Tag Archives: Scotland

Why I will vote No in a referendum

Back in 2013, I wrote an article for the Scotsman newspaper outlining what issues were important to me in deciding what way to vote in the then upcoming Independence referendum.

In the end I decided to vote Yes, as at that time I believed the risks involved were worth taking. Nearly ten years on, the circumstances are now quite different and if, as proposed yesterday by Nicola Sturgeon, there is another referendum next year, I would now vote No.

It is very unlikely that the Supreme Court will confirm legality on the new proposals, as it is clear to even the SNP, that without the consent of Westminster the Scottish Parliament will not be able to hold a lawful referendum and as the SNP have already declared that they will then make the next Westminster election a single issue campaign on independence, there is time to consider what is the best way forward. We have seen before how splitting the vote on any single issue can let a party with a minority of the votes win first past the post elections on that issue.

Firstly, we need to understand why the SNP will never give up on their demands for a referendum on independence. It is similar to Liberals wanting a fair voting system and losing a referendum on it. A fair electoral system is at the heart of our beliefs, and regardless of how little support other parties, or the public give electoral reform, we will never give up our call for a system where those elected fairly represent the way people have voted. The SNP have a similar core belief, but they depend on the lack of a fair electoral system to deliver it for them.

There will also be support from those who oppose independence, for a referendum, as the best way to give the public their say and to deal with the question which has dominated Scottish politics for many years. It is a debate that will not go away by refusing to have it.

Since 2014 much has changed, not least the fact of Brexit.

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Don’t pause, support the games industry

Scotland, the country that gave the world the Grand Theft Auto series and Minecraft on console. We have 147 game development companies, with over 2000 people employed in the industry. There’s no doubt, over the past few years the gaming industry has grown exponentially. Recent industry-led reports have even shown that Scotland is growing faster than the rest of the UK.

As a Games Designer and having worked in the industry the past few years, I’m worried about what the future may hold for our games. The video games industry in Scotland and the United Kingdom face massive funding shortages since leaving the European Union. A shortfall that is yet to be adequately addressed.

In May, the European Games Developer Federation (EGDF) announced record-breaking levels of funding support from Creative Europe, a scheme that the United Kingdom is no longer a part of thanks to the calamity that has been Brexit. This announcement also detailed plans for the MediaInvest fund, a scheme that will provide vital support to new startup companies in the industry – a possible vital lifeline in helping these new companies to survive.

Whilst it’s welcome news from a Scottish perspective that Kate Forbes, Finance & Economy Cabinet Secretary, will invest £45m into 300 “high-quality” tech startups, there’s no clarity on how and if this will even reach the aspiring video games industry. The plan also mentions establishment of 5 ‘scaler hubs’ to support this scheme and improve access to “ensure new and existing tech innovators have access to high quality commercial education”. Being a ‘tech’ company could mean a great many things. So what funding support is there to plug the massive hole of possibilities left by Britain leaving the EU? There is the much smaller UK Games Fund, which allows grants of up to £25,000 per company (barely enough to cover the yearly salary of one full-time employee). In the last round of funding, 21 companies were given funding by this grant – only 3 were from Scotland.

£25,000 a year in a possible grant. Enough for one full-time employee. How will that sustain a new startup? Games can take years to make from the initial concept.

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Moray Deserves Better – Douglas Ross Should Resign

The people of Moray deserve better from our elected Member of Parliament. Douglas Ross should resign now as an MP. Let someone do the job who actually wants to make a positive difference in the lives of those who live and work in Moray.

Our MP has not only backed down on calling for a Prime Minister that has committed a criminal offence to resign, but he has also got a track record for missing key votes that would benefit his Moray constituents due to his commitments as MSP and as a Scottish party leader.

Only last week, our MP was absent for a vote for an emergency VAT tax cut from 20% to 17.5% that would have saved Moray residents an average of £600 per household. This at a time where there is a cost-of-living crisis in our country.

The Scottish Conservatives have already proven to be led by someone with the backbone of a jellyfish. Our former Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie called Douglas Ross out for his lack of backbone after he withdrew his letter of no confidence in the party-animal Prime Minister.

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Scotland’s results – a story of Lib Dem GAINS

There has been very encouraging news from Scotland today. If you had told us at the start of the campaign that we would gain TWENTY seats, we would accused you of being wildly optimistic.

So far we are up 6 seats in Edinburgh, doubling the size of our group.

Sanne Djikstra-Downie wins in Forth ward in Edinburgh:

Longstanding councillor Dobbie Aldridge is joined by Ed Thornley in Drum Brae/Gyle.

It was pretty audacious to put up 3 candidates in a 4 member ward, even if in 2017 Kevin Lang won with the highest ever vote of any councillor in Scotland. But it paid off and Kevin and his sister Louise Young are now joined by Lewis Younie who takes a seat from the Tories.

