Scottish Liberal Democrats gather together and start the climb

Scottish Lib Dem members' meetingLast Sunday well over a hundred Scottish Liberal Democrats gathered together in a very warm room in Edinburgh to mull over the election results. Two of our defeated MPs, Mike Moore and Alan Reid made speeches that both inspired and made us cross and sad that they are not part of the new Parliament.

In two and a half hours (the meeting had to be extended), over 40 members made some really interesting contributions on the constitution and the direction of the party.

It was a very positive event. Willie Rennie said at the start that we shouldn’t be mulling over old ground. We’d got some stuff wrong, we couldn’t change it now, and we need to concentrate on the action we can take to rebuild for the future.

The conversation was wide-ranging and covered everything from the constitution to policy to organisation. There are two contributions I want to share with you today.

The first is from Convener Craig Harrow, who got all poetic on us.

Seventy years ago the last Liberal in government said:

“It was to make Britain free that Liberals came into being. And freedom is what it lives for. And fights for still.
Liberals won for Britain the right to vote, and to vote in secret so as to be free from intimidation. Liberal gave us free education, national health and unemployment insurance, old age pensions and many  other great reforms that we take for granted.   We Liberals of today invite you to travel with us again on the highroad of freedom…”

That Liberal was Archie Sinclair – the last Liberal Secretary of State for Scotland before Danny Alexander took that role on in 2010.

That Liberal’s grandson reminded us on Friday morning that his grandfather was defeated in 1945.

And that Liberal, John Thurso, on Friday morning in Dingwall as we witnessed a near wipe out said:

“It would appear that the flame of liberal democracy is flickering, but it will not go out.

There will aways be room for liberalism in this country and I look forward to the day when it burns bright again.”

Being a Liberal is not an easy choice. You do not chose the path less travelled by to be popular, for electoral glory or high office.

Being a Liberal is both a curse and a blessing.

Today we gather to reaffirm to our cause.

We ask for a positive contribution.

I should like to pay tribute to all our candidates, agents and volunteers. It truly was as Charles Kennedy said the night of the long sgian dubs

And to our defeated MPs – Mike Crockart, Mike Moore, Alan Reid, Jo Swinson, Charles Kennedy, Bob Smith, Danny Alexander, John Thurso and  – who gave so much to their constituencies.

And to Christine Jardine and Tim Brett – who gave so much to their campaigns.

Many of you will know of my fondness for poetry

Maya Angelou wrote:

“You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,

You may trod me in the very dirt

But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

My friends – just like our very emblem the bird of liberty – we shall again rise.”

In Perth in 1978 Russell Johnston said:

“You can stand at the bottom of a mountain, look up and say: This is so high and precipitous, so rugged and intimidating that I can never dare to challenge it. Or you can begin to climb.

Today – we can begin to climb!”

The second will appear in a separate post later.

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

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  • Jane Ann Liston 16th May '15 - 2:36pm

    Well done and thank you, Caron. I’ve been eagerly waiting for a report of the meeting from members from our constituency who attended, but your article gives me a good introduction. I look forward to the next instalment.

  • Jonathan Waddell 16th May '15 - 4:12pm

    The bit that got me almost choking up was when Mike apologised for losing. I took great honour speaking shortly after him telling him he had nothing to apologise for, and the room responded with what seemed like a grateful applause.

    We owe so much to those MPs and our candidates. I’m glad it was shown on sunday, that through everything we were unhappy with and everything we want to achieve, we are an egalitarian party that has so much respect for one another.

  • Simon Horner 16th May '15 - 5:20pm

    Thanks for this report Caron. I went to the meeting in some trepidation half-expecting it to be small and gloomy. There were actually slightly more than 200 people there (I did a quick count while waiting for the meeting to start). I was particularly impressed by the ex-MPs who spoke with dignity and generosity of spirit when they must have been close to exhaustion. Willie Rennie set exactly the right tone, acknowledging the disaster but somehow managing, as he always does, to gee us up. Contributions from the membership were many and varied and everyone recognised the scale of the task in front of us. But there was no doubting the determination to keep the Liberal flame burning in Scotland. I left feeling a lot more optimistic than I could have imagined.

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