Author Archives: Fred Mackintosh

Why Scottish Liberal Democrats oppose a second Indyref

Last Sunday,  Lib Dem Voice published my article on how the Scottish Liberal Democrats should promote polices that use the existing powers of the Scottish Parliament create a fairer, greener and more prosperous Scotland.  Some commented that since Brexit has happened Liberal Democrats in Scotland should pivot to support for independence, or at least put the question back to the people of Scotland.  I thought it might help to set out some of reasons why Scottish Liberal Democrats oppose a second referendum and want to keep Scotland in a reformed and federal United Kingdom.

The preamble to our constitution commits us to promoting promote a democratic federal framework for the United Kingdom.  Independence is not the same as Home Rule in a Federal UK and it should come as no surprise when we say that.  We should also learn from David Cameron what can happen if you support a referendum about something you oppose.

Over the past three decades the Scottish Party has successfully helped deliver devolution and home rule for Scotland within the United Kingdom.  The Scottish Parliament has substantial powers.  Those powers should be used to address the problems our country faces now.

Politics is about choosing what to spend time, money and effort on.  Choosing to talk about the constitution means that other issues will inevitably be neglected.  In March 2017 the head of the Civil Service in Scotland warned Scottish Ministers that preparing for another independence referendum would see de-prioritisation of domestic policies.  This is a real issue in SNP run Scotland.  Standards have slipped.  Scottish schools have declined in international rankings, college places have been slashed and the Scottish Government has failed to meet its own targets for the provision of nursery places.  Another referendum and potentially the creation of a new state will suck attention and money from almost every other problem we face.   Whether you’re a parent with a child at school, a patient waiting for surgery or a homeless person in desperate need of a roof over your head, you don’t have the luxury of years of more constitutional wrangling.

But what about Brexit?  We know the arguments against Brexit.  Separating from our largest trading partner will harm our economy for years to come, reduce opportunities for young people, for science, research and development and make it harder to tackle Climate Change.   The debates about the Northern Ireland backstop have highlighted the problems a new land border between the EU and a non-EU member state.  The real financial cost of Brexit is much larger than any ‘savings’ from ending EU budget contributions.  

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 26 Comments

Building Scotland back better

The next Scottish Parliament election on 6 May 2021 will be a major test for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.  With some recent polls suggesting increased support for Scotland leaving the United Kingdom the stakes could not be higher.

We opposed Brexit and oppose Scotland leaving the United Kingdom.  Another independence referendum would be a massive distraction from sorting out the problems Scotland faces.

We must continue to make the passionate, emotional and economical case for a reformed United Kingdom.  People want to vote for success, for hope of a better future and for people who aspire to make a difference.  We need to show how using the existing powers of the Scottish Parliament will enable Scotland to be built back better.

The Scottish Party is about to consult members about the shape of our 2021 manifesto. It is worth setting out a handful of ideas that could, if the Scottish Government devoted its whole attention to them, make Scotland a fairer, greener and more prosperous place to live and do so by giving more power to local communities.

In 2017 the First Minister declared that education was her “top priority”, but Scottish schools have declined in international rankings and the Scottish Government has failed to meet its own targets for the provision of nursery places. The damage done to our education system will reduce the opportunities available to our children and hold our country back.

The Liberal Democrats long campaigned for a penny on Income Tax for education.  We should actually make Education the top priority for government once again.   Education is our way to a high-wage, high-skill economy where inequality becomes largely a thing of the past. It is a scandal that most of Scotland’s secondary schools only allow children to take six subjects at Nat5 level (the equivalent of GSCE in England).  That must change.  

We could give more power to schools and colleges, local school clusters and councils to come up with new ideas that meet local needs and help raise attainment.  In an environment where the UK Government is talking of increased public spending, we could use Barnet consequentials to increase school budgets, recruit more teachers and support staff and make the Pupil Equity Fund (the Scottish equivalent of the Pupil Premium) permanent and more effective. Scotland used to legitimately claim to have one of the best education systems in the world. We need to recover that reputation.

The pandemic has shown how our society pushes stress and risk onto the shoulders of those who find it harder to bear.  The Scottish Liberal Democrats have long campaigned for reform of mental health provision, so it is treated with the same urgency as physical health.  We should make that change.  Holyrood must also make a massive investment in new affordable and social housing to end homelessness and ensure that everyone lives in the home they need.  We should simplify and speed up the programme to insulate every home in Scotland, cut carbon emissions and end fuel poverty.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , , and | 15 Comments

The people who will make the new party complaints system work

As  Lead Adjudicator for the new party complaints system I am writing to introduce the people who will make it work. 

The great strength of successful political parties lies with their members.  In our party it is the members who campaign, make policy, choose our leaders and, to a great extent, run the party.  We have more than 100,000, but all our members are human beings and subject to human frailties.  As a result, it is a sad reality that members will from time to time do things and be accused of things that bring the party into disrepute.

After years of debate a new system for handling complaints has been created.  You can read about it in Alice Thomas’s excellent post, and I wanted to introduce you to the volunteers who will make the new system work.

The first thing to make clear is that there is no ‘complaints supremo’.  The new system breaks up the tasks involved so that each decision in the process of determining complaints is made by an independent person appointed in a way that ensures that there is no perception that panels are hand-picked or results pre-ordained.

The largest number of volunteers are the Adjudicators.  All are members of the party and they have a wide range of experiences.  At various points in the process of each complaint an Adjudicator will assess the severity of a Complaint and how it is will be handled and in most cases a different three Adjudicators will later sit on a Complaints Panel to decide whether to uphold or dismiss the complaint.  Adjudicators are permitted to stand as candidates for the Party or hold office at a Local Party level, but are barred from holding office elsewhere in the Party.

Posted in Op-eds | Tagged , and | 6 Comments
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