Tag Archives: Scotland

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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Parties adopt Kennedy Commitment to disagree well with open and respectful debate

Earlier today I  joined Willie Rennie in calling on all parties in Scotland to commit to a zero-tolerance approach to abuse and to lead a respectful campaign.

In the course of the Scottish campaign to date a brick has been thrown at Scottish Liberal Democrat HQ and the new Labour Leader Anas Sarwar has been racially abused outside Holyrood.

It just isn’t how politics should be done.

It was also worryingly reminiscent of an attitude in the 2015 campaign which resulted in the unacceptable campaign of intimidation against Charles Kennedy. And if the reaction to BBC Alba’s recent documentary about Charles’ life showed me anything, it was that this sort of behaviour is as unpopular now as it was then.

We must never go back to those old divisions.

With social media playing an increasingly prominent role in elections, politicians can show they have learned the lessons of the past and send a clear message of the value we hold in open, honest and respectful debate.

Our democracy is at its best when it is open, inclusive and free from intimidation or abuse. That is what Charles believed. He understood the importance of disagreeing well with political opponents. So the Kennedy Commitments put these values into practice:

Publicly challenge and denounce derogatory, untrue, or hateful messages on social media.
To disagree well and treat my political opponents, journalists and the public with respect.
Run an honest campaign that does not permit character defamation, libel, or slander against political opponents.

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Carmichael: Alba leaflets can’t fit Salmond’s ego

Arguing that Scotland deserves better than to spend the next five years arguing over independence, Alistair Carmichael notes that Alex Salmond does not appear on Alba Party leaflets. Apparently it is all down to the size of Salmond’s ego. For the record, Newsmoggie is only interested in the size of the salmon in the River Tay.

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Rennie: Tackle drug addiction with compassion and treatment, not imprisonment

Liberal Democrats care about people being able to fulfil their potential and getting the care and support they need to recover from illness and addiction. That’s why our Scottish manifesto highlights the need to take a public health approach to addiction. Scotland has the highest drug deaths rate in Europe, something which became very real to a friend of mine recently when her son died after taking street valium. Typically, she thought of others before herself and allowed the BBC to film his funeral.

Willie Rennie said today that the next Scottish Government will only end the drug deaths crisis through compassion and health treatment, not prosecution, as he revealed new figures showing 605 people convicted of possession without intent to supply being sent to prison.

Meanwhile, only 108 people received a Drug Treatment and Testing Order during the same three year period (2016/17 to 2018/19).

1264 people died of drug related causes in 2019. Each of them were individuals with talents and skills. Each of them loved and had people loving them. Pretty much 3 people a day lose their lives and each one of them, with the right intervention, could still be alive today.

So the Scottish Liberal Democrats, looking to the best evidence, has the following measures to tackle the harm that drug addiction causes to people and communities that are focused on help and support. The party will:

  • Reduce the misery of drug abuse with compassion and health treatment rather than prosecution.
  • Take radical steps with the prosecution authorities and the Lord Advocate to help establish heroin assisted treatment and safe consumption spaces.
  • Establish new specialist Family Drug and Alcohol Commissions to help provide wraparound services and to take a holistic approach to those reported for drug offences, learning from best international practice such as that in Portugal.
  • Divert people caught in possession of drugs for personal use into education, treatment and recovery, ceasing imprisonment in these circumstances.
  • Protect and enhance drug and alcohol partnership budgets, and adopt the principle that individuals and families shouldn’t have to pay for the care and treatment of those at risk of death from drugs or alcohol.
  • Use emergency housing funding to help people keep their homes and tenancies while they undergo treatment and rehabilitation.

Willie Rennie said:

The SNPs failure was more than just a political failure, it was a failure that cost the lives of hundreds of people.

Not only did the SNP fail to take the necessary action to save lives, they made it worse by cutting the alcohol and drug partnership budgets, surrendering services and expertise.

It was admitted in 2017 that essential drug reforms weren’t pursued because it wasn’t seen as a vote winner. This is political negligence of the highest order.

Scottish Liberal Democrats will put recovery first. We will reduce the misery of drug abuse with compassion and health treatment rather than prosecution. After years of being told no, Scottish Liberal Democrats have just won cross-party agreement for that important principle.

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Brick thrown at Scottish Lib Dem HQ

So, yesterday morning, this happened:

This would have been awful if it had happened to any political party, but you always feel it more deeply when the building is full of your friends, people you really care about.

You have to wonder what goes through the mind of someone who thinks it is ok to put human beings in danger like that.

Elections are stressful enough for any party’s staff. By this time, they’ve been working ridiculous hours for months, and the idea of work/life balance has completely gone out the window.

They shouldn’t have to worry about missiles coming in the window or any other threat to their safety.

Alistair Carmichael, our campaign chair, said:

This morning a brick was thrown through the window of our HQ in Edinburgh.

“Fortunately no one was hurt but it could have been very different and our staff are understandably shaken by this.

“I’m dismayed that this kind of behaviour seems to have taken root in Scotland. Political campaigning should be about the clash of ideas, not about acts of violence.

“I would like to thank Police Scotland for their work in detaining a suspect. I also want to thank all our party staff who have been affected by this incident but who continue to give their all in delivering our campaign in this election.”

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Rennie marks 10,000 deaths of people with Covid-19 in Scotland

Responding to Scotland having passed 10,000 deaths from covid-19, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said:

“When I think of 10,000 deaths, I think of 10,000 broken families and friends. I think of the pain and the loss. 

