Danny Alexander writes… Direct community engagement on Scotland’s future

TGOC 2011: NW Highlands (gp027)When Russell Johnston, that stalwart of liberal democracy, first ran for parliament for Inverness in 1964 he made a point of holding public meetings across the constituency. And when I first met him, in the 1980s, he was still following that old tradition – small gatherings, inviting all-comers to engage in open debate, determined that he could persuade the communities he served so energetically to follow him on the best path for the Highlands.

Over the subsequent years, politics has perhaps lost a little of that traditional engagement. In the modern world where 24 hour news and 140 characters dominant the political landscape, is there still a place for the public meetings which drew not just the dedicated few but whole communities?

I believe there is.

The independence referendum is an issue that impacts on small communities and large cities, rural and urban, Scotland and, crucially, the other nations we share this island with.

The referendum is an issue that, despite having a political dimension, breaks down barriers and enthuses people who have no interest in the usual political cut and thrust.

It was fitting that the first of the public meetings I have organised in the Highlands took place in the same hall where I first met Russell Johnston, Invergarry Village Hall.

The meetings offer an opportunity direct community engagement. The answers are unvarnished and unrehearsed. They are not boiled down to a tweet or sound bite. And they are not filtered by editors of the evening news. Something I think Russell would have approved of.

The people I have met during a series of public meetings across the Highlands want information. They are thirsty for knowledge. They seek dialogue with not only elected politicians, but also business leaders and community activists.

With a little over 150 days to go until we vote on Scotland’s future, there could not be a more important time for people to get the answers they crave.

Of course, I offer one perspective in this debate. But the public meetings I have been holding, and will continue to hold until polling day in September, are open to anyone. While I believe passionately that Scotland’s place in the UK family of nations is best for the generations to follow, those who would just as passionately argue for Scotland to go it alone are welcome and encouraged to take part.

Not only is this a vital element of the direct community engagement that I want to promote, but it also offers an opportunity to counter the assertions that are made by those who push the damaging break up of the UK.

During meetings in Invergarry and Newtonmore I have put forward and will continue to put forward the strong case for Scotland’s place in the UK in the best interests of the Highlands.

And just like Russell Johnston, I’ll move from town to town, community to community until the campaign is won.

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6 Comments

  • After Nick Clegg he is quite possibly the most unpopular Lib Dem in the UK – if he is one of the leaders of the “NO” campaign god help us. I think I’ll nip in the bookies tomorrow – Salmon can’t lose. The only thing that would make it more certain would a televised debate between Salmon and Alexander!

  • Malcolm “After Nick Clegg he is quite possibly the most unpopular Lib Dem in the UK – if he is one of the leaders of the “NO” campaign god help us. I think I’ll nip in the bookies tomorrow – Salmon can’t lose. The only thing that would make it more certain would a televised debate between Salmon and Alexander!”

    Sadly I have to agree. The commentators on the Sunday Politics were openly laughing at Danny last weekend.

  • Chris Manners 15th Apr '14 - 9:59pm

    ” is there still a place for the public meetings which drew not just the dedicated few but whole communities?”

    Hope there is, but you’d be well advised to keep clear of them.

  • malc — “..After Nick Clegg he is quite possibly the most unpopular Lib Dem in the UK ..”

    To be fair, on the evidence of the last week in LDV the title of the second most unpopular Lib Dem in the UK must go to Jeremy Browne.

  • uglyfatbloke 16th Apr '14 - 11:31am

    Has Danny sorted out what he’s going to do for a job after next May?

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