Rennie calls on SNP to back Lib Dem efforts on Brexit deal referendum

The Scottish Government consults on all sorts of important things. At the moment, it’s consulting on expanding early learning and childcare in Scotland and on the best way to empower teachers. What could possibly be more important than that?

How predictable. I don’t expect the SNP to give up on their quest for independence, but do they really have to give it the top billing? The SNP take comfort from a poll which shows support for independence still pretty much where it was at the referendum – but ignore that more than 50% of those asked really don’t want to do it all over again.

In the aftermath of the EU Referendum, it seemed like Nicola Sturgeon was building a pretty big tent to try to find a way forward for Scotland. Sadly, though, it seems that the SNP are unable to find a road that doesn’t lead to independence whereas the Lib Dems are focused on keeping Scotland in the UK and the UK in the EU. If the SNP were to work with us, then we might well have the parliamentary numbers to ensure a key part of that – a referendum on the Brexit deal.

Willie Rennie called on them to do just that today:

With all the problems the SNP Government faces it stills finds the time to drone on about independence. This Bill breaks the promise that the last referendum would be once in a lifetime. It also shows that the SNP are only using the European Union as a device to advance their independence obsession.

If they were genuinely interested in the EU they would back the Lib Dems efforts for a Brexit Deal Referendum to keep the UK in the EU. The Liberal Democrats are the only party that is for Scotland in the UK and the UK in the EU.

Will the SNP agree to Willie’s call? Perhaps they are reluctant because they fear the precedent it would set. In the unlikely event of Scotland voting for independence, a referendum on the exit deal from the UK would be expected if one took place on Brexit. And, of course, if there was a  referendum on the Brexit deal and it ended up with the UK staying in the EU, their arguments for independence would be substantially diminished.

Governments have to govern for the whole country, not just narrow party interests. We’ve had enough of that from the Tories who put party before country all the time.  These two parties seem to be using the same playbook so much of the time. The Tories have built on what the SNP did during the independence referendum. Alex Salmond then portrayed anyone who disagreed with independence as being against Scotland. Now senior Tories vilify anyone who criticises their general disarray on Brexit.

The last thing Scotland needs is to have the SNP and Tories polarising the entire country. As Labour are pretty much finished, it’s down to the Liberal Democrats to lead the pro-EU, pro UK, progressive cause. There is nobody else who can do it. There is a big space in Scottish politics for us and we must do all we can to build support. The big test will come in May when every council seat in Scotland is up for election under STV. The Tories will be making a concerted effort to move forward, too. Recent council by-elections has seen their support growing, unlike in England where we are taking council seats off them all over the place. The Scottish Tories  are well-funded and they are going for it. The Scottish Liberal Democrats have to counter that Tory advance and take seats off the SNP. Campaigning has been underway for a while in our key areas. In four months, we will know how successful we have been.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Caron,
    To make it clear for starters, I have a lot of respect, indeed affection, for Willie who I regard as one of the nicest, most effective and decent politicians I have ever met over many years. He’s ‘one of the good guys’.

    I’m afraid though there’s a problem. That’s on the matter of consistency. I’m afraid it’s not consistent to demand a second referendum on Brexit (once in a lifetime ?) but at the same time to refuse one on independence for Scotland (once in a lifetime ?).

    My own view is that there won’t be an early referendum on independence until the Brexit issue is settled for better or worse. Then it may be open season if it’s a hard Brexit.

    I don’t deny any of the criticism frequently made about the SNP (not just the nationalism but the competence too), but the prospect of eternal Tory rule (red in tooth and claw) from London given the present state of the opposition at Westminster is daunting and depressing. To be fair to the SNP, their Westminster benches are doing a better job opposing the Tories than the Labour front bench.

    There are, I know for fact, many Scottish Lib Dems who would welcome an independent Scotland in Europe if that’s what it takes. To Irrevocably nail one’s colours to the mast to oppose that may not only be counter productive but wrong in the long run.

  • jedibeeftrix 4th Jan '17 - 4:19pm

    “If they were genuinely interested in the EU they would back the Lib Dems efforts for a Brexit Deal Referendum to keep the UK in the EU.”

    Did he mean to say Single Market rather than EU? Freudian slip…

  • “As Labour are pretty much finished, it’s down to the Liberal Democrats to lead the pro-EU, pro UK, progressive cause.”

