New Year messages from Welsh and Scottish Lib Dem leaders

From Kirsty Williams, Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats:

2010 has been a challenging year for many. There are some positive signs but the economic recovery will be slow and uncertain.

The Liberal Democrats made the right decision to be part of turning things around in government. Of course, in government, some decisions will be controversial, particularly in a time when there is not as much money as we would like. But having a stable majority government to steer us through difficult times is of vital importance.

Coalition government is a new experience for many in England. In Wales, as Scotland, it is something that we are used to and it is something that the public like more the more they see it in action.

The politics of compromise and consensus are not always easy. But Liberal Democrats can be proud of achievements from restoring the pensions links with earnings to cutting income tax for the lowest earners in society to stopping the costly renewal of Trident that both Labour and the Conservatives has wanted.

So 2010 has been a year of extraordinary change in British politics with the end result that every main party is now in Government. Labour and Plaid Cymru in Wales, and the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats in Westminster.

2011 is set to be an equally momentous year in Wales. Firstly, we will have the opportunity to vote in a referendum to ensure for the first time that laws that affect only Wales are made only in Wales. No one party owns devolution but I am proud that this referendum is being delivered by the Liberal Democrats as part of the coalition agreement. The Welsh Liberal Democrats are united in our enthusiasm to go out and campaign for a yes vote.

This and the referendum on changing our voting system are important parts of the UK coalition government’s commitment to changing the way we do politics. We’ll be campaigning for a Yes vote in the second referendum too to ensure that every MP has to achieve the votes of half his or her constituents to get elected.

Of course, the Welsh General Election will also take place in May. The Assembly elections will be a chance to review the record of the Welsh Government and ask why in areas like health, the economy and education, Wales is slipping further behind England. I will want the Welsh Liberal Democrats to campaign positively for the education and health service that Wales deserves and for the jobs and prosperity we so badly need.

It is a privilege to represent the people of Brecon and Radnorshire and to lead the Welsh Liberal Democrats. I hope to continue to fight for a better deal for all of Wales in Cardiff Bay.

For all of us, the coming year will bring both uncertainty and great opportunity. I am optimistic that a year from now, Wales will be looking forward to 2012 in good heart and in better shape. My very best wishes to everyone in Wales for a prosperous and successful 2011.

From Tavish Scott, Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats:

I want so much better for Scotland in 2011 than we’ve had. And I don’t just mean the weather. People want a Scottish Government where we take the right, long-term decisions for the country, not for any political party. Take decisions that can build a stronger, better and more prosperous Scotland. So I want the New Year to start the process of building a better future for our country: to protect and create new jobs, to give real control to local people over the public services they depend on and to restore Scotland’s reputation for excellence in education.

Scottish Liberal Democrats want to achieve more for our country. A Scotland that creates the most innovative and entrepreneurial economy in the world; where our children are among the best achieving in the world with kids from the most deprived backgrounds reaching double the current levels of attainment; and where we move towards a low-carbon, no-carbon country with Scotland being in the top 5 countries for energy efficiency.

Politicians can’t do this. People across Scotland can. People working in the private sector, voluntary bodies and communities of Scotland. Teachers in schools. Nurses in hospitals. Bus drivers getting us to work. It will be a Scotland where we co-operate, trust and respect each other’s contributions.

It will be a Scotland where hard work and innovation are rewarded, but one where Government will invest, educate and support to make sure it is fair.

That’s the Scotland I want to begin to build and 2011 is the year to begin.

You can read Nick Clegg’s New Year message here.

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12 Comments

  • When are LibDems going to stop deluding themselves that they have stopped the like -for-like renewal of Trident. All that has been achieved is the delay in announcement until the next Parliament – that makes no difference because of the long lead time of probably about 15-20 years – but meanwhile the planning and development work has been funded and is currently being carried out.

    I note that Tavish Scott doesn’t reveal what his party will campaign on in Scotland re tuition fees – the party policy perhaps?

    Also difficult for workers, especially in the public sector, to feel their contribution is being respected when they’ve been hit by a two year wage freeze or been paid-off.

