Rennie: Only a strong team of Lib Dems can champion our civil liberties

Speaking at the party’s North East Scotland Regional Conference this morning Willie Rennie told members that over the last five years it has been the Liberal Democrats that have been the powerful guarantor of civil liberties in the face of the illiberal SNP, and that will continue in the next Parliament.

This is the latest in a series of strong messages that Willie has been laying out in the last couple of weeks. The party has put a massive emphasis on civil liberties and education (what a surprise for a liberal party) in this Parliament and has an admirable record of persuading the SNP to change policy whether it’s on stop and search, armed police, nursery education or college places. So, Willie is saying we’ll actually use the tax powers the Parliament has to put a penny on income tax to pay for education and that we’ll continue to defend our freedoms. I also liked the quick summary of our values that he did the other day:

I want liberal-minded Yes voters to know they can vote for the Liberal Democrats because Scotland needs strong liberal voices in parliament to stand up for investment in opportunity through education and good health, to guarantee our civil liberties and to protect our environment. We need a strong outward-looking, internationalist, altruistic, tolerant, reformist, pro civil liberties, pro-Europe, pro-environment, pro-business party in Scotland. You don’t get that with anyone else and Yes voters as well as No voters should back us if they want that platform.

At the Conference, Willie said:

Too often we take our civil liberties for granted and under the SNP Government they have been slowly degraded. It has only been the effective campaigns run by the Liberal Democrats that has provided any form of opposition to their changes.

The Liberal Democrats led successful campaigns against industrial scale, unjustified stop and search and the routine arming of the police. We fought against the erosion of the scope of freedom of information powers. We forced a retreat on the abolition of corroboration. The SNP’s proposal to introduce an intrusive ID database has stalled following opposition from the Liberal Democrats. And just this week we won the case on the regulation of facial recognition technology.

The Liberal Democrats stood alone in opposition to the centralisation of Scotland’s police forces. It has led to the undermining of traditional Scottish policing, low morale amongst staff and officers and change being imposed on communities from police HQ in the central belt. And despite all the warnings about the chaos in control rooms, shockingly it took the tragic M9 crash before a proper investigation was launched.

The casual disregard of civil liberties by the illiberal SNP and the other parties shows the real value of strong liberal voices in the Scottish Parliament.

The threat to our civil liberties is real as when they are faced with any challenge the other party’s will instinctively opt to degrade them.

Only a strong team of Liberal Democrats in Holyrood can champion our civil liberties.

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

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