“For their sake we must learn the lessons of what went right and what went wrong.   

“With one of the highest numbers of people dead in Europe, Scotland has a special responsibility to conduct an early public inquiry. That inquiry must look at the lack of testing for new care home residents, the lack of preparation in the summer for

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Willie Rennie highlights Lib Dem plans for health, education and climate change in first major campaign interview

It’s been a good start to the Scottish Liberal Democrats election campaign with our first photo opportunity getting on the front pages of the two main Scottish broadsheets:

Willie was out and about early for his morning run today. He posted it on Twitter at 6:30 when it was still dark due to the clocks going forward:

He had to be up so early because he Willie had a great first interview of the campaign on the Sunday Show. He always sounds so joyful and optimistic and got across our main talking points while avoiding the usual traps. He contrasted the SNP and Conservatives constant arguing over independence, which would continue into the next Parliament with our approach to get our health and education services.

Here are the highlights:

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Carmichael: Alex Salmond is not the answer to Scotland’s future

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond has announced he will lead the pro-impendence Alba party, which was registered just four months ago. He told a press conference today: “We expect to field a minimum of four candidates in each regional list and we’re hoping to elect Alba MSPs from every area of Scotland.”

Scottish Lib Dem leaders responded: “There are no questions about Scotland’s future to which Alex Salmond is the answer.”

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Why have there been no women of colour in Holyrood?

The Scottish Parliament is 22 years old this year, but it hasn’t yet had a woman MSP of colour.

This failure was explored by a Disclosure Scotland programme broadcast last night. In it women of colour from all parties talked about the barriers they faced in getting selected and elected.

The Liberal Democrat representative was the brilliant Aisha Mir who stood for us in Edinburgh South West in 2017 and is on our Mid Scotland and Fife list for the forthcoming election.

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Economic Guardrails – Why we need Recovery First for Scotland’s economy

The First Minister and Finance Minister must be truthful with the people of Scotland about the looming economic catastrophe Indyref2 would deliver during our recovery from this pandemic.

We have never experienced a lockdown economy before, and our recovery from the Covid19 pandemic will not follow the traditional post-recession recovery pattern we saw following the 2008 banking crisis. In fact, there is still significant debate between economists as to how the recovery will take shape. We find ourselves in a very different landscape.

Scotland’s future and Scotland’s prosperity lies in leading, not leaving, the UK. This May we must vote to put recovery first for Scotland.

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Event: Liam MacArthur MSP to take part in Question Time on tackling global poverty and climate justice

Voters in Scotland are being given the chance to quiz politicians – including Scottish LibDem MSP Liam McArthur – and make their voices heard on Scotland’s role in building a greener, fairer world.

Scotland’s International Development Alliance (The Alliance), which represents over 200 diverse organisations operating in over 100 countries, is hosting an online Question Time event to encourage Scottish political parties to include commitments to global sustainable development in their manifestos ahead of the forthcoming Scottish Parliament elections in May.

Scotland for a Fairer World: Question Time will be held on Thursday 11 March from 6.30 to 8pm, chaired by campaigner and writer Talat Yaqoob. The politicians taking part are the SNP’s Jenny Gilruth MSP, Minister for Europe and International Development, Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie, the Liberal Democrats’ environment spokesperson Liam McArthur, Scottish Conservative Shadow Economy Secretary Maurice Golden, along with a representative from Scottish Labour.

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Declare a mental health crisis say Scottish Lib Dem MSPs

Even if your circumstances have not been too adversely affected by the pandemic, chances are you have gone through some mental health challenges. Even people who were coping pretty well have found the dark and cold Winter lockdown pretty grim.

And if you have had to suffer bereavement, loss or financial struggles along the way, it’s been so much harder.

A study tracking Scotland’s mental health during the pandemic found that there was a significant rise in those contemplating suicide or suffering from Depression and Anxiety. The Herald reports:

The second wave of the Scottish Covid-19 Mental Health Tracker survey, which was carried out between mid July and mid August, a time when Covid-19 restrictions had been eased, showed 13.3 per cent had thought about taking their life in the last week.

That is up from the 9.6% recorded in the first wave of the research, which took place between May 28 and June 21.

That was in the Summer when restrictions were at their lowest point and the weather was at its finest

Last month the same paper reported a Federation of Small Businesses survey which found that half of the small business owners who responded said that they were struggling with mental health.

And another report suggested that almost half of young people had said that their mental health had deteriorated due to not being able to see their friends and worrying about their future prospects because of the state of the economy.

Even before the pandemic struck, Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services struggled to meet demand. It was not unusual for young people to wait more than a year even to be seen.  You don’t have to be that good at maths to work out that even if you recover within another year, your life has still been blighted for more than a third of your secondary education. That has got to have an impact on life chances.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have been badgering the Government for years to improve mental health services. Now that these under-resourced services are going to feel any more pressure, the party will call for a mental health crisis to be declared in a parliamentary debate this afternoon.

In their opposition day slot, they will ask the Parliament for the second time to declare the situation a crisis. When the issue was last debated back in November 2019 (we are consistent, after all), the Greens and SNP ganged up to remove all reference to a crisis from our motion.

Our Mental Health Spokesperson Rebecca Bell explained why it was so important for the Government to act to help those who are struggling with mental ill health:

“People are struggling. