Scottish Liberal Democrats announce their list selections – and for the second time in a row manage to put one of their best MSPs in a more challenging position

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have been holding their regional list selections for 2016 Scottish Parliament elections and yesterday announced the top 3 in each region* .

Willie Rennie said on the team announced:

We are first off the mark with our candidate selection and this is a clear statement of intent. We have a team of passionate, dedicated campaigners who are up for the fight and will be working hard for their regions every day between now and the next Holyrood elections.

Our list candidates offer a mix of youth and experience that gives people right across Scotland the opportunity to elect a strong liberal voice to represent them at Holyrood. The new Home Rule powers Liberal Democrats are helping deliver for the Scottish Parliament mean it is more important than ever that we have a team of MSPs who will always stand up for their local area.

With the SNP taking their eye off the ball with the referendum it was Liberal Democrats challenging Scottish Government ministers over the pressure facing our NHS. We led opposition to damaging college cuts and helped families by expanding free childcare.

The top 3 in each region are as follows:


1 Robert Brown

2 Isabel Nelson

3 Ewan Hoyle

Highlands & Islands

1 Jamie Stone

2 Kate Stephen

3 Carolyn Caddick


1. Alex Cole-Hamilton

2. Hannah Betsworth

3. Jacquie Bell

Mid Scotland & Fife

1 Willie Rennie

2 Peter Barrett

3 Jane Ann Liston

 North East Scotland

1 Mike Rumbles

2 Alison McInnes

3 Sheila Thomson

South of Scotland

1 Jim Hume

2 Kristian Chapman

3 Ettie Spencer

West of Scotland

1 Katy Gordon

2 Ashay Ghai

3 Aileen Morton

Two particular results are worthy of comment. I’ve been calling Jim Hume Jim Jong-Un all week after he secured more than 90% of the vote amongst south of Scotland members. He’s a great guy and works really hard in the region and he really deserves it.

However, I am not so chuffed with the North East result where our only female MSP, who is every bit as good as Jim, lost out.

You can just imagine what Lady Bracknell would say.  Four years ago, when we selected the regional lists for the 2011 Scottish Parliament selections, one of our most successful MSPs, Justice Spokesperson Robert Brown, was beaten to top spot on the Glasgow list. He never had a realistic chance of making it back into the Parliament, especially given that we were in Coalition at Westminster.

You’d think we’d learn. Sadly, members in North East Scotland have decided that Alison McInnes should have just second place on the list despite her being one of the best MSPs not just in our small band of Liberal Democrats, but in the entire Parliament. I’ve heard her praised by parliamentarians on all sides for the work she’s done on Justice. She spoke out against indiscriminate armed policing,  unregulated stop and search and the appalling neglect of women prisoners in the Scottish Justice system as well as pointing out the many problems which have arisen from the centralisation of Scotland’s police.

The outlook for Alison is much better than it was for Robert. With the right amount of targeted effort, we could get two MSPs in the North East and we have to make sure that happens.

However, it is surely careless to have, in successive elections, put two of our best in this position. I have to wonder what on earth the members in the North East were thinking.

Changes  to the selection process will have to be considered. There’s a fast-track re-selection process for constituency MSPs but not so for those on the list. When you are part of a group of just five, to keep the flag flying on the national stage is pretty all-consuming. Alison was the only MSP to face a strong local challenge with someone who was there on the ground while she was away in Edinburgh for most of the week.  Serious questions will also need to be asked as to the timing of the selections, which started within days of the referendum when we were all still exhausted.

*The Central Scotland list will be announced later the month.

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

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Just to clarify, there is no fast track reselection process for constituency MSPs. They have the right to be included in the short list but there’s no automatic yes/no ballot like for MPs.

  • Martin Land 6th Dec '14 - 5:23pm

    Seems to me that the members in North East Scotland have voted for whom they wished to, potentially, represent them. The sort of sheer petulant arrogance of stating that ‘you haven’t voted for the candidate “we” wanted so we are going to rig the election in future’ probably goes a long way towards explaining why the party’s membership is so low.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 6th Dec '14 - 6:20pm

    Martin, I seriously question the attitudes of our members when they don’t support an MSP who has delivered and has received accolades on the national stage as well as supported campaigning and efforts in the region. I think that often the perception of what a parliamentarian should be like that many of our members have involves the being male. That’s why the culture of the party needs to be changed.

  • I agree with Martin Land. I’ve no local angle -and commiserate Alison McInnes – but it’s not on to criticise members and call for changes in the way the ballot process is run because you don’t like the result. democracy is beautifully messy.

  • You’re either going to let the members choose who gets what position on the regional lists in their region or you’re not. Sounds like you advocate not letting the members make that choice because you might not like their choices? Fair enough if that is the case, but I don’t think that is very liberal or democratic. I also don’t understand why anyone would want to be a member of a party with a democratic structure designed to give them very little say over who gets what position on a regional list.

    Why is it difficult to accept that the members might prefer Mike to Alison, are perfectly entitled to do so, and that there is nothing wrong with then doing so. Is that really so difficult a position to take?

