Category Archives: News

Politics Galore – a new podcast about Scottish of politics

One of the reasons I prefer writing over speaking in public is that my gob doesn’t have a backspace key. However, I am not known for my silence or unwillingness to express an opinion so when I was invited to take part in a new podcast about Scottish politics, I jumped at the chance.

On Thursday, just after the Scottish Budget was announced, I spent an enjoyable half an hour talking over the issues of the day with the hosts Andrew Jackson and David McColgan.

I don’t think I said anything too embarrassing but have a listen to try and …

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Report of Federal Policy Committee meeting – 13 December 2017

FPC met on Wednesday evening for its last meeting of the year. Taking place in the House of Commons, we were regularly interrupted by the results of votes on amendments to the Brexit bill – including the one the government lost!

Tuition fees

Vince Cable – who is chair of the FPC as well as party leader – pledged in his leadership election manifesto to look at party policy on the tuition fees system: ‘We need a solution that keeps the benefits of the current system – relating contributions to income and protecting university funding – but is fairer across the board, including for the 60 per cent who never go to university, many of whom pursue vocational options instead.’ As he reported to conference in September, he asked David Howarth (Liberal Democrat MP for Cambridge 2005–10) to consider options for reforming or replacing the current system and present them to FPC as a basis for consultation within the party.

David’s paper, which he outlined to FPC, sets out the benefits and drawbacks of five options. FPC members raised a series of fairly minor issues, but overall were happy with the paper. I won’t attempt to summarise it here, as the options deserve to be read in detail, and it’s not completely finalised yet. We will publish it as a consultation paper in late January or early February and hold a consultative session around it at the Southport conference, on the afternoon of Friday 9 March. Local and regional parties might like to consider organising discussions on the issue in the spring and summer. Based on the feedback we receive, FPC will aim to put a policy motion for debate to the autumn conference.

Education policy paper

Lucy Netsingha, chair of the Education policy working group, presented a near-final draft of the paper, following our discussion on its outline proposals at our previous meeting. FPC members raised a few new issues and resolved a number of others. We left the remaining major issue, on the future of the schools inspection regime and Ofsted, for discussion at our January meeting, when Layla Moran, the party’s education spokesperson, should be able to join us. The paper will then be published and submitted for debate at the spring conference in Southport.

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Rennie: Scottish Budget a “missed opportunity”

Today was an historic day. Twenty years and three months ago, the Scottish people voted to have a Scottish Parliament with tax raising powers.

In his annual Budget, Scottish Finance Minister Derek Mackay increased the basic rate of income tax to 21p for those earning above £24,000. He also decreased it to 19p for the lowest earners up to £13,850. He put up the higher rate to 41p and the top rate to 46p.

It’s all pretty modest and it represents the sort of moves we were calling for in the Scottish elections last year and since. We wanted to see the money brought in put into education to make what Willie Rennie calls a “transformative”investment.

So we’re not going to complain about the idea of tax rises in principle. However, Derek Mackay is getting a world of pain from the Tories because the SNP said in their manifesto that they wouldn’t raise the basic rate of income tax. They were pretty scathing about our plans during the campaign and there are a whole load of words they said that are coming back to haunt them now.

They could have saved themselves that grief by ceding the principle last year.

Anyway, that is their problem to deal with. The Budget is a pretty modest affair. It’s certainly not the sort of budget to deal with a struggling health service, unfit for purpose education system and a housing crisis that keeps getting worse.

Willie Rennie had this to say:

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Faith and Liberalism

Following on from previous discussion on this site around the interaction between faith and being a Liberal Democrat,  I thought I’d share my story and, hopefully, encourage others to do the same. I am writing in a personal capacity, but happen to be Vice-Chair of the Liberal Democrat Christian Forum.

I am only a Liberal Democrat because of my Christian faith.  I’d better unpack that.  My faith has been a journey, brought up in a protestant household, with my childhood and teenage years in the Assemblies of God, and then working as a musician

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A way forward for the English Party

Since late 2016, the English Party has been reviewing its structure and governance. This was initiated following the consultation conducted by the Federal Party following the 2015 General Election, which revealed some considerable criticism of the English Party for a lack of transparency and accountability.

The English Party established the English Review Group towards the end of 2016, with members drawn from each of the 11 English Regions. This is chaired by Sally Symington, who has not previously been a member of any of the English Party committees. She was recommended for her common-sense approach, her fresh eye, and her experience …

Also posted in Party policy and internal matters | Tagged , and | 9 Comments

Lib Dems GAIN another Council seat

Wednesday by-elections may be rare and weird but they are very welcome when they result in a Lib Dem GAIN.

Paul Follows took the Waverley, Surrey seat of Godalming Central an Ockford. We didn’t even stand a candidate there in 2015. We had a reasonable record there, pulling in 400-500 wards in previous years but this is a very good leap forward for us.

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Vince to argue for single market and customs union on visit to Ireland

Our Vince is off to Ireland tomorrow, where he’ll meet leading Irish politicians to discuss Brexit.
Vince will be discussing the implications of the end of the first phase of Brexit negotiations, set to be approved by EU leaders, which failed to find a long-term solution to the Irish border issue.

He said:

The Conservative government has so far botched Brexit, and amongst the people who stand to be most affected are those living on the island of Ireland.

Even after the ‘divorce settlement’ and the agreement to proceed with trade talks, it isstill unclear how a hard border will be averted.

Audiences in Britain, Northern Ireland and Ireland are being told different things. Many of the achievements of the Good Friday Agreement have been put at risk as a result.

The unnecessary decision by the Conservatives to leave the Single Market and Customs Union was not mandated by the EU referendum. It is a miscalculation that will harm commerce between our countries.

Those economic ties are much stronger than is generally realised, given the Republic is the fifth biggest customer for UK exports and we are the second biggest market for Irish exports. 6,000 vehicles cross the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland every day.

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