Tag Archives: willie rennie

Opinion: Open doors and open minds

yellow door ppb

So then, we all saw it, did we? The starting gun for the Liberal Democrats election campaign was well and truly fired on Wednesday with the airing of three different versions of a very similar Party Political Broadcast.

‘Open Doors’ puts a focus on the LibDems as a campaigning force, but importantly for me, it also makes a very clear point about how we operate as a party – we listen to our communities, and we work with them to achieve change. Rather than it being Nick standing around …

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Open Doors: All 3 versions of the first Lib Dem broadcast of the year

The Liberal Democrats’ first crack at the General Election broadcasts is being shown as you read this.

With the theme of Open Doors, it’s about listening to voters and majors on how the Liberal Democrats would make a difference compared to Labour and the Conservatives.You may not be surprised to find that the phrases “stronger economy”, “fairer society” and “opportunity for everyone” feature.

Here is the English version. The Scottish and Welsh will follow below when they are available.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Willie Rennie’s New Year Message

 

Here is Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie’s New Year Message in full:

It’s hard to imagine that this year could match last year. I suspect on the sporting front it will certainly be difficult.

In politics, experts often underestimate the strong minds of voters to do what they want, rather than what those experts predict.

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Willie Rennie’s Christmas message 2014

Willie leader launch in front of Rail Bridge

Willie issued his Christmas message in the wake of the horrific tragedy in Glasgow on Monday:

Our thoughts are with those affected by the tragedy in Glasgow. And we will stand with them as they deal with their pain and grief in the time ahead.

2014 was a year like no other.  The Games, the golf and the big vote. This year Scotland rose to the challenge and we did well. We showed that we are a sporting and welcoming nation.  And we showed that democracy matters with the silent majority winning the day.  As the late Arthur Montford would often say there was a “stramash” – but Scotland won.

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Can Murphy and Dugdale resurrect Labour’s fortunes in Scotland?

Labour Party logoSo, we know that Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale will be the new leadership team for Scottish Labour. Murphy won the leadership with 55% of the vote and Dugdale won the deputy post with 63%.

The result was announced at the Emirates – the one in Glasgow, not, as I initially thought when I was told yesterday, the one in London. But Labour wouldn’t be so stupid as to announce in London when their last leader quit after complaining that Scotland was treated as a branch office.

Murphy is a Big Beast, having been part of the last Labour government for 9 years. He was a staunch Blairite and, of course, voted for the Iraq war and all of Labour’s authoritarian policies from ID cards to 90 days detention.  A pro-war blairite seems hardly in keeping with the zeitgeist, it has to be said.

He’s a deeply polarising figure. It’s hard to see how he can unite the Labour Party, let alone the country. His rhetoric way back when he was Secretary of State for Scotland was divisive and he’s continued in that vein. In 2010, he described the divide between Labour and the SNP as Patriots vs Nationalists, language which I find at best unhelpful, at worst irresponsible. I wrote back then about how wrong I felt it was to use patriotism as a political weapon. Particularly when our country is recovering from an emotionally bruising referendum, it’s even more nasty, brutal and irrelevant than ever. Even combining it with the word “optimistic”, as he did this morning, makes me feel queasy.

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Willie Rennie excluded on profanity grounds

Well, sort of.

He tried to sign up to a news website the other night and this is what happened:

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Abusive site Wings over Scotland is embedded into the Scottish Government and Yes movement – Willie Rennie proves what we knew already

I’ve written before about the appallingly abusive Wings over Scotland site. It’s a pro-independnece blog written, ironically, by the self-styled “Rev” Stu Campbell who lives in Bath.

His shameful content and comments he allows on his site and on social media  have included:

  • Using a picture of hearses going through Royal Wootton Bassett in a mocked up “Better Together poster;
  • Showering abuse on Clare Lally after she spoke at the Better Together “100 days to go” event. Funnily enough, he then said he couldn’t find any abuse of her on his site. I helped him out. 
  • Doing me over when I said that being part in the UK meant we could do more in terms of international development
  • Disgusting transphobia towards Chelsea Manning
  • Referring to a Conservative MSP as an a******* and “sewer dwelling vermin”
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In full: Willie Rennie’s speech to Scottish Conference

Willie Rennie speaking at Lib Dem Spring conference, Liverpool 2008Here is Willie Rennie’s speech to Scottish Conference in Dunfermline this Saturday.

Thank you to everyone who sent kind wishes following my period of absence from the political stage. I was undergoing an operation to replace a mangled disc in my neck.

