents found their workload unmanageable and a third would choose a different career path.  An SNP MSP typically intervened to blame Westminster for increasing contributions to public sector pensions. In fact, it was day to day work concerns that upset GPs most:

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Willie Rennie’s tribute to Charles Kennedy from Dingwall memorial service

CK MemorialOn Monday, a memorial service for Charles Kennedy was held in Dingwall, a town just north of Inverness which he had represented for the whole of his 32 years as an MP. His constituency office was there and over 300 people turned out to remember their former MP. Music was provided by the Kiltearn Fiddlers, who played a piece of music written by Charles’ father when he was elected to Parliament in 1983. The Dingwall Gaelic Choir also sang. It was quite an emotional occasion, but also full of laughter as memories of Charles were shared.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie paid tribute to Charles. Before the service, he gave an interview to STV. The wonderful scenery in the background shows the Cromarty Firth with views down to the towns of Maryburgh, Conon Bridge and Dingwall, an area represented by excellent Liberal Democrat councillor Angela Maclean.

Willie was keen to share many of the things that had been said about Charles by so many across the political spectrum since his death to show, as he said, how much he meant to the world. He also had a list of what he called Charles’ Greatest Hits – his funniest and wisest sayings. Here is his tribute in full. 

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Tim Farron in Scotland: Scotland’s parties can embarrass Tories into action on migrant crisis

Tim Farron was up in Scotland today, on his first visit since becoming leader.. He hosted a roundtable session in Edinburgh with the Scottish Refugee Council, Amnesty and the Refugee Women’s Strategy Group. Issues discussed included devolution and refugees, making asylum work for women and what political parties could do in the UK and Scotland to campaign for fairer treatment of vulnerable refugees.

Here they are having their discussions:

Amnesty’s Scottish Director welcomed the meeting:

After the meeting, Tim said:

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Willie Rennie: Lib Dems are for aspirational Scots with a social conscience

In a speech to the Scottish Council for Development and Industry in Aberdeen yesterday, Willie Rennie claimed the radical centre ground for the Liberal Democrats, talking about Labour and the SNP fighting it out on the left, while the Conservatives move further to the right. He outlined a position that championed social justice while making sure that we lived within our means.

Willie now finds himself as the oldest political leader in Scotland at just 47 years old. Nicola Sturgeon is 46, Ruth Davidson 36, Patrick Harvie 42 and Kezia Dugdale 33. It’s certainly different from when I was growing up when most political leaders were in their 50s and 60s and the President of the USA was in his 70s.

The challenges for the Scottish Liberal Democrats are obvious. Standing firm in our own space and talking in a unique way about our issues is very important in post-coalition Scotland. I say standing firm, and not finding our own space as we have always been a radical centre ground party which champions individual freedom. Willie looks back to Gladstone, Asquith, Lloyd George, Russell Johnston, David Steel and Charles Kennedy as liberal inspiration.

There’s an interesting turn of phrase about our years in government:

There are some things I would soon forget about our time in government but our decision to put country before party for economic recovery is not one of them.

He then goes on to talk about the good things we did in Government and indeed the changes in SNP policy that his own parliamentary group of just 5 MSPs have driven.

Here is Willie’s speech in full:

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Willie Rennie backs all women shortlists

Willie Rennie has announced that he supports the use of all women shortlists and quotas to improve the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ appalling record on gender balance. He is to lead a group which will draw up specific proposals for the 2019 European, 2020 Westminster and 2021 Holyrood elections.

The Scottish Party looked on in shock when members in the North East did not place highly effective Justice Spokesperson at the top of the list when it was selected at the end of last year. Since then, and particularly following the General Election, there have been strong calls for much stronger action on gender balance. Willie has consulted widely within the party and he announced his plans at the Scottish Party’s and Scottish Liberal Democrat Women’s Everyday Sexism Open Mic event in Edinburgh yesterday.

The Working Group to be led by Willie will consider all options including:

•         All women shortlists

•         Making gender a part of the party’s electoral strategy

•         Quota systems

Willie said:

I have lost patience with the current system and its inability to ensure proper representation of women.  It is now time to take the necessary action to deliver change.

A fresh start for the Liberal Democrats requires us to change.  We need to be more reflective of the people we seek to represent and to perform at our best we need to deploy our best people to make the case for our cause.

Despite an abundance of talented women the party has been unable to put enough in positions to get elected.   It is difficult to make the case for opportunity for everyone when only one of our parliamentarians is a woman.

Twenty years ago my party agreed in the Constitutional Convention to work towards a gender balance in our Scottish Parliamentary representation. Yet since the Scottish Parliament was created we have elected no more than two women at the four elections to Holyrood.   I determined to finally deliver the commitment made to the Constitutional Convention.

Encouragement and organisational support is simply insufficient to overcome the barriers to electing women.

That is why I will lead a working group to finalise proposals to put to the Spring Conference of the Scottish Liberal Democrats that will break down those barriers and increase the representation of women Liberal Democrats in Parliament.

It is my intention that the new arrangements will be in place for the European Election in 2019 and will also apply to the 2020 General Election and 2021 Scottish Parliamentary Election.

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Willie Rennie puts us all to shame – is it time he challenged Farron?

Willie Rennie certainly is a pretty good role model for a healthy lifestyle.

This is the sight that greeted me when I arrived at Scottish Lib Dem HQ for a meeting yesterday morning.

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“Opportunity, community, sustainability and an open mind.” Willie Rennie’s liberal values for today’s Scotland

On Sunday night, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie made a speech in St John’s Church in Edinburgh. He talked about his vision of liberalism and what it means for today’s world. He looked at the consistency of liberal values in practice through the ages and quoted Charles Kennedy on finding the way forward from the history books.