And we get two in the three member ward of Corstorphine/Murrayfield  with two new councillors, Al Beal and Euan Davidson.

Wins for Jack Caldwell in Leith Walk and Pauline Flannery in Southside/Newington complete our sextet of gains.

In Dunfermline, Aude Boubaker-Calder regained the Dunfermline Central and Crossford ward. She had come so close in a by-election in 2019, losing out by a handful of votes. Her husband James regained his Dunfermline South seat and they both topped the poll.

Elsewhere in Fife, we gained councillors in both St Andrews and the Howe of Fife. Al Clark and Gaz Holt join Jane Ann Liston and Donald Lothian. We’ve also gained Eugene Clark in Leven Kennoway and Largo. Fiona Corps and Sean Dillon make it two in East Neuk and Landward. The total number of gains in Fife increased to 6 with John Caffrey joining Mags Kennedy in Cupar.

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Election results open thread – Lib Dems biggest winners in England

As Andy has already said, it’s been a good night for the Liberal Democrats so far, regaining control of Hull after 11 years and gaining from the Conservatives in places like Colchester and West Oxfordshire.

ALDC has done a great job in getting many of its staff members elected. Its Chief Exec Tim Pickstone has left Bury and won a seat on the new Cumberland Council. Frankie Singleton, Chris Twells, Alex Warren and Tim Verboven are among others who have won.

Today we wait for results from Scotland and Wales, English councils and the rest of London.  And we are off to a healthy start:

The Tories are expected to suffer substantial casualties in Scotland. They won many of their seats under STV on the first count last time. They might struggle to pick up a lot of transfers if their vote falls. If it falls by as much as it did in Tweeddale West in the Borders, 16%, they are in trouble.

Lib Dems held that seat with a new Councillor, Dr Drummond Begg.

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John Stewart: 1972-2022

This is not an obituary; I just want you to understand what a special person John Stewart was. John has died, aged 49, of lung cancer. John was a good man, and a lovely one.

His (much older) husband, Neil Fletcher, has been my friend since he, Neil, was at Aberdeen Uni in the 80s.. And we had some gey times back then. I knew his life, his friends and his boyfriends……and then John arrived on the scene to study Divinity. Neil was maybe not at his sylph-like best at the time (I know, I know), and the two of them were quickly christened “Fats and the child”. John was soooo young. Bear in mind that, back then, in the early 90s, their relationship was illegal. But we were Liberals and no-one cared about such a silly law.

John was, in those days, a quiet soul. And, if you know Neil, you will realise that meant John was a bit in the shadows. But he always knew who he was. He took an Honours degree, after a subject switch, in Church History, and, no surprise, Politics. John was active in his local church, Langstane, in Aberdeen, and, always happy to serve, became the Presbytery’s youngest elder.

Given the company he kept he became, quickly, an active Party member. Having graduated in 1996, he spotted that Sir Robert Smith’s campaign was in a bit of trouble and turned up at Bob’s house, to help. He then persuaded the Feds to pay him, and donated his salary to the campaign fund! He didn’t leave for 10 years.

He resigned as an elder over the Church of Scotland’s stance on homosexuality. Although he was blessed in a long and loving (if sometimes stormy) relationship, he had to deal with homophobia, and, when it hit, he met it head on. That quiet soul never put up with it.

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael: SNP pension plans a good reason to stay in UK

So the SNP Government has assured Scots, with all the confidence of a Vote Leave spokesperson saying that there would be £350 million a week for the NHS, that their State Pensions would continue to be paid by the UK Government if Scotland became independent.

Will this persuade older Scots, who overwhelmingly voted to remain in 2014, that independence is worth pursuing? Alistair Carmichael, in a column for the Scotsman, thinks not.

By Blackford’s reckoning, if Scotland secedes from the United Kingdom we can still keep the good bits (like the currency or our pension entitlements) while leaving behind the bad bits (like the taxes that pay for the pensions). The SNP believe that they can reject any responsibility to pay for your pension, but demand that our neighbours to the south cover the tab.

I am no economist. There are others who have outlined far more eloquently than I could the challenges that our people and pensioners would face if the SNP actually tried to embark on this “offloaded pensions” policy – and the harsh spotlight this throws upon the fiscal challenges of secession generally.

He points out an inherent contradiction at the heart of the SNP’s thinking:

It seems more than a little odd that the SNP think that the rest of the UK is simultaneously irredeemable and yet eminently reasonable – made up solely of monstrous, thieving Tories who nevertheless will empty their pockets at the moment of asking. Is this Schrödinger’s United Kingdom?

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Why waiting times matter in mental health

18 weeks. That’s the target waiting time, often missed, from referral to being seen.  From now in deepest darkest December to  Mid April, what an age that is. It’s hard on adults. Arguably harder when that’s how long some of our most distressed young people have to wait for support. 18 weeks or  4 months is a very long time if you are 13. If you are being bullied, if life is becoming more complex and you feel ill equipped to cope. It’s more than a school term, it’s too long and that’s the best on offer. Too often, currently for  1600  children,  the wait was over a year. Let’s be realistic, any child that has asked for help and waits over a year will undoubtedly experience that response as  No, there is no help.

The last 18 months has seen very few of us untouched by the pressures of the pandemic and the impact on the mental health of both adults and the young has been significant. From a self-reported rising anxiety across the population generally to increased rates of disordered eating and self harming amongst young people.  

In my work as Counsellor I have seen this in the increased waiting lists for our third sector services, parents seeking private services for children to avoid waiting times that seem to be never ending and referrals to online services. Even before Covid we were in trouble. One young person I worked with, told me what she’d learnt from 5 years bouncing between referrals from her GP  to the private sector, to CAMHS and to online services as she now transitioned to adult services.

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WATCH: Wendy Chamberlain’s first speech as Scottish Deputy Leader

Wendy Chamberlain has been elected as Scottish Lib Dems Deputy Leader.

 

She spoke to a gathering of party members in Edinburgh:

She said:

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Beatrice Wishart challenges media on reporting violence against women and girls

Thursday was White Ribbon Day, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. At Holyrood MSPs paused for a minutes silence to remember those women murdered by men over this past year.

Later there was a debate on ways to eradicate men’s violence against women. Beatrice Wishart, our MSP for Shetland, who has a long record of helping women who have suffered domestic abuse made a brilliant speech in which she called for a Commission to look at ways of ending men’s violence against women in all its forms. She drew attention to the way the media reports violence against women, often victim shaming and she talked particularly about how they talk about this awful practice of “spiking”, drugging someone’s drink in order to assault them.

You can watch her speech here. The text is below:

I refer members to my entry in the register of members’ interests. I am a trustee of Shetland Women’s Aid.

I, too, pay tribute to Scottish Women’s Aid, Rape Crisis Scotland and other services and individuals across Scotland for the good work that they do, not just on international day for the elimination of violence against women, but every day. It is worth saying again that 2021 marks the 30th anniversary of the global 16 days of activism campaign. It has been 30 years, and, each year, the debate exchanges statistics that are unacceptable and horrific, as Pam Duncan-Glancy stated.

The World Health Organisation estimates that about one in three women worldwide will, in their lifetime, be subjected to

“either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence.”

It is a major public health problem and a violation of women’s human rights, and we know that Covid has impacted on women’s equality progress across the globe.

Earlier this year, Jess Phillips MP, the UK shadow minister for domestic violence and safeguarding, read out the names of the 118 women who had been killed in the preceding year and in whose case a man had been convicted or charged as the primary perpetrator. It took her a little over four minutes and the list did not include the names of the women referenced in the motion, who were tragically killed after March this year.

The number of domestic abuse incidents reported by Police Scotland has risen for the fourth year in a row, with one in four women in Scotland experiencing domestic abuse in their lifetime. Domestic violence is a plague that not only affects women but impacts whole households. Children are tragically caught in it, too. It was seeing the lifelong impact of domestic abuse on children and the financial abuse of women that drew me into my voluntary trustee role.

I know that all speakers in the debate are striving to ensure that women and girls across the globe and closer to home can live their lives free from fear. Scottish Liberal Democrats have previously called for—and we do so again—the establishment of the new commission to look at ways of preventing men’s violence against women and girls in all its forms, to ensure a co-ordinated approach across all levels of government. Along with providing increased training for those who work in education and on the front line in public authorities, we can work together to build better public understanding of the drivers behind violence against women and take action to eradicate it.

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Scottish Lib Dems’ Joe McCauley criticises SNP over Angus Robertson book event

It’s been an embarrassing weekend for Scotland’s Culture Minister Angus Robertson. The SNP MSP has pulled out of a promotional event for his new book which had been paid for by a grant for his own department.

From the Sunday Mail: 

But Angus Robertson cancelled his appearance last night – after the Sunday Mail started asking about the £30,000 handed to it by a group under his remit.

The Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, External Affairs and Culture had been due to appear at the Borders Book Festival to plug Vienna – The International Capital.

The event was awarded the significant grant in August from Creative Scotland – a government- funded and accountable body ­falling under Robertson’s brief.

He has now cancelled the lecture and an advert was quickly removed from the festival website after this newspaper began asking questions about it.

In the newspaper’s report, the first opposition party quote, and it was a blistering one, goes to Scottish Lib Dem Culture Spokesperson Joe McCauley. The SNP’s cutting of cultural services in Glasgow was not lost on him:

“At the same time as the SNP takes a scythe to cultural centres in Glasgow, the Culture Secretary is trying to plug his book at a taxpayer-funded literary event.

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WATCH: American diplomats try out Scottish delicacies ahead of COP26

For me, this won the internet this week. US diplomats filmed themselves trying out some Scottish delicacies, including Haggis, Irn Bru and Deep Fried Mars Bars ahead of spending a couple of weeks in the city for COP 26.

It’s charming, funny (especially when you see their diplomatic skills being put to good use) and exactly what you need on a rainy Sunday morning.

 

On a more serious note, Joe Biden has yet to appoint a US Ambassador to the UK as Mark Johnston pointed out on Twitter:

It was reported back in July that Jane Hartley was going to be appointed …

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Scottish Lib Dem social justice spokesperson Bruce Wilson highlights childcare problems

Former marine Bruce Wilson is the Scottish Lib Dems spokesperson for veterans and social justice. In this week’s Daily Record he wrote about the need for high quality childcare as a key element of a fairer society.

As the father of three children under 7, he and his wife know only too well the crippling costs of childcare:

While my eldest is in school and goes to after school club, there is no way for me and my wife to afford mortgage payments, bills and childcare for our twins, despite having decent salaries.

Nursery costs to cover full time work come to roughly £2,000 per month for both of them – a sum that is completely unachievable for most parents. Parents are often forced to leave the workforce.

And  it is most often women whose careers are adversely affected:

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LibLink: Alistair Carmichael – Liberalism is the most effective counter to competing nationalisms

writing in the Scotsman, Alistair Carmichael challenges both the SNP’s view that independence is inevitable because so many young people support it and the older voters will die off and the Conservative view that those young people will become more conservative and risk averse as they grow older.

Both of these views are blinkered – and, frankly, complacent. We should have higher ambitions than some kind of “demographic destiny”. When we are talking about no less than the future of Scotland, our people deserve a little more by way of ideas and ideals, and a little less talk of inevitability.

Partisans on both sides of the constitutional divide are kidding themselves if they think they have a lock on our country’s future. The case for independence has not been made – but the stability of our shared community with the rest of the United Kingdom cannot be treated as an afterthought either. In a liberal democracy, we have to respect one another enough to make the case for the values of interdependence and shared prosperity, year on year and day by day.

He cited the experience of Quebec, where support for independence that once seemed inevitable is now much reduced. How did this happen?

What changed was not the demographic “inevitability” of Quebec, but the democratic debate and exchange of ideas. In the aftermath of the 1995 referendum, Liberal leaders and academics alike took on the issues raised by nationalism and independence and responded.

They challenged nationalist narratives head-on and reinvigorated discussions on the federal make-up of Canada. They changed minds – and made the case for a Canadian society of both diversity and shared common interest

And we have to keep winning the arguments to preserve our liberal values:

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Scottish Lib Dems call for measures to end the drug deaths emergency

In an emotional debate this afternoon, the Scottish Liberal Democrats passed a motion on ending Scotland’s drugs deaths emergency:

Speaker after speaker talked about the need to see the people not the numbers.

New leader Alex Cole-Hamilton, whose professional life before politics was helping disadvantaged young people, showed how important this issue was to him by proposing the motion. His speech was so effective, compassionate and caring.

Culture spokesperson Joe McCauley talked about the deaths of two of his family members.

It was a such a powerful and emotional speech.

I spoke about my friend Tracy, and her son, Nathan, who died in March at the age of 20 from an overdose of street valium.

It is so important that we reaffirm our commitment to treat drug use as a public health issue, and ensure that people caught in possession of drugs are referred for treatment and help, not put through a justice system that isn’t working.

If the justice system worked to deal with these issues, Nathan would have emerged from court and prison in better shape than he went in.

Just two days before he died, he was arrested. The day before he died, he appeared in court. He wasn’t offered any help with his issues.

Tracy told the Daily Record last month:

I begged police to make interventions with him when he was a teenager, to get him out of the way of drug dealers.
“But the bottom line with them was always the same.
“They never discussed diverting him to treatment or doing anything other than arrest people.”

“I just feel that if we had arrived at where we are today and there were proper professionals who understand trauma able to speak to him, he could have had a fighting chance.”

She feels that if the changes that Dorothy Bain announced last month had been in place a year ago, Nathan would be alive today.

After the motion passed, Alex said:

Scotland has the worst drug mortality in Europe. Nearly four times the rate of our neighbours in England and Wales. We cannot continue to witness this epidemic destroying lives.

“Despite the focus of an entire ministerial portfolio, additional investment and interventions like the rollout of naloxone, people are still dying at the same terrifying rate. That is the legacy of years of prior government inaction.

“Government must be open to learning from international best practice. It is why I have written to the Director General of the WHO to ask for a specialised taskforce, made up of leading experts in drug mortality, to analyse and mobilise against this particularly Scottish epidemic.”

And our spokesperson for the drugs death emergency Ben Lawrie said:

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LibLInk: Christine Jardine on the perfect storm that shows up our bad Governments

In her Scotsman column this week, Christine Jardine looks at the “perfect storm” of food and fuel shortages, health service crisis, Covid and high energy prices we are facing at the moment. She argues that the show how bad both UK and Scottish Governments are – and we shouldn’t let them away with blaming Covid and Brexit for our current travails. They were failing long before then:

It must be tempting for those responsible for the well-being of the NHS to blame its current predicament on all the other elements of the storm. That somehow the crisis which has necessitated calling in the Armed Forces to support our ambulance service is purely the result of the circumstances we find ourselves in. That they can look to the example of our energy industry which is defending itself with evidence of an unusual lack of wind and solar resources and a fire on an interconnector.

But that would be to ignore the reality which we have all experienced in different ways over recent, pre-pandemic years. The damage done by the increasing centralisation of public services and decision-making in Scotland.

On top of everything else, the FLu jag programme has been a nightmare this year.

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Lib Dems react to “empty” announcement on drugs policy change

This week, a landmark announcement from the Lord Advocate means that people caught in possession of a Class A drug could be given a warning rather than prosecuted and instead referred to support services.

From The Guardian:

Individuals caught in possession of class A drugs in Scotland could be issued with a police warning rather than facing prosecution, in a significant policy shift announced by the country’s new lord advocate as a direct response to the ongoing drug death crisis.

Dorothy Bain, who was appointed to the role in June, said the decision to give police discretion over class A drug offences did not amount to decriminalisation but told MSPs there was “no one size fits all response” to dealing with drug addiction.

She added that the policy did not extend to drug supply offences and that neither offering a recorded police warning nor reporting a case to the procurator fiscal prevents an officer referring a vulnerable person to support services.

Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton says that this is not enough to address the crisis:

Scottish Liberal Democrat requested this statement back in June, and I was grateful to see her here today, despite the empty answer.

The government has insisted for years that diversion has been an important response, but we’ve just discovered today that it only happened 57 times in 2017/18.

The number of people imprisoned for possession only is the same now as the number we saw decade ago. The SNP are failing to turn policies into practice once again.

Thousands of children are affected by parental imprisonment and drug misuse. It is time the SNP starts acting and effectively supporting these families.

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Liam McArthur launches consultation on Assisted Dying Bill

Orkney MSP Liam McArthur has today launched a consultation on his proposal for a Members’ Bill which would enable assisted dying for terminally ill people in Scotland.

His Bill would have safeguards, including:

  • Two doctors independently confirm the person is terminally ill, establish that the person has the mental capacity to request assisted dying,  assess that the person is making an informed decision without pressure or coercion
  • Two doctors ensure the person has been fully informed of palliative, hospice, and other care options.
  • The person signs a written declaration of their request, this is followed by a period of reflection
  • The person must administer the life-ending medication themselves; It would continue to be a criminal offence to end someone’s life directly
  • Every assisted death would be recorded and reported for safety, monitoring, and research purposes.

Liam said:

“In my time as an MSP I have heard from many dying people and grieving families who have been failed by the current blanket ban on assisted dying. I have watched other countries, such as Australia and New Zealand put new laws in place to ensure their citizens can have a peaceful and dignified death and I believe that the time is right for Scotland to look again at providing our dying people with more choice at the end of life. The consultation sets out a blueprint for how we can do this safely and compassionately.”

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Lots of new hope in Scottish Party Political Broadcast

It’s a new era in Scotland, so a brand new Party Political Broadcast is going out as you read this.

It is a thing of beauty. Enjoy.

If the words “new hope” mean nothing to you, you haven’t been watching closely enough.

A lot of this was filmed at his leadership launch speech on 20th August.

We love the ending:

“If you want a party that is dedicated to fighting the climate emergency with ferocity without the baggage of nationalism, come with us.”

“If you want a party that is focused on human rights at home and abroad, come with us.”

“If you want a party that

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Scottish Lib Dems oppose vaccine passports

Today Nicola Sturgeon announced that Scots attending big outdoor and indoor events from later this month will need vaccine passports to get in – unless they are exempt because they can’t have the vaccine.

The BBC reports that you will have to show evidence of vaccination or exemption to access:

  • Nightclubs and adult entertainment venues.

  • Unseated indoor live events, with more than 500 people in the audience.