It was an emergency, not for any medical reasons, but because our campaign director Adam Stachura said it was hindering my canvassing technique.

Lying on the theatre trolley as the needle was about to be injected into my hand the doctor declared she knew exactly who I was.

It was even more alarming that she looked remarkably like Nicola Sturgeon.

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Conference Speeches: Willie Rennie – “If you want to stop the talk of ‘the 45′ or ‘the 55′ and talk about ‘One Scotland’, to take forward a programme of reform to unite the country, then we are your party.”

Willie Rennie challenged Nicola Sturgeon to reveal whether she is a Borgen Liberal or a Salmond Nationalist. He was also keen to emphasise that more powers must be delivered. He said that Labour and the Tories must not be timid in their approach:

For the first time ever the people of Scotland were given the power. 

The democratic power to decide whether to continue our relationship with our friends in the rest of the United Kingdom.

With ballots not bullets. 

By the people not the Lairds. 

After open debate not behind closed doors. 

I am so proud that people quietly, but with confidence, said no to independence.

And in numbers now rarely seen in democracies they said yes – yes to partnership, yes to sharing, yes to our common endeavour and yes with an open hand;

Comfortable in our own skin, generous in our compassion, proud of who we are.

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Rennie chooses Michael Moore and Tavish Scott to represent Liberal Democrats on Scotland Devolution Commission

Willie Rennie announced two very different Liberal Democrat representatives for the Scotland Devolution Commission to be headed by Lord Smith of Kelvin. On one hand you have former Secretary of State, co-architect of the Edinburgh Agreement, statesman, diplomat. On the other you have plain-speaking, uncompromising former leader Tavish Scott. They will be quite a formidable double act,  a parliamentary good cop/bad cop. 

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Senior Liberal Democrats react as Scots vote to stay in UK

The sovereign will of the Scottish people, by a margin of, give or take a bit, 55%-45 %, is to stay in the UK. In voting No, they put their trust in David Cameron, Ed Miliband and Nick Clegg to deliver more powers to the Scottish Parliament.

Here’s how senior Liberal Democrats reacted. First,  Nick Clegg:

I’m absolutely delighted the Scottish people have taken this momentous decision to safeguard our family of nations for future generations.

In a dangerous and uncertain world I have no doubt we are stronger, safer, and more prosperous together than we ever could be apart.

But a vote against independence was clearly not a vote against change and we must now deliver on time and in full the radical package of newly devolved powers to Scotland.

At the same time, this referendum north of the border has led to a demand for constitutional reform across the United Kingdom as people south of the border also want more control and freedom in their own hands rather than power being hoarded in Westminster.

So this referendum marks not only a new chapter for Scotland within the UK but also a new chapter of constitutional renewal across the UK.

Willie Rennie:

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Rennie: Stand up to the nationalist thugs

Yesterday, Labour MP Jim Murphy was egged in Kirkcaldy as he was speaking there as part of his 100 towns in 100 days tour. He travels the country with 2 Irn Bru crates to stand on and speaks and meets people around the country.

Twice in the last week, there have been really ugly scenes as he was surrounded by Yes campaigners who did their best to shout him down. Last week the same thing happened in Motherwell. Now, I don’t much care for Murphy’s politics, but he has the right to express himself without facing intimidation.

I’ve been chased down streets by Labour thugs before. They didn’t like being beaten with the regularity we managed it in Chesterfield in the 90s. I remember copping a mouthful of abuse from some scary Labour men in a quiet street during the Littleborough and Saddleworth by-election back in 1995. I remember It’s really unpleasant and not how politics should ever be conducted. Since I’ve been back in Scotland, bar the odd skirmish at counts between Labour and the SNP, things have been pretty civilised in comparison. Until the last few months.

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Opinion: Better Together should agree to a third independence referendum debate

st Andrews flag saltire scotland Some rights reserved by Fulla TIt appears that despite lengthy discussions between Sky news and the Yes and No campaigns there will now be no third televised debate between the two campaigns.

According to the Sunday Times:

A spokesman for Better Together said: “We made it clear right from the start that all television debates would have to be done before the first postal votes start to go out.

There are only two weeks now before around 1m people who are registered for postal votes start to receive their voting forms.

It’s only right that the debates between the leaders of the Yes and No campaigns have all been seen by then. If Mr Salmond had not spent so much time trying to delay both the STV and BBC debates, other bids could have been accommodated.”

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Rennie on the SNP’s “dishonest, desperate and disgraceful” NHS scaremongering

nhs sign lrgScottish Lib Dem Leader Willie Rennie delivered a passionate speech yesterday setting out his positive arguments for Scotland remaining in the United Kingdom.