  • Jim was up against a recent Liberal Youth Scotland President who on a quick google comes up as a Member of the Youth Parliament for Aberdeen. Alison was up against a former MSP from part of that same region. You really can’t compare the two as similar contests.

    And all MSPs (and MPs) should have to face proper reselection contests.

    Though to support your point, at least 10 out of 21 of the top 3 candidates are women (or at least I’m guessing so from names which aren’t always clear). But only one of the top places. Though I’m tempted to say that with only 2 list MSPs this would have been the ideal opportunity to zip the list places a la the Euros in 1999 as there would be less in the way of vested interests (something that should be looked at again for the 2019 Euros)

  • Another thought – who ran the better campaign? I can think of one selection where a male candidate beat a woman candidate in a selection and the woman afterwards complained bitterly about sexism in selection contests (in a local party which had picked the woman candidate every time one was on the selection ballot since 2005). Actually it was down to the fact that she ran a dreadful (non-existent) campaign.

  • stuart moran 6th Dec '14 - 9:06pm

    Just read somewhere that Salmond is standing in Gordon, can’t see the successor to Malcolm Bruce holding on there if it proves to be the case

  • David Faggiani 6th Dec '14 - 10:01pm

    Why such a rush? For May 2016? It seems a bit premature to me…

  • Phil Rimmer 7th Dec '14 - 12:19pm

    Democracy may indeed be messy but, sadly our party continues to have a poor track record on both public school vs. state educated and men vs. women candidates. To me, from outside of Scotland, 6 out of 7 regions declared topping their list with a man looks sexist.

  • Simon McGrath 7th Dec '14 - 12:25pm

    Is the info about how many people voted in each selection (and how they voted) available ?

  • Just wanted to provide factual answers and/or some thoughts on some of the questions asked;

    David – there was a fairly spirited discussion about when was best to run these selections. Last time, we went through this process after the 2010 General Election, which gave selected list candidates about 10 months to campaign before the 2011 Holyrood elections. There was a general feeling that time was too short and that we needed to try and learn from this. That is why the decision was taken to run them this year so selected candidates could get going now and so we could avoid any ‘pause’ after the GE. Now people may think the timing was wrong but there was a genuine attempt to learn the lessons from last time.

    Phil – I’m not happy that only one of our lists have a female in the first place position. I also personally feel terrible for Alison who I hold in the highest possible regard and consider to be, quite simply, a superstar. However, let’s not lose sight of the fact that the majority of candidates in our top three positions are female (which is more than last time) and that in five of the six regions which did select a man number 1, that person was a very well known current or former MSP.

    Simon – the full STV stages for all the list places are not published.

  • Good question from Simon McGrath. I hope he gets a proper answer here in LDV that we can all discuss.

  • Kevin Lang
    You answered the wrong question.
    ” Simon – the full STV stages for all the list places are not published.”
    The question asked was —
    Simon McGrath 7th Dec ’14 – 12:25pm
    Is the info about how many people voted in each selection (and how they voted) available ?

    So how many people voted in each selection?

  • Phil Rimmer 7th Dec '14 - 2:01pm

    I take you point Kevin but, let’s be perfectly honest, based on past results and in the current climate (and I see little hope of much improvement before 2016), first place is the only place that matters. Presenting the electorate with a majority women who haven’t a snow balls chance in hell of being elected is the worst sort of gesture politics.

    Please don’t misunderstand me, as from you comments I do not include you in this, but I sometimes wonder if the members of our party even realise that we have a problem and if it’s leadership (in the broadest sense), after years of talking and tinkering, realise that they have done almost nothing to improve the situation.

  • Simon McGrath 7th Dec '14 - 4:50pm

    @kevin ” the full STV stages for all the list places are not published.”
    Can you tell us the numbers voting then please ?

  • Simon McGrath
    Still no answer to your perfectly reasonable question!

    We could speculate and come to a reasonable conclusion as follows —
    If we assume that the turnout of members voting was the same as the turnout for the party president a couple of weeks ago ie around 40% and that the membership of the Liberal Democrats in Scotland is around 4000, then around 1600 members voted.
    If the membership is equally spread across all seven regions then slightly more than 200 members voted in each region.

    I would welcome any thoughts on these assumptions and the maths.

    Of course if membership is concentrated in those regions where we have MPs (a very real possibility) that might suggest that in some regions the numbers voting might have been considerably less than 200.

    I guess this might explain the reason for a lack of transparency.

    If for example fewer than say 100 members chose the party’s candidates for a region it might give an impression of the party’s strength that would be unhelpful in terms of electoral credibility.

  • Jane Ann Liston 8th Dec '14 - 11:36pm

    I think the figure for Mid Scotland & Fife was a bit more than that.

  • John Barrett 11th Dec '14 - 9:13am

    The scale of the challenge we face next May is reflected in the number of members and activists we have – compared to the SNP. From the above discussion we can see a reasonable assumption of how many members bothered to vote for a candidate in most of the Scottish regions. I was reliably informed this week that the SNP membership in one Edinburgh Council ward has now reached 400.

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