Opinion: Why do I still care?

It is difficult to stop caring coming, as I do, from generations of politically active Liberals and having taken up the baton myself back in 1983. In 1997, I was handed the reins of the Scottish Lib Dem website which meant I was in sole charge of the content and design of the site. I ran it until 2008 when I resigned in disgust at the changes, and censorship, mooted by a newly-formed website committee. Since then, I have allowed my membership to lapse but, until now, have always voted Lib Dem.

Being in a coalition took Westminster Lib Dems by surprise in 2010 but it need not have done. They have, of course, done wonders as a brake on Tory policies but they will never have any credit for what they have done. What is particularly frustrating for me is that I had pointed out how to advertise their role in a paper I circulated in January 2005 because, by that time, there had already been Lib Dem Government Ministers for five years.

How easy it would have been, back then, to have had permanent footers on every London press release pointing out that the person in charge, in Scotland, was a Lib Dem.  How easy it would have been to have our Education spokesperson MP stop waffling on about what he would do and start saying this is what our Minister is doing, in Scotland.  No-one else was going to do so, no Westminster Minister was ever going to admit to covering only part of the UK, the only people who could blow the Lib Dem trumpet were the Lib Dems themselves and they failed, miserably.

My paper was applauded by senior Lib Dems in the diaspora but was never taken up by any Lib Dem MP. So I retreated because I had suggested what they should do and it was up to them, not me, to do it. But I’ve lost count of the number of times, since 2010, that I have wished they had listened and learned.

Then came the referendum.  I started out as a “No” voter so didn’t take much notice but, as time went on and I turned to “Yes”, I then couldn’t help but notice.  The Lib Dems had made a stand instead of telling their supporters it was up to each individual to make their own decision.  Their discomfort was palpable as they squirmed in their new role in a Unionist alliance.  And the attitude of some of the leading figures towards those of us daring to vote “Yes” was disappointing although understandable because of the awkward position they were in.  We were told, and are still being told, that independence would be the end of the world and nobody could see that there would still be Scottish Lib Dems within Scotland (possibly even in government, eventually) post separation.  The whole business has left me feeling let down and somewhat lost.  So where do I go from here?

I made up my mind months ago to vote SNP in 2015 because that is what I believe is best for the UK in the context of a Westminster election now that the Lib Dems have lost so much support. There is no way the SNP can force independence from the green benches yet the hatred and irrational statements coming from all quarters is incredible. Cameron is stirring up English nationalism making the breakup of the UK all the more likely. Clegg is giving the voters the impression that he wants more of the same with his pal Dave, as is Alexander. Why on earth couldn’t the Lib Dem line be that they’ll wait for the electorate to decide? Why on earth are they being so disrespectful to SNP voters? Even UKIP voters deserve respect and their reasons analysed, don’t they?

All that I can hope for now is that the Lib Dems will stick by their principle of listening to the electorate and supporting the larger of the two groups, i.e. the pro versus the anti Tory vote. I see no sign of this happening, from what is being said, but I predict that any deviance from that line will be the final straw for those party members who are barely hanging on now.

As for 2016? I am reluctant to vote SNP then because I want them to have a large opposition as they sweep to another victory. But can the Lib Dems renew my faith in them by then? I am sad to say that I doubt it and even sadder to discover that I still do care.

* >Anne Cunningham, or Horner until her remarriage in 2014, was once an active member of the party running the Scottish Lib Dem website.

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  • As an Englishman looking in from the outside I thought our position was crazy. I was incredibly angry that the central party took a unilateral decision that the machinery would swing behind a NO vote. I was asked time and time again to go up to Scotland or make phonecalls for the No campaign, politely refusing until I told them I would I would only campaign for a Yes vote, they stopped asking then.

    We should have allowed dissent, there should have being a Lib Dem Yes group and a Lib Dem No group (as both Labour and the Tories had with the AV referendum). What we did was force people who were pro independence to be cast as against us and that was a strategic blunder that will cost a number of MPs their seats and it was so avoidable.

    From the outside the No campaign was dreadful, it was all about scaring the Scots and there was no attempt to emotionally appeal for the Union.

    Anyway Anne I would still urge you to vote Lib Dem while we may agree about Scottish independence the fact remains this is an election for a united parliament and will the SNP are an authoritarian bunch who have very little time for civil liberties, localism etc.

  • Anne

    A very thoughtful an thought provoking article. It’s pity that the LDs haven’t listened to you and others and I fear it is now too late especially that they have taken to branding a very centrist party and government “authoritarian” etc

  • How gladdening to see the comments from Anne and Rob, above.
    My postal vote has arrived and I very nearly decided to cross the LD box – and then we had the nonsense about no entering coalition blocs with the snp!

  • Great article, thank you. This sums up my own feelings very well. It’s good to see more women writing on here as well. The Lib Dems have great policies and more transparent costings so it really is heartbreaking to see how badly things have turned out with now no real chance of Lib Dems being able to enact their policies.

    Where will the next generation of progressive politicians come from?

  • I suspect that were I Scottish I might have had a similar journey. If it’s any comfort, Ann, there are many of us in the English party who bear similar frustration towards the London-centric leadership of the party – doubly ironic that our leader is theoretically a Yorkshire MP.

  • Anne Cunningham,
    thank you for providing your perspective. It reflects the views of many Liberal Democrat members and former members and supporters that I know personally in Scotland.

    It is sad that you have had to leave our party and will be voting for another party next week. I entirely understand why you have chosen that course of action.

    What a pity that those who seldom look beyond the Westminster Bubble have never understood.