  • Unseated outdoor live events, with more than 4,000 people in the audience.

  • Any event, of any nature, which has more than 10,000 people in attendance.

So, does this mean if I want to …

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Alex Cole-Hamilton announces new, young spokespeople team

Alex Cole-Hamilton has announced the spokespeople team he thinks will bring “new hope” to the party and to Scotland.

One of the most striking things about Alex’s team is that it is very young. I am positively ancient in comparison to all but about four others. It is fantastic that of the 18 spokespeople, 4 are in their 20s, and are members of the Young Liberals. They are Molly Nolan, who really closed the gap in Caithness, Sutherland and Ross in May. She is such a powerful advocate for our rural communities. Ben Lawrie, one of the youngest councillors in Scotland will be holding the Government to account on its handling of the drug deaths crisis. Joe McCauley, who stood in Glasgow in May takes on culture and Jack Norquoy, the youngest spokesperson at 22, speaks for young people. An Orcadian, now living in Edinburgh, he understands the issues they are facing in rural areas as well as in our cities.

Alex said:

Scotland needs new hope and this team can offer it. They are crackling with talent and ideas, ready to inspire people. We will focus on the issues that matter to people across the country every day, from the NHS to the climate emergency. We will oppose the centralising SNP and stand up for human rights at home and abroad.

“Over the coming weeks I will be setting out a series of proposals to give people new hope, from the environment to the future of our communities and the prospects for young people. Scottish Liberal Democrats have so much to offer the people of Scotland.

I was surprised and delighted to be asked to return to the role of Social Security spokesperson which I had until 2019, before moving to Housing and then Equalities.

Alex phoned me when I’d nipped into Morrisons last Saturday afternoon and I took his call standing next to a stack of lager. Fighting poverty and inequality is so important to me and we need to use every single power we have in Scotland to make life better for people who are really struggling to put food on the table and heat their houses. I’m thrilled to be working with Wendy Chamberlain, who has the DWP Westminster portfolio.

The team in full is as follows:

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Jack Norquoy – how we inspire the next generation of voters

This weekend we are publishing all the speeches from Alex Cole Hamilton’s Scottish leadership event on 20 August, because, frankly, they are too good not to. This one is from Jack Norquoy, an activist from Orkney who now lives in Edinburgh. 

This morning I was in my home of Orkney, a place where Liberals have won for over seventy years.

I’m standing here now in Edinburgh Western where Alex has won the most votes of any MSP in the history of the Scottish Parliament.

And while these places are formidably Liberal, it is also true that in my travels today I have been in half of all our seats in Holyrood.

I was born in 1999 at a time when Liberals led Scotland into the new millennium, helping to deliver devolution and build the dream of a better nation.

Back then, to travel through all Liberal heartlands would have felt as long as it does today for the SNP to build a ferry.

However, in all seriousness, it will be by winning like that again can we deliver more for the people of our islands again.

A local chap to the islands called Jo Grimond once asked whether we, Liberals, can kindle again in this country the flame of political interest.

Today we are asking that same question.

Jo went on to revive the Liberal torch and inspire the next generation of Liberals.

Today we are charged with that same task.

It is time to rekindle again the liberal flame of political interest.

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Wendy Chamberlain: Lib Dems stand for people politics, not grievance politics

This weekend, we’re publishing all the speeches from Alex Cole-Hamilton’s launch event. Here’s Wendy Chamberlain MP talking about

I am so excited to be here with you all today, because today is a new beginning with a new generation of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, exemplified by Jack Norquoy, and under our new leader Alex Cole-Hamilton.

I’ve been a member of this party for only six years. I always joke that I joined crying at Nick Clegg on the Telly in the aftermath of the General Election result of 2015.

That was the start of my journey. If you had told me that I would be an MP for the party within 5 years of joining, I would have laughed very loudly. But this is what this party does, it welcomes with open arms.

Having served in the police until 2011, I could have joined the party then – after all Scottish Liberal Democrats had always had my vote. Watching Nick Clegg, and hearing the core liberal values he espoused, it hit me.

Scotland couldn’t afford to lose those values, or the opportunity to vote for representatives who held them. And that the Scottish Liberal Democrats needed more than my vote, they needed me and others to get involved.

Autumn 2015 – I find myself making my first contribution at a party conference: introducing my now dear friend, Willie Rennie, as he made his then Leader’s speech. If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be standing here as North East Fife’s representative in Westminster, and our party wouldn’t be where it was today as it now looks forward beyond the last decade with Willie at the helm.

Across Scotland, where we have representation whether at Council, Holyrood and Westminster, people see the benefit of having a Scottish Liberal Democrat representative. We work hard to get elected – knocking doors all year round, on the phones checking in on the vulnerable during the early stages of the pandemic, delivering leaflets to get our message across as we need to as a smaller party.