    No wonder people don’t trust anything that politicians say when they hear the kind of guff that is being spouted here – new politics? Don’t make me laugh,

  • To Kirsty:
    >Firstly, we will have the opportunity to vote in a referendum to ensure for the first time that laws that affect only Wales are made only in Wales.

    Shame no one in Wales has the faintest idea yet what, in detail, they will be voting for or against.

    I’m not sure the average voter know enough about what the Assembly does now, even.

    >why in areas like health, the economy and education, Wales is slipping further behind England.

    But given that, the ‘no’ campaign and those who think the Assembly is a waste of money have a fair amount of ammunition, don’t you think?

    – To EcoJohn
    >When are LibDems going to stop deluding themselves that they have stopped the like -for-like renewal of Trident. All that has been achieved is the delay in announcement until the next Parliament

    Some people are just never satisfied 😉
    Labour as well as the Tories were pledged to renew it, so give us some credit. An all-Labour or all-Tory gvt would have approved renewal. And saying for sure now it won’t be renewed wouldn’t stop a future gvt reversing that decision.
    Delaying a decision, in practice, equals not renewing it, without causing a major split in the coalition. We get the result, without the rows.

  • On the subject of Trident, I notice that Tavish Scott did not mention it. It’s cancellation of course would no doubt impact on the local economy in Argyll and Bute, a Westminster Lib Dem constituency. In local politics the Lib Dems are in competition with the SNP and scrapping Trident tends not to be a vote winner round those parts.

    In polling the Lib Dems are less popular than the Tories in Scotland, a remarkable achievement given that the Tories are a non-presence for the most part. They will really have to campaign hard not to be wiped out. I suspect Tavish Scott’s rhetoric of government spending, in absolute contrast to the Coalition, is part of this. So will the Lib Dems be more Labour than Labour than Scotland? All things to all men? Will the electorate fall for it any more?

  • Has Kirsty Williams not read the latest opinion polls in Wales? Lib Dems down to 6% in constituency and 5% in regional? Probably to have only 2 seats. She is likely to lose her seat of Brecon and Radnorshire as well, to the Conservatives!

  • Poppie's mum 2nd Jan '11 - 3:03pm

    I feel sorry for Kirsty Williams as I have a lot of time for her, and would have voted Lib Dem before Clegg and his pals took us into the nightmare we are facing.

    Latest polls show the Lib Dems likely to lose 2 of 4 Assembly seats in May and Labour likely to gain an overall majority by winning 30 seats.
    Great news, although a shame that Plaid, despite gaining in the polls may lose their coalition partner role.

    I will be one of those voting Labour or Plaid as the Lib Dems are no longer a viable party for anyone interested in real social justice.

    Clegg will be trying to gain some popularity by ‘winning’ his corner on Control Orders.

    But in most of the UK, and particularly Wales, people will be putting the jobs and liveliehoods of the millions dependent on Housing Benefit, public sector jobs etc. before the ‘freedom’ of nine suspected terrorists to re-gain access to mobile phone use and the internet

  • @g

    You have to remember that the SNP has a clear Manifesto commitment to scrap Trident and I don’t believe they can or will renege on that. Btw I am not an SNP supporter but a LP member and Unionist and not a Nationalist.

    I am not so sure that things are clear-cut yet about the LibDem vote in May in Scotland mainly because we have so far escaped the initial tuition fee Tory Government attack on that front. Things are also complicated by the Labour LibDem coalition in Scotland which was generally seen to be successful in the public eye. But there’s a limit to how far the Scottish Liberals can distance themselves from the LibDems south of the border.

    Although surprises keep getting thrown up like Danny Alexander campaigning to stop Scotland’s forests being privatised and yet apparently supporting the same measure for English forests.

    Obviously the SNP and Labour will do their best to drag tuition fees into things and there are plenty of LibDem MPs that mud can be slung at – the media in Scotland also often takes an ‘independent’ line and no matter what the national media is doing I would expect Scottish journos to get stuck right into the LibDems ribs on tuition and the more informed voter fully realises that Scotland is fighting a rearguard action against increased tuition fees which may fail because of hardening economic factors.