A link to the whole speech is below, but he spent a bit of time rebutting some recent scaremongering by the SNP on the issue of the NHS:

And across the UK, few things unite people like our belief in the NHS.

Founded on the principles that it should meet the needs of everyone, that it should be free at the point of delivery, and that it should be based on clinical need not the ability to pay, it remains a source of pride in which each and every one of us has a stake.

These principles are unique and they are enduring.

For the Nationalists to claim that they are under threat is dishonest, desperate and disgraceful.

It is also factually wrong.

Despite the financial pressure of the global financial crisis, the NHS budget has been protected and NHS funding in England is now £12.7 billion higher than it was in 2010.

Private sector involvement in England’s NHS is paid for with public money, meaning that the cash equivalent is protected for Scotland – and the Scottish Government can spend it however they see fit.

The publicly-funded NHS was this year ranked best healthcare system across the 11 richest countries in the world – and we are determined to keep it that way.

But five weeks out from the independence referendum, and the SNP has suddenly started to pretend that funding is in doubt.

Standing on street corners, dripping poison about the NHS into the ears of passers bye is a sign of just how desperate they are becoming.

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Lib Dems have led the case against armed police in the Highlands – not that you’d know from the BBC’s Sunday Politics Scotland

This time next week, I will be in one of what I think is the most magical places on earth, the Black Isle. The friendly people, gorgeously rich scenery from the fertile farmlands to the wonderful pink-sanded Rosemarkie beach, the rubbish mobile phone signal and the utter peace of the place combine to make it my perfect bolt-hole.  I feel myself relaxing as soon as I get my first view of Munlochy Bay from the A9. It’s pure heaven.

I try very hard when we’re there to do all my shopping from local shops rather than the big supermarkets in Inverness, …

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Willie Rennie vs Tommy Sheridan and an angry mob

I wrote yesterday about my experience at what was for all intents and purposes a taxpayer funded rally for the Yes campaign for independence. The Yes supporters were very nice when they told me that “No” voters were stupid.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie was not so lucky the other night when he turned up to a meeting in Abbeyview, Dunfermline this week to debate the pros and cons of independence with Tommy Sheridan, the former Socialist MSP. All Willie knew from the invitation was that it had been organised as a debate for undecided voters. This is the (imprintless) flyer advertising it:

Abbeyvew indyref meeting

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More powers for Scotland – guaranteed

Rennie, Davidson, Lamont More powers photo popWe brought you the joint article from yesterday’s Scotland on Sunday in which Scottish Liberal Democrat Leader Willie Rennie and his Conservative and Labour counterparts Ruth Davidson and Johann Lamont. Now this lunchtime, the three leaders appeared at the iconic Edinburgh monument on Calton Hill to issue a joint statement.  Whether it was wise to drag journalists up there in this blistering heat will be seen from the coverage that ensues. I’ve already seen one point out that the monument was once known as Scotland’s …

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3 Scots pro-UK leaders promise more powers after “No” vote

Brazil v Scotland 22In an unprecedented show of unity, the leaders of the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour parties in Scotland wrote a joint article for Scotland on Sunday yesterday in which they promised more powers for the Scottish Parliament if Scotland says “No, thanks” to independence in 3 months’ time.

Ruth Davidson, Willie Rennie and Johann Lamont have managed to put together a decent article, cogently arguing the case for staying in the UK, and for more powers to Holyrood and from Holyrood. That last bit is very important and I’m …

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Willie Rennie MSP: “I need you to get out and make our positive, sunshine case for a stronger Scotland which works together as part of the UK.”

Edinburgh Castle, stunning in the morning sunScottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie sent this email to party members to spur them into action 100 days ahead of the Independence Referendum.

Dear Friend,

With 100 days until the referendum, Liberal Democrats have a golden opportunity to loudly state our case for home rule for Scotland in a federal United Kingdom.
We know that the majority of people believe Scotland has the best of both worlds as part of the UK family.

photo by: HannahWebb
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Scottish Liberal Democrats launch their European Election campaign – IN Britain, IN Europe, IN Work

Given the illustrious collection of single malts that there is in Scottish Party HQ, it’s hardly surprising that the party decided to launch its campaign of for the European elections in a distillery near Edinburgh. Alistair Carmichael, Willie Rennie and George Lyon checked out the products as they outlined the campaign themes.