Because without those hard-working community campaigners – people like Alex, people like Willie – we can never deliver that change that we want to see in Scotland.

Liberal Democrats need the people of Scotland. And the people of Scotland need Liberal Democrats.

I know we sometimes feel we might be small – but when we work together, we are can be a mighty force.

I saw that in my first campaign, in 2016 – helping get Willie elected in North East Fife; and seeing Alex elected here.

You saw it just a couple of months ago – in Chesham and Amersham where the Liberal Democrats took out a chunk of the Tory Blue Wall. No other party is placed to do that.

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UPDATED: Humza Yousaf challenges nursery which refused to take his daughter

Today’s Daily Record reports that a Scottish nursery refused three separate applications for children with names that might indicate they were from a minority ethnic background while simultaneously offering places to children who appeared to be from white backgrounds. The first of those was for the two year old daughter of Scottish Health Secretary Humza Yousaf and his wife Nadia. The Record subsequently conducted its own investigation.

After being contacted in July by Nadia, the Record made its own inquiries using fake names. Under Aqsa Akhtar we asked Mill on July 7 for any afternoons free for a three-year-old daughter Amira. Five days later after prompting, on July 12, Mill replied there was “no ­availability for a three-year-old” and in contrast to the non-ethnic cases there was no offer of a registration form, a tour of the nursery or an unprompted option of a waiting list.

That evening, we emailed under the name Susan Blake about a couple of afternoons at any point for Sophie, three. The next day, Mill sent a registration form and leaflet.

She said she wanted to see where Sophie “would fit in on our ­registers” and to “let you know of availability and arrange a suitable time for a show round for you”. This was in contrast to her ­statement the day before to Sara that there was resolutely “no ­availability for a three-year-old”.

On July 19, we asked for specific availability before filling in the ­registration form. Three days later, Mills apologised for a delay as she had not been in the office but said she could “accommodate any afternoon apart from a Friday”.

Humza said on Twitter:

He and Nadia have asked  the Care Inspectorate to look into what has happened and establish if there is evidence of discrimination on the grounds of ethnicity or religion. The nursery denies this.

It got me thinking about what I would do if I had a child at that nursery. I wouldn’t feel comfortable about standing by and keeping silent. I would certainly ask the nursery what was going on and I would not be fobbed off with the really poor response they gave to the paper, which amounts to “we can’t be racist, we have Muslims here.”

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The National really doesn’t like Alex Cole-Hamilton…

Alex Cole-Hamilton has done a brilliant job of keeping his constituents informed about the constantly changing Covid restrictions over the past 17 months. As soon as things change, he sends out an email to his constituents to let them know.

In over 40 updates since March last year, there have been two typos. I am slightly miffed that they didn’t pick up the one last year when he referred to the Caronavirus. I mean what could the symptoms of that one be? A sudden obsession with Doctor Who and Eurovision?

He got a date wrong for the lifting of one aspect of the Covid restrictions in Scotland in his most recent bulletin. Someone pointed it out and he issued a correction in minutes. So far, so not very dramatic.

But Scotland’s nationalist newspaper, The National, never Alex’s biggest fan, decided to give this the full front page headline treatment. Clearly they see him as a threat.

It’s really bizarre when you consider that yesterday Scotland yet again a new high of drug-related deaths. We should all be talking about that and sharing ideas to sort this out. It’s not something that a newspaper that is little more than an SNP Government mouthpiece should relegate to a side story.

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Willie Rennie: “A cheerful voice for a more decent politics”

Willie Rennie has done two major interviews this weekend talking about his decision to stand aside as Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and his hopes for the future.

The Times (£) leader had praise for him yesterday, too:

It is to be hoped that Mr Rennie remains active in public life. He has been a cheerful voice for a more decent politics and his brand of low-key, relaxed liberalism is more necessary than ever. After a summer running in the hills he should return to the fray, ready to play his part in building a bigger and better centre.

Willie spoke to Magnus Linklater for the paper (£) and talked about his hope that Labour and the Lib Dems would work more closely together to present a progressive, pro-UK alternative to the nationalism and populism of the SNP and Conservatives:

“I think working together with Labour on issues of common interest would be a good thing,” he said in an interview with The Times. “I wouldn’t run before we can walk. But build confidence between the parties and also amongst the electorate to show we’re getting our act together.”

This is about trying to show that for middle Scotland there is something better and stronger than the Conservatives or the SNP, that it’s got energy, it’s got momentum, it’s got ideas, and that’s the most important thing, so people know that if they vote for it, it will be worth it,” he added. “The actual mechanism is less important — it’s the energy behind it that matters.”