There’s nothing particularly new in there, and I’m not sure about this “militant for the reasonable person” phrase. Reasonable, is, after all, a very subjective phrase. I’m sure Nigel Farage thinks he’s being reasonable, but generally liberals find what he says deeply unpleasant. Nor am I sure about militant. Maybe that’s because I remember the Labour lefties in the 1980s. We liberals are passionate, certainly, but militant? I’m not so sure. I prefer his summary of liberal values – opportunity, community, sustainability and an open mind. Those are very consistent themes for him and he’s been talking about them ever since he became leader. What he now needs to do is show how these values underpin all our policy ideas.

I also liked the bit where he praised the Church’s strong support for equal marriage, saying that they had shown that tolerance, faith and love were “comfortable allies.”

He also talks about how he and Tim Farron come from similar backgrounds and have similar perspectives on liberalism. He ended with a list of things that his small team had done. What he needs to add when he does that is to say how these have actually persuaded or provoked changes in SNP government policy. It’s not a bad record for a small team of 5 MSPs out of 129.

Here’s his speech in full. What do you think?

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LIbLink: Willie Rennie: We need the facts on the M9 tragedy

Ten days ago, a small blue car crashed just off the M9 near Stirling. A call was made to the Police reporting the incident. Nothing was done for three days. The driver of the car, John Yuill, was already dead. His partner, Lamara Bell was still alive but, sadly, she too died on Sunday.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie is one of the MSPs for the area. He has called for a comprehensive and wide-ranging enquiry to which all police staff should be free to contribute without fear of repercussions. He is concerned at attempts by the Chief Constable to pre-judge the existing smaller scale enquiry. Sir Stephen House apologised for Police Scotland’s failures but made it sound as though the fault was down to an individual. That seems to me to be grossly unfair to a member of staff. We know that pressure on staff has increased as control rooms have been closed and we need to look properly at the impact that these measures have had on staff wellbeing and their ability to provide the service we need from them. 

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Willie Rennie on the roar of the Ginger Rodent

Never forget what Chris Grayling said to SNP MP Pete Wishart on Tuesday night. Here’s the exact quote from Hansard:

Let me also say to him and his colleagues that I regard their presence in the House as a great asset. I would much rather have them than 57 Liberal Democrats.

That would have nothing to do with the Liberal Democrats spending five years making life very difficult for the Tories and stopping them from brining in the sorts of measures that give to the rich while taking from the poorest and youngest at the most difficult stages in their lives as they did in yesterday’s budget.

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Willie Rennie wins in North East Fife

Many thanks to Robin Bennett from Ceres in North East Fife for sending us this from the Scottish Highland Games Association website:

Running from the scratch mark in the 1600 metres handicap Scott McDnald, Central AC thrilled the crowds as he worked his way through he field before going on to snap the worsted in 4:28.42., the previous weeks Newburgh winner Dean Whiteford took 2nd place with Jordan Taylor, Hawick in 3rd.

McDonald was thwarted in his bid to land a double when he had to settle for he runners up spot in the 3000 metres handicap behind none other than LIb Dem leader Willie Rennie, the latter, who was receiving a start of 600 metres from the backmarker battled on gamely to hold off all challengers, the rapidly closing McDonald finished 2nd with Amy Armstrong in 3rd. One local worthy added ”it’s a long time since there was a Lib Dem win in North-East Fife”!

There is a cracking photograph of a very happy looking Scottish Liberal Democrat leader.

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Willie Rennie and Greens’ Patrick Harvie support launch of Open Rights Group Scotland

WR  at ORG Scotland LaunchScottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie and Greens’ co-convener Patrick Harvie both attended the launch of Open Rights Group Scotland yesterday. Immediately after First Minister’s Questions, they gathered in a smoke-filled Garden lobby (the cafe was having an indoor barbecue to celebrate the start of the Summer holidays) to talk to journalists and pose for photographs.

As the SNP Government ramps up its plans for a National ID database that’s more powerful and intrusive than anything Labour ever came up with, and as Edinburgh plans to integrate all its CCTV systems, there is a lot for the digital rights organisation to do.

Willie Rennie said:

The way in which we work, socialise, buy products and use services has changed dramatically since the digital revolution.

But government and politicians have responded at a snail’s pace and have failed to ensure the rights of citizens, consumers, journalists, businesses and children are protected online.

I am delighted to be part of the launch of Open Rights Group Scotland. It will help drive digital rights up the agenda in Scotland so that we can build a fairer society which enshrines civil liberties in every part of our lives.

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Willie Rennie: We have lost someone special

This tweet of mine led to several requests from people outside Scotland to see Willie’s email, so here it is.

But you have been warned. Willie so often gets it absolutely right when he does this sort of thing and this is no exception. Get yourself a cup of tea and a tissue.

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Recent Comments

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    I am totally against UK air strikes. I supported the first Gulf Warr and the invasion of Afghanistan and with reservations the Iraq war, but...
  • User AvatarGordon 30th Nov - 2:58pm
    From the title: "not overwhelming, but strong enough" To convict someone of a criminal offence requires the evidence to be "beyond reasonable doubt". Here Nick...
  • User AvatarToby Fenwick 30th Nov - 2:41pm
    Mick / David Thanks for your comments. The first test must be the legality. I disagree that they'd be "wholly immoral" - in my view...
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 30th Nov - 2:35pm
    b) typo effective
  • User AvatarDavid Raw 30th Nov - 2:35pm
    A legalistic view is insufficient.. Two other tests are necessary a) would it be moral ? b) would it be feective ?
  • User AvatarMick Taylor 30th Nov - 2:33pm
    They may be legal but they are wholly immoral.