Interview: Willie Rennie – The Liberal Democrats are not easily led….

Willie Rennie in front of Forth Rail Bridge. Photo: G Littlejohn

This was the scene in the Fife coastal village of North Queensferry today where, in the shadow of the Forth Bridges, Willie Rennie talked to the media after being confirmed as the new leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats. He replaces Tavish Scott, who resigned 10 days ago in the wake of devastating Scottish Parliament election results and was the only candidate when nominations closed at noon today.

The venue was symbolic. Five years ago, on the day of the Dunfermline by-election, the Courier, the major regional newspaper, carried a photo of Willie, our soon to be victorious candidate and then leader Nicol Stephen taken at the top of the towers of the Rail Bridge. Today, 330 ft lower down, Willie’s feet were clearly on the ground. This is a man, however, who runs up hills for pleasure. He’s not one for the easy option and he was clearly eyeing the top of that tower with intent.

If I had to design a blueprint for the leader we need in Scotland at this time, it would look pretty much like Willie. When a likeable campaigner with boundless energy, whose fingerprints are all over the biggest Lib Dem gains in Scottish politics, free personal care and free university tuition, whose advice Nick Clegg respects, we’re going to welcome him with open arms.

I managed to grab 5 minutes with him for a quick Audioboo, which is also available here. I’d asked for questions from members via Facebook and Twitter and put a selected few to him. It was clear how full of admiration he is for the members who have gone through such a difficult election. He thinks that this is the low point and by working together and going back to first principles of community politics, we’ll regain the trust of the voters.

I asked him how he was going to ensure members had their say and that was when he said that Liberal Democrats aren’t so easily led – he sees his leadership as being more of a collective thing and he wants to hear ideas from members. That will be very welcome to those in the party who thought that the party at Holyrood had become too distant from the members.

Listen to find out more about his plans for his first 100 days and what he has to say about the Coalition and Nick Clegg. I’m having problems getting it to embed, but I’ll keep trying.


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This entry was posted in News, Op-eds and Scotland.


  • I do like Willie’s fetching new Forth Rail Bridge hat.

  • Andrew – its not actually the Forth rail bridge, its Willie Rennie’s Scottish themed Philip Treacy Royal Wedding fascinator.

  • Dinti Batstone 18th May '11 - 10:43am

    I got to know Willie a little in the run up to the 2009 Euro-election (for which he headed up the federal campaign). He’s a great guy – Westminster’s loss is Scotland’s gain!

  • Of course Willie isn’t emphasising the scale of the defeat in public – and he’s quite right. The late Conrad Russell had some good advice: “think big, especially if you’re not”. Willie has either taken that advice, or he instinctively believes the same – I’d guess the latter.

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