George Lyon: Our high hopes for the Scottish Parliament elections

George Lyon MEP is Chair of the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ Election Group. He was elected in 2009 and details of his campaigns on subjects such as fair deal for rural drivers,  disabilities, food labelling and can be found on his website www.georgelyon.org.uk. Here he writes about the Party’s prospects and priorities in next year’s election.

What a year it has been for Liberal Democrats.

This time last year, I don’t think anyone in their heart of hearts believed that Liberals would form part of the government for the first time since 1945.

But this time last year we did have the right arguments for the future direction of our country.

We argued that the old politics of red/blue, blue/red was damaging the fabric of the country and that it was time for something different, time to vote for change.

On May 6th, that is exactly what the country decided to do.

We have helped to usher in a new age where political parties of all colours work together in the best interests of our country.

The first test of this new age of politics will come at next year’s elections in the devolved nations.

Many have said to me that our coalition with the Conservatives in Westminster will have disastrous consequences for the Liberal Democrats at the Holyrood elections next year. But as Chair of the Scottish Election Committee, I have high hopes for our campaign.

Yes, people will write us off, but they have done so before. In the elections of 2003 and 2007, critics said we were finished as a political force but we went on to successfully increase our share of the vote.

In 2009, they said we would lose our European seat – but we won, and won well.

In 2010, we again confounded expectations, we stood our ground, we were once again the second biggest party in Scotland, and we left the SNP trailing in our wake in third place.

And I have no doubt we Liberal Democrats will confound the critics once again in 2011.

The SNP have a disastrous record to defend. Broken promise after broken promise -on teacher numbers, on class sizes, on local income tax, on jobs and the economy, even on their fabled referendum on independence – have ensured that Scotland has stood still over the last four years.

Labour may think they have the election in the bag but we will remind people on every leaflet and on every doorstep of the debt ridden legacy they have left behind.

Labour left us spending £150 billion more than we take in tax. The interest on this debt this year will be £44 billion. That is one and half times the entire Scottish budget.

Why would we let the people who maxed out the nation’s credit card have control of the Scottish purse strings?

As well as highlighting the inadequacies of other parties in the current political and financial climate we have a strong message to take to voters.

Our pre-manifesto has set out our stall: creating and protecting jobs, supporting innovative and locally controlled services and investing in education.

But what does this mean in practice? New policies, new ideas and a new direction.

– Creating regional development banks will get the money to local businesses that has been so lacking since we bailed out the big lenders.

– Ensuring any public sector salary that is higher than that of a Cabinet Secretary gets the approval of the Scottish Parliament so public money is not wasted on excessive salaries or bonuses.

– Despite tough economic times, we will promote our ‘pupil premium’ that ensures money gets to the pupils that need it the most so that we can begin to restore our dwindling reputation for excellence in education.

These ideas and many more will be put forwards by Tavish Scott, our strong leader, straight talking leader, who has a radical, liberal vision of a better Scotland.

They will be promoted across the country by our excellent candidates who will stand up for their local communities.

Liberal Democrats will continue to come up with the ideas that will drive Scotland forward because we are the only party with the energy to do so.

So over the next year, Liberal Democrats everywhere can meet the challenges we face head on, proud of what we believe in, proud of what we have already achieved, and confident we can win next year.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds and Scotland.
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3 Comments

  • The SNP have a disastrous record to defend. Broken promise after broken promise

    Not sure that is a good line to go on, George. Whatever else they did, they promised to scrap the graduate endowment and delivered.

    Where did the Lib-dem promises on higher education end up? Vince Cable telling the Scottish Parliament to introduce tution fees…

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