Rennie, Carmichael and Lyon

There are no local elections in Scotland this year, but there is an added dimension with the approaching independence referendum. The Party of IN arguments apply just as much to Scotland staying in the UK as they do to the UK staying in Europe.

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Scottish leaders pay tribute to Margo MacDonald

Contains Scottish Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Scottish Parliament Licence v1.0.Today, the Lothians are especially grey and misty. The sight of brightly clad friends and colleagues of Independent MSP Margo MacDonald heading to her memorial service will be a real contrast, exactly as Margo has lit up Scottish politics since her Govan by-election victory 40 years ago. The whole of Scotland will have the chance to show its pride in a warm, straight-talking independent spirit.

Earlier this week, Scottish party leaders paid tribute to her in Parliament. Watched by her husband Jim Sillars and her daughters, they shared memories of how she fought for her causes, from independence to assisted dying and the rights of sex workers – and of how she told her female colleagues off if they didn’t wear enough jewellery.

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Better Together lets some of Willie’s “sunshine strategy” burst through

Better Together, the cross-party campaign for retaining the United Kingdom, must have been listening to LDV’s co-editor, Caron Lindsay (always a sensible precaution, we find…). Just a few weeks ago she cautioned against the deluge of negativity that seemed to be the No campaign’s main message:

Charles Kennedy was bang on last week when he said that the pro-UK campaign needed to be more positive. He could do with being a bit more explicit about what he thinks they should be saying. And then he needs to sit Alistairs Darling and Carmichael, Danny, Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader and Nick down and tell them. For the sake of the UK, they need to listen. Better Together is in desperate need of an injection of wit and warmth and not much time to do it in.

Here, then, is the new Better Together advert. Maybe not much wit, but a whole lot more warmth:

better together ad

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In Full: Willie Rennie’s speech to Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference

Willie Rennie speaking at Lib Dem Spring conference, Liverpool 2008Willie Rennie’s crucial final leader’s speech before the independence referendum highlighted the party’s achievements in UK Government – 8 words, Taxes down, pensions up, new jobs, more childcare.

He also highlighted his team’s contribution in the Scottish Parliament, pressing the SNP government over 18 months until they expanded childcare for 2-4 year olds and fighting against the “wrecking ball” being taken to the justice system. He announced that the party would be putting down amendments aimed at properly regulating stop and search to …

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Another wheel comes off the SNP’s independence bandwagon as EU Commission President says Scotland would find it difficult to join EU

It has not been a good week for Scottish independence campaigners and particularly the SNP. Their primary objective in their quest has been to achieve a break up of the UK without scaring any horses. We’d hardly notice, they said. Everything would go on pretty much as before. We’d still have the Queen and the pound and, of course, an independent Scotland would be admitted to the EU automatically on the same terms as the UK currently enjoys.

This week George Osborne, backed by Danny Alexander and Ed Balls, ruled out the SNP’s preferred option of a currency union. Alex …

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Bluff, bluster and bullying, says Salmond. Pot, kettle and black come to mind

That the SNP would dismiss yesterday’s announcement on currency by George Osborne should not come as a surprise to any of us.

Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon have taken to the airwaves to complain of “bluff, bluster and bullying” by those nasty big boys from Westminster. It’s actually quite brazen to sit there and say, having been told a very firm “no” that the answer was really yes. But their aim was to whip up fury amongst their own supporters, to incite an emotional reaction in those who don’t like English Tories telling things like they are.

That was always going to …

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Willie Rennie on Lib Dem prospects in Scotland in 2015: “I know all 11 seats can be won.”

William RennieScotland’s Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie is interviewed in today’s Times by Magnus Linklater – who describes him as “resolutely cheerful”.

On Cowdenbeath…

Listing a load of reasons why he shouldn’t be in good spirits, he asks Willie specifically about the Cowdenbeath by-election, where the party trailed in fifth:

“We weren’t surprised by it. We didn’t put a lot into it, and if you don’t do that, you don’t get it back. We had lost our deposit at the last election, with something like 3 per cent, so we didn’t have

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Bedroom Tax no more in Scotland – with Scottish Liberal Democrat support

It’s been a big week for the Scottish Parliament. On Tuesday, Holyrood passed a much stronger equal marriage bill than we have south of the border. Yesterday it passed a budget which, with different ideas incorporated from Labour and the Liberal Democrats, will make a huge difference to many people in Scotland.

The Holyrood budget process is very different. You’d never find George Osborne publishing his budget 3 months in advance, letting all parties contribute to the process and then putting an amended budget through Parliament incorporating new ideas. It’s to Finance Secretary John Swinney’s great credit that he adopts …

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