Charles Kennedy MP writes…Our challenge for 2015 is to make positive case for UK political reform


As the BBC Radio Scotland self-promotional message has been reminding us at regular intervals throughout the holiday period 2014 certainly was “Scotland’s Year.” The best of times, the worst of times. From the sporting triumphs of the outstandingly successful Commonwealth Games and the hosting of the victorious Ryder Cup through to the referendum and ending on the tragedy of the Glasgow bin lorry crash we have never been out of the news.

The ever-perceptive journalist and commentator Iain MacWhirter (like myself, essentially, a federalist – unlike myself a Yes voter) reckons that the referendum represented the moment at which Scotland became “psychologically independent.” It is an interesting reflection and one which will be further tested as soon as May in the looming Westminster general election.

For myself I will be sticking to the approach which I have sought to argue and recommend over the past two years of non-stop campaigning: the issue is not one to run down, far less deride, those who support the nationalist cause of political independence. The real challenge is to set out the positive case for the ongoing reform and improvement of the United Kingdom – one which betters Scotland’s position AND leads to a more modern, accountable and responsive system of politics generally.

So I’m looking forward to the challenges of the next few months. As one who has always preferred old-style politics (not least the local village hall public meeting) and has been told for a long time that those days are over it is great to see community interest revived where discussion of all issues – from the most local to the international – are concerned. I have always tried to practice what I preach in this respect and so relish the forthcoming opportunity.

Meantime, back at Westminster, the residual but vital item of outstanding pre-election business is to agree the final Smith Commission package giving effect to the referendum “Vow” over further powers to the Scottish parliament. I have never shared to cynicism of some where this process is concerned; I believe these powers will be agreed by both Westminster and Holyrood – and will be enacted post May, whatever the outcome of the general election itself.

That is why it is going to be important to have people elected to that parliament with the experience and a proven track record of delivery. It will be up to voters locally to decide if they feel I and other Liberal Democrat MPs meet those tests. At the end of the day the key question has to be – can I trust this representative?

And, my goodness, from the perspective of the Highlands & Islands, we are going to need that influence as new powers are enacted. We have suffered under the present Holyrood government through ever-increasing centralisation of power at our expense. The list just keeps growing: police and emergency services, Highlands & Islands Enterprise, the Crofting Commission. We have to ensure that new powers to Edinburgh also involves more powers being coming North, powers such as control over the Crown Estate. That would be a real role I would wish to play in that next parliament.

Politics is a marathon, not a sprint. It requires staying power and commitment. I was hugely encouraged by the participation of young people and first time voters in the referendum campaign – I want them to become the political marathon runners of the future and between now and May will be making a particular effort to maintain their enthusiasm and engagement.

* Charles Kennedy is the Liberal Democrat candidate in Ross, Skye & Lochaber and was MP until dissolution of Parliament on 30 March 2015

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  • beermatreader 2nd Jan '15 - 9:23pm

    The UK needs you in Government, Charles. To bring a bit of sanity, with strength … and humour. And thanks for saving Scotland from itself.

  • Surprising that nobody has thus far commented on this.
    My eyes were drawn to this sentence —
    “….We have to ensure that new powers to Edinburgh also involves more powers being coming North, powers such as control over the Crown Estate.”

    I am not at all sure of the context that Charles Kennedy has placed this statement.. Is this a big issue in the North of Scotland?
    There may be more awareness in Scotland of the iniquities of the Crown Estate (like everything to do with the monarchy it is hidden behind a lot of nonsense, obfuscation and immunity from real accountability).
    If the Government in either London or Edinburgh was serious about eliminating The Deficit ( or even halving The Deficit) it would not be simply sitting on this enormous asset which amongst other things keeps the Mountbatten-Windsors in pocket money, helicopters and exotic foreign excursions.
    I would like to learn more. Is there Liberal Democrat policy in Scotland on tackling the age old problem of the Crown Estate?

  • John Tilley

    I’m a big Charles Kennedy fan, but any policy that appears to be an attack on the monarchy will lose the LibDems even more votes. You may not get it – I’m not sure I do – but the Royal Family are even more popular in Scotland than the rest of the UK. Even Alex Salmond, who attacked almost anything based in England, wan’t daft enough to do anything but praise the monarchy.

  • Malc
    I would welcome an attack on the monarchy but I do not think that is what Charles Kennedy is suggesting.
    It may of course be what some residents of the American Virgin Islands are suggesting following yesterday’s news of the state subsidised activities of the Grand Old Duke.

  • Jane Ann Liston 3rd Jan '15 - 12:35pm

    Well said, Charles.

    Malc, I’m not sure that most people would construe control of the Crown estates as an attack on the monarchy so, as one might say, dinna fash yersel.

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