He talked about how much Scotland had changed in the past decade or so – and not for the better:

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WATCH: Liam McArthur talks about his Bill to legalise assisted dying

Orkney’s Lib Dem MSP this week lodged a bill in Holyrood which would enable assisted dying in Scotland. This would enable terminally ill, mentally competent adults to have an assisted death.

Here he is talking about it to the BBC.

This is a subject that is obviously emotive and needs to be handled with compassion and sensitivity. I can’t think of anyone better than Liam to do this.

He is very thoughtful and wise and will take concerns about the measure very seriously and try to address them as best he can.

I have been a supporter of assisted dying for a long time. I don’t feel that I can say to someone that they must endure unbearable suffering before their inevitable death if they don’t have to. I went to a Dignity in Dying event at the start of the Holyrood campaign where Prue Leith described how horrendous it was for her brother David who died in great pain because of a brain tumour. At that same event, sisters described the intolerable suffering which preceded their mum’s death from oesophageal cancer. I really think that people should be able to choose a more controlled, dignified death.

I do get, though, that we need to make sure that disabled people, who are already marginalised don’t feel even more so. Labour MSP Pam Duncan-Glancy had this to say:

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End of an era as Matthew Clark leaves Holyrood

When I first arrived back in Scotland in 2000, Matthew Clark worked in the Lib Dem staff pool in the Scottish Parliament, then deputy to a certain Willie Rennie. He went on to serve as a senior special adviser in those happy days of the Lib Dem/Labour coalition. Out of Government, he became Chief of Staff to the Lib Dem Group, a role he’s held since 2007.

He actually started out as a very young councillor in Southampton and he and Willie first met at the Christchurch by-election where Willie was the campaign manager and Matthew had the job of developing the railway survey. In 1993 he became, at he age of just 25, chair of the Hampshire Police Authority.

I can’t quite believe that I’m about to go to his leaving do. He’s decided that he’s going to retire – and, after 6 Scottish Parliament elections, 2 referendums, and 6 General elections, all of which he’s had a major role in producing our manifestos and messages for, he certainly deserves a break.

I’m struggling to imagine how the party will cope without him. They say nobody’s indispensable, but he might well be the exception that proves the rule.  He knows pretty much everything there is to know about Scottish politics.

I just marvel at the way he brings so many disparate sources of information together and makes coherent messages out of them. He’s been a total powerhouse of policy, assisting on every major policy initiative and pulling together things like Menzies Campbell’s commission on Federalism, and its predecessor the Steel Commission back in the day.

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Scotland – time for Project Facts

As Liberal Democrats, we do not support independence and we don’t want a second referendum; we have better ideas about the constitution. However, we must live up to our title as democrats and must recognise that there is now a clear majority at Holyrood for such a referendum. It would be foolish and self-defeating to oppose it. We must not repeat the mistake we made at the 2019 General Election when we were proposing to ignore the outcome of the EU referendum by not going back to the electorate for a second vote. That surely damages our reputation and cost us votes.

But we can take a constructive, different and positive view about how a second independence vote should be organised, learning lessons from the disastrous EU referendum process involving four years of discord and wrangling, and resulting in an outcome that few seem to be happy with. The simple yes/no, in/out binary approach to referenda with little in the way of facts, just opinions, guesswork and hope, and a promise on negotiations later, is not the way forward this time. It will give no guarantee that the outcome, if in support of separation, will meet the expectations of all those voting for change. The reason for this is the massive imbalance between the population of Scotland and the rest of the UK with whom Scotland will be negotiating and who will be very much affected by separation. Their representatives will bring a different set of requirements to the table that will potentially have a huge influence on the outcome. Another White Paper, as promised by the SNP, given this scenario will serve no real purpose other than again being a wish list and merely a basis for negotiations from one side only.

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Scotland results open thread

The current state of play in Scotland is that the SNP is well ahead and will be forming the next government. We don’t know yet whether they will get an overall majority on their own or will need to rely on the Greens for support.

The Lib Dems ended last night on 4 constituency MSPs, with absolutely stonking victories by Willie Rennie and Alex Cole-Hamilton. Alex got the highest ever vote of any MSP in the history of the Scottish Parliament, a record that Willie had previously held for a few minutes yesterday afternoon.

These are huge personal votes of confidence in our amazing MSPs.

Today we learn if we are going to get any list seats. We need 5 MSPs to be counted as a parliamentary group. We made it by the skin of our teeth last time. It’s going to be a stressful day.  We’ll keep you updated but there is unlikely to be any news until much later in the day – late afternoon, early evening.

I will be spending the day at my count in Almond Valley. We got 2.9% in 2016, so actually keeping my deposit would be a major achievement. We just missed out on that yesterday in the other West Lothian seat in Linlithgow where we went up 1.1% to 4.5%.

See you later with some more news…

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