Opinion: The Scottish Liberal Democrats fight back

“It’s not the end, it’s not the beginning of the end but it might be the end of the beginning of the fightback” were the inspiring words tweeted by Paddy Ashdown on the day of the English council election results. The Liberal Democrats down south are moving out of the recovery period and moving into the fight back stage. The question however is how are the Liberal Democrats doing in Scotland?

The recent Leaderdale and Melrose by election, also on May 2nd, saw John Paton Day increase the vote by just over 9%. Following on from the success of Eastleigh, the signals that the Scottish party is ready to start its fightback are strong. Just as LY played a huge part in Eastleigh, LYS was a big part of the Leaderdale and Melrose campaign with many making the journey down or making calls from all across the country. An exceptional case was Euan Davidson, who travelled the 170 miles from Aberdeen to the Borders multiple times to help in the campaign. His, and many others’ hard work, was rewarded with an incredible increase in the vote. With hardworking members like Euan, the Scottish party is looking forward to a bright future.

However there is more good news in Scotland. It was announced recently that Aberdeenshire Councillor Fergus Hood defected from the SNP and came over to the Liberal Democrats. With the SNP being a dominating force in Scottish politics this is a major victory for the Scottish party. Councillor Hood stated that the Scottish Liberal Democrats had the right policies for Aberdeenshire and were delivering in administration on council. The defection of Councillor Hood is an indication that the policies and the message of the Liberal Democrats are right for the country and it shows that stressing the importance and value of localism against SNP centralisation is attracting new members.

The Scottish Party is facing something that the English party is not to the same extent, the impact of the Independence referendum. This is an important time in Scottish politics and no one can predict what effect the referendum will have on the political landscape when Scotland’s place in our United Kingdom is defended with a no vote. When the Independence referendum is done and won, the Scottish Liberal Democrats will stand at the other end with the home rule report in one hand presenting the people of Scotland with the option for Federalism, the best future for Scotland.

With Willie Rennie fighting Alex Salmond in the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish MPs in Westminster delivering policies such as the increase in the income tax threshold that are designed to create a stronger economy in a fairer society, the Scottish Liberal Democrats are fired up, inspired and ready to continue the fight back in Aberdeen Donside in a few weeks’ time.

* Daniel O'Malley is VIce President Communications of Liberal Youth Scotland and is studying Politics and International Relations at Aberdeen University

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  • Al McIntosh 30th May '13 - 5:49pm

    A YouGov poll at the end of last year gave a clue as to how fundamentally the party in Scotland needs to change to start any real fight back. It asked “Which one of the following people do you think would be best at standing up for Scotland’s interests?” The results were Alex Salmond 43%, Johann Lamont 6%, Ruth Davidson 5%, Willie Rennie 2%, None of these 24%, Don’t know 21%.

    There are 45% worth of none/don’t know up for grabs but Willie Rennie can only claim 2% (which is well below the party’s ususal poll rating of 5% and within margin of error of zero!) because he and too many of his party colleagues such as Michael Moore are seen as supporting Westminster/England’s interests in Scotland rather than standing up for Scotland’s interests. Conclusion – Willie Rennie has to go and be replaced by someone that is less tribal and capable of working with other parties in Scotland’s interests. A future coalition with the SNP is the party’s most credible route back to government after 2016 and Willie, who is otherwise a nice enough person, is simply not capable of delivering that.

    We also have to stop sending our best candidates to Westminster and only our reserve team candidates to Holyrood. It shows that we take Holyrood less seriously despite the fact that it has more impact on people’s everyday lives. Since, by implication it shows that we take Scottish people and their services less seriously, they can hardly be blamed if they take the party less seriously in return. A yes vote in 2014 will remove this problem because it will force the party to put its best candidates up for election to Holyrood.

    In the mean time, the party is irrelevant in much of central belt Scotland as evidenced by the fact that vast swathes of territory had no LD candidate in the 2012 local elections. There are no easy answers but glibly proclaiming a fight back to exist is no solution either. A full and comprehensive apology for causing tramageddon in our capital city, the biggest waste of public money and unnecessary disruption in living memory in local government, has to be a prerequisite for any chance of reclaiming credibility and any fight back in the central belt. On the other hand seeking to justify such things as cutting too hard and too fast, the bedroom tax and welfare changes that Scotland did not vote for and are being imposed by Westminster threaten to do yet further ongoing damage to the party’s standing in Scotland.

  • Euan Davidson 30th May '13 - 6:30pm

    Tell the people of leaderdale and Melrose, Campsie and Kirkintilloch or Rutherglen there’s know fightback every time we’ve dramatically increased our vote!!!

  • @Al McIntosh :

    “Willie, who is otherwise a nice enough person, is simply not capable of delivering that.”

    OMG! A Scottish Nick Clegg! 🙁

  • Daniel,

    “The Liberal Democrats down south are moving out of the recovery period and moving into the fight back stage.”

    Could you tell me what definitions you use for the term s ‘recovery period’ and’fight back’ as I am having difficulty in reconciling the terms with the facts?

  • @David Evans :”

    ” I am having difficulty in reconciling the terms with the facts?”

    UR Nick Clegg and I claim my UKP £5! ? 🙂

  • You people really are miturating in the wind.

  • I was going to comment and say that this seemed overly optimistic, but I have to respond first to some of Al’s points.

    Firstly, in terms of “standing up for Scotland’s interests”, in virtually every poll I can remember the SNP leader of the time usually came top, even when they only had 2 or 3 MPs. So Salmond’s position at the top is nothing new – what could be surprising is more the fact that he isn’t actually further ahead.

    I have to completely disagree with your point about 2016. If there’s a No vote in 2014, the SNP will be in such disarray that they simply won’t be capable of forming a government. If there’s a Yes vote, then by 2016 people will be asking what the point of the SNP actually is, since they’d have achieved their raison d’etre. So I really can’t see the SNP being in much of a position to dictate terms at that point.

    And as for your comments about Willie – frankly they’re just daft. If there’s anyone who can argue with the SNP and then work with them (or Labour, for that matter) after 2016 it’s him. He’s possibly the least tribal politician I’ve worked with!

    On the Central Belt point – that’s nothing new. We’ve never had as many council candidates as Labour, and it was only with the introduction of STV in 2007 that we were able to field one in every single seat. We’re not likely to win many seats there, so why waste the effort? Concentrating our resources where we held seats or councils was the most important thing – and as demonstrated in Kirkcaldy, where the work was put in by a dedicated team we held our seats (well done Callum!)

    Daniel, what you missed was the biggest problem for us which doesn’t exist to the same extent in England – the fact we’re now associated with the Tories. We’ve still not really come up with a way to differentiate ourselves from that, and I do think sometimes that the occasionally coordinated attacks on independence just make that worse (Willie’s questions on the Woolwich attack last week were most welcome.) We do need to be talking more about the alternatives – we need to be emphasising that we have our views, Labour have theirs and the Tories something different, all of which are valid but all of which are a debate for after the referendum.

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