  • What a lovely article Anne, I grew up when Labour was real Labour and LibDems were Liberals……those were the politicians in these days that made the parties of respect from the voters. Like Labour, LibDems have shown themselves to be petty and out of touch with the democratic right of a voter. Like you I was a No voter, I think seeing changes in Labour over the last 10/15 years and feeling like I was an outsider as a true grassroots socialist then to witness how venomous Labour were to the thought of Independence. I found it sad that Keir Hardie so wanted home rule for Scotland..so much so that it was put on the table every year till the 1940s when they threw it away. We should have known then the lack of respect Labour had for its founder, they proved it by grudgingly giving Scotland their devolved Parly……part of the dream of Keir Hardie. By the time Indy campaign was on the go, there was no feeling left of Scotland actually having a Scottish voice in Labour and I say that having met Miliband in 2010 as an activist and had been invited to listen to him at Kinglassie Miners Welfare Club. Listening to him I found him shallow, I didn’t feel he had any connect for Scotland and the way he spoke was from a script then as quick as you like he was off on his travels. His obsession with One Nation Labour unnerved me, he wanted to have one boss, one parly and one nation……as we all know, Scottish Parliament was never made permanent and what they gave us they could take away from us in some way. That was when I joined Labour for Indy and the abuse, like you mentioned how you were treated……..we in Labour for Indy had worse, the BetterTogether tried to paint us as fronts to SNP, they even doctored a photo to make it look like some SNP councillors were holding our banner. There were several photos and the councillors were holding it for the Labour for Indy whilst they unfurled the Yes banner for others to hold. Once the two banners were shown the councillors were in the background at what was an open Yes event. Anyways you will know what anyone in a unionist party wanting Indy were treated like lepers. I wanted a return of real grassroots Labour yet I was made feel I was fake, that I didn’t have any loyalty even though they’d received 40 years of it and I was more than certain many in Scottish Labour though No would have loved to have seen return of leftwing socialist Labour. By September 18th I was actually sickened to be even holding Labour for Indy banners because of our treatment and the fact I had much respect of SNP having watched them time and time again be sniffed around, Better Together desperately wanting to find dirt on them and they came up with nothing, even the 6 times they had Eck up in front of culture committee and cleared each time. That cemented it for me that SNP was a name in same way Labour/LibDem is but its the people who are in the party that makes the party…….that is why like you I am proud to be an SNP member.

  • Peter Chegwyn 26th Apr '15 - 10:11pm

    Like others I agree with many of Anne’s sentiments but I wonder how Lib. Dems. fighting to hold our 11 Scottish seats will feel about this article being published on LDV at this time as the SNP have seized upon it and are reproducing it on SNP blogs and Facebook pages covering Lib. Dem. constituencies.

  • Eddie Sammon 26th Apr '15 - 10:14pm

    It sounds like Clegg could do with making some noises supporting the prospect of a Labour-Lib Dem minority government. An official arrangement with the SNP would be a disaster for the party in England and Wales, so it really has to be off the table. We should still work with them though and listen to any good ideas they come up with.

    “Equidistance” needs to be broadly maintained at this moment in time. The number one priority has to be what is best for the party. I think Clegg understands this. He has said in the past that he doesn’t think his “whims” matter so much.

  • Matthew Hawley 27th Apr '15 - 9:14am

    “……there should have being a Lib Dem Yes group and a Lib Dem No group (as both Labour and the Tories had with the AV referendum)….”

    Should the “UK Liberal Democratic Party” have been advocating or, at least, condoning both the severance of a part of its electorate and also the end of the country (The UK) that they wanted to represent in government? – Perhaps clarity on policy planning relating to English Law making within the UK for the future would be more constructive?

  • Peter Chegwyn 27th Apr '15 - 9:38am

    Ha! Since my previous comment last night I’ve been ‘blocked by Blackford’ as I can no longer see the Facebook page for the international banker and financier Ian Blackford standing for the SNP against Charles Kennedy.

    What’s he afraid of? What has he got to hide?

    He’ll have to do better than that as I have more than one ID on Facebook and can still see everything he posts on Facebook and elsewhere.

  • Matthew – Should the “UK Liberal Democratic Party” have been advocating or, at least, condoning both the severance of a part of its electorate and also the end of the country (The UK)

    It”s not the end of the world Matthew! it’s a liberal principle to allow people to determine who governs them and from where. Its not particularly liberal to allow to then castigate them if they have a different answer to you.

  • Alex Monaghan 27th Apr '15 - 5:59pm

    I am delighted finally to see some open and honest opinions and discussion from Scottish Lib Dems. I have voted Lib Dem in the past but have never been a party member – until I joined the SNP in September, just after the Referendum.

    My reasons for joining the SNP were partly the positive, open, inclusive nature of the YES campaign, and partly the disgraceful treatment of Scots in general and the SNP in particular by the parties involved in Better Together.

    I hope this article is a sign that the Lib Dems at least are ready to move on from that sorry chapter of UK politics, and be a more positive force in future. I believe they will get credit for that, and that’s part of the reason why this article has been widely shared.

    As Nicola Sturgeon said, “we wo’;t leave anyone behind”!

  • Anne Cunningham 29th Apr '15 - 11:28am

    Thank you everyone for your supportive comments.

    My article has now been picked up and quoted under the following headlines by ‘The Courier’: “Former Fife Lib Dem spokeswoman defects to the SNP” on the front page and “North-east Fife activist quits party for the SNP” heading their article on page 15.

    I have complained and demanded a retraction because it is very clear from what I wrote, and from what they have quoted within their article, that I have done neither of those things.

    Personally, I am not at all alarmed that my concerns have been given further coverage. And I would like to praise LDV for allowing me to state a perfectly liberal and democratic opinion of the Lib Dems in this forum.

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