    The most recent Scottish poll I can find (30th November) shows regional voting intentions as follows :-

    1. SNP – 39%
    2. Conservatives – 24%
    3. Labour – 14%
    4. Green – 11%
    5. Lib Dems – 6%

  • Lorenzo Cherin 4th Jan '17 - 8:36pm


    Is the situation the same with these two issues? You would be correct if thy were exactly or definitely so. I think to say we want a referendum on the deal of whatever brexit is delivered , is not a second referendum , it is a new one on something new.

    To have another one on Scottisn independence is more of the same . If the Scottish had voted to leave the uk, then for our party to ask for a new referendum on the settlement agreed , ie with monarchy or otherwise , keep the pound or otherwise , some joint decisions or otherwise , the people of Scotland could have a say on that , and maybe alter or reject that settlement.

    I have mulled it over and sympathise in fact with your view , and reached this view on it .

  • John Mitchell 5th Jan '17 - 8:09pm

    I agree with David Raw on the fundamental illogicality of such a position and facing on opposite directions on referendums.

    We’re giving the SNP and the Greens something to attack us with.

    As for David’s wider points, permanent SNP rule doesn’t sound very great either. I do not accept this notion which is largely perpetuated inside of the Westminster bubble that the SNP are doing a better job of holding the UK government to account. Seeing as the SNP are only interested in Scotland and thus one part of the UK, I fail to see how this could ever be the case. About the only thing I’ve seen from the SNP that has not been grandstanding or moaning before the recess at PMQ’s were the questions about Saudi Arabia and how British bombs are ending up in Yemen were people are being killed.

    As for ‘Labour are pretty much finished’, where does that put us? I think globalisation is is what is being seriously challenged. That works in a new left vs right framework’s favour and not in that of woolly centrism.

  • John Mitchell 5th Jan '17 - 8:15pm

    To clarify I do realise that the SNP do not currently have a majority at Holyrood but they’re exceptionally close and have allies in the Greens that can help them over the top. There has been some dissension as in the case of the draft budget but whether that will feature as much with other issues outside of the environment, economic development and taxation is up for debate.

  • @ John Mitchell. Thanks for your take on it, John. Post independence (if it ever happens) it’s not inevitable there will be permanent SNP rule. The whole system could go into the melting pot, though Conservatism will always I think be a minority sport in Scotland.

  • On the matter of consistency, Rennie was in the news again yesterday, accusing the SNP of putting the Scottish economy in peril by threatening the uncertainty of a second independence referendum. Presumably a second Brexit referendum would cause no such ill effects.

  • John Mitchell 8th Jan '17 - 9:53am

    @ David Raw

    “Conservatism will always I think be a minority sport in Scotland.”

    The issue the Conservatives are supposed to have had is the brand in Scotland which is why Murdo Fraser wanted a complete overhaul. It’s early days, but there may be signs of a Tory revival at least if Scotland’s politics is going to be defined as nationalism vs unionism which I really hope it is not. Anyway, while the nationalists may be now controlling former Labour heartlands such as Glasgow there is a swing away from the SNP towards the Tories in the North East especially and more rural constituencies.

    I do not think that Scotland is as left wing or left leaning as its reputation. The success of the SNP and New Labour before hand is predicated on appealing to the left, right and the centre. Admittedly, that’s not something the Conservatives can do but they can appeal to people who loathe the SNP and appear to be standing up to them as the Liberal Democrats are doing also. Labour cannot and is all over the place under its current leadership in Scotland.

  • Richard Underhill 12th May '17 - 1:11pm

    On 12/5/2017 on the Daily Politics the SNP Europe spokesman criticised the outgoing government for not granting EU citizens in the UK the immediate right to stay. They could have done this, but they did not. He said they should do so now. He should realise that parliament has been dissolved for a general election, so the current government is a caretaker government, not to do so is incompetent. The incoming government will be pressed to do so, but if the opinion polls are anywhere near accurate as to the current state of opinion, they will not.
    The Daily Politics also commented on the accuracy of opinion polls, showing David Dimbleby on election night stating that “the Conservatives will be the largest party”. This was based on exit polls taken on the day, but did not forecast that the Conservatives would have an overall majority in the Commons, which would have been newsworthy if that had been the outcome of the exit poll. I do not recall how the exit poll dealt with postal votes.

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