    But perhaps the biggest Albatross that will be hung round the LibDem necks will be the way that the Scottish Government elections have been treated like parish council elections – that I think could become the fault line in the campaign which destroys all but the core LibDem support. Strangely, the Tories won’t suffer as much on this issue but they will be barbecued as the cuts start to bite and people are thrown on the scrapheap.

    But their voters have no one else to vote for in Scotland so they may decide to stay at home and to be fair, no one will actually miss them. However, another very interesting thing will be to see what LibDem activists do in Scotland if they haven’t deserted their party by then. Will they too sit at home to teach Mr Clegg a lesson?

    To be honest I never ever thought that coalition politics could be so interesting.

  • @Poppie’s mum

    To be honest I find it hard to see that Clegg can actually achieve anything more than a rebranding and repackaging on control orders overlaid by his trademark somke and mirrors. I genuinely believe he wants to do something but he has learned the realisties of government.

    Both he and May will have been whispered to by the secret services and given the hard facts as to what will happen to their political careers should anyone who should have been held actually go on to commit an atrocity and slaughter a few hundred or thousand UK citizens.

    I think May will go for the civil liberties of the majority and Clegg will be caught in the headlights of indecision – there will be some scraps thrown to him by Cameron that he can wave a la Munich at his support to claim yet another Manifesto commitment achieved but the reality will be the principle will remain unchanged – I have still to read the ST on this as the devil will be in the detail and the words used and I think this will be an issue that creates merry hell on Tory benches – front, centre and back.

    Wish I knew more about Saddleworth to figure whether this will have an effect there.

  • I think the lib dems will lose about 5 MSPs and end up with 11 in Scotland.

    ‘Obviously the SNP and Labour will do their best to drag tuition fees into things and there are plenty of LibDem MPs that mud can be slung at – the media in Scotland also often takes an ‘independent’ line and no matter what the national media is doing I would expect Scottish journos to get stuck right into the LibDems ribs on tuition and the more informed voter fully realises that Scotland is fighting a rearguard action against increased tuition fees which may fail because of hardening economic factors.’

    Tuition fees may not be not so much of an issue because I can see a more moderate graduate contribution than England coming in in Scotland anyway, if tjere is a deal between the lib dems and labour.

  • @A Brown

    I don’t rule out a possible LibLab coalition at Holyrood but I find it difficult to see how Alexander and Clegg could sit easily with a No tuition fee policy in Scotland and that is what the LP there will campaign on – they have no alternative even if they wanted one because that is the SNP position.

    It is another PR disaster waiting to happen for the LibDems and Middle England parents, quite rightly, will be climbing the walls if LibDems support no tuition fees in Scotland while English middle class parents are hammered into the ground financially to send their kids to a good uni.

    What is Alexander and other tuition fee increasers and abstainers going to say when questioned on the campaign trail about their position on tuition fees in Scotland. They just can’t win and you know what? I don’t have an ounce of sympathy 🙂

    As my granny used to say – tell the truth and shame the devil.

  • @EcoJon & A Brown

    I wouldn’t be surprised if tuition fees were introduced in some form for scottish students. Scottish universities have seen an unexpected decline in funding, more than they budgeted for (and more than it seems they were initially told), thanks to the coalition. To avoid too large a decline in quality, and such a decline is inevitable for many courses, revenue will have to come from somewhere.

    A rash prediction, none of the major parties will campaign on opposition to tuition fees in Scotland…

  • @g

    I see your prediction but the SNP will oppose tuition fees in the May election. There is only one other major party and that’s Labour and they will do the same.

    The minority Tory and LibDems are the ones who have a problem in May and that really will be an interesting one to watch.

    I realise that the tuition fee position cannot be held for ever unless future Scottish Governments make balancing cuts elsewhere. But that will be in future years not this year.

  • Oh I have been meaning to say that the festive message from Kirsty Williams, Welsh LibDem leader is a masterpiece in how out of touch a politician can be.

    The message ends with: ‘My very best wishes to everyone in Wales for a prosperous and successful 2011’.

    Obviously the LibDems have some kind of different economic plan for Wales that they have yet to announce.

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