Rennie: Scottish Liberal Democrats are listening

It’s 4 years since Willie Rennie became Scottish Liberal Democrat leader this week. He was elected in the wake of a crushing electoral defeat and he celebrates this anniversary in the wake of another one. That is despite him regularly being credited with landing some real blows on the SNP administration at Holyrood with not even 5% of MSPs. Let’s just look at some of the accolades he and his small team have received.

Within weeks of him becoming leader the journalists were full of praise:

A doughty campaigner, with an unpatronising down-to-earth style, Mr Rennie may grow into an impressive leader, building a level of credibility… The Herald

Amid what was… a general air of gloom, there was one bright spark.  This was the performance of Willie Rennie, the new leader of the much depleted Liberal Democrats, whose brief sojourn in the Commons seems to have at least taught him how to frame decent questions, on this occasion about Mr MacAskill’s outrageous behaviour.”  Alan Cochrane, Daily Telegraph (not a known fan of the Liberal Democrats, to put it mildly)

“The former Scottish Lib Dem chief executive has made a decent start and showed he wasn’t afraid to throw a punch”  Andrew Whitaker, Scotsman

The Herald comes out in hives if anyone says anything nice about the Liberal Democrats, but Ian MacWhirter recognised our value earlier in the year when Willie tackled the SNP on their plans for a massive ID database:

Officialdom’s demand for information and control of our lives is insatiable. Only the LibDems seem to understand this, which is why they have scored a major victory for parliamentary scrutiny. They are absolutely right to hold the Scottish Government to account and demand that this should be a matter for primary legislation after a national debate on the implications for personal liberty. All power to Willie Rennie…

I wouldn’t be doing my job properly, though, if I didn’t balance it up with this amusing story from the General Election campaign. A warning to all to be careful what technology tells the world:

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie has been left red-faced after a satellite tracking system appeared to show him driving at more than 80mph – on his way home from a pro-cycling event.

The politician led the Fife feeder ride to Pedal on Parliament on Saturday and used a tracking application called Strava to log his route and time.

But back to today, Willie has asked the party to set up its biggest and most democratic listening exercise, with a policy roadshow being launched this summer.

His plans to make sure the party engages in a conversation with Scottish people include:

  • Launch a policy roadshow for new and current activists over the summer months, taking in Fife, Aberdeen and the Borders amongst other places.
  • Utilise Facebook and Twitter to gauge opinion on 21st century liberal values.
  • Engage more supporters using the party’s campaigning software to build up an extensive volunteer base for 2016.
  • Set up specific engagement workshops for young activists to bring fresh and ambitious ideas forward for the 2016 Scottish Parliament manifesto.

He said:

At the General Election we lost some of our great liberal giants. As leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats I want to make sure we learn the lessons and heed the results.

We will listen to the views of the people of Scotland. I hope that many more people will join our party and embrace the opportunity to build our modern, liberal vision for Scotland.

Scotland needs liberal values. Opportunity for all, to ensure everyone has the chance they deserve to get on in life and achieve their potential.

Our campaign for 2016 has already begun.

I want to ensure that we come to that election with a modern, ambitious vision of liberal values for Scotland.

We will listen to the people of Scotland, to the people on the doorsteps and to the increasing numbers of people backing our party.

As the Tory government continues with its illiberal plans to curb our civil liberties and tack the UK further to the right, the role of the Liberal Democrats is more important than ever.

And in Scotland, the SNP has taken its eye off the ball on day to day public services. Their disregard for the voice of local communities and for liberal values continues to create divisions.

All of this has created an even bigger space for Liberal Democrats to fill in the debate on what kind of country we want to be.

Over the summer, we will undertake our biggest and most democratic listening exercise. Our policy roadshow will ensure that we hear the voices of the diverse communities across Scotland.

For the new, young activists who have joined in their droves since polling day, I want to engage their fresh and ambitious ideas for our country’s future.

We will listen to the people of Scotland, and we will demonstrate why Scotland needs strong liberal voices now more than ever.

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This entry was posted in News.


  • Which, if any, constituency seats have we selected in?

  • With the current national increase in membership in the UK moving towards 14,000, Scotland must be playing a large part in the fight back. With 2000-3000 new members, including its young activists, there is a good base to extend the fight back across all regions of Scotland. We all back Willie Rennie in fusing new and continuing members into an inspirational fighting force and look forward to hearing more of their progress on facebook. Best wishes to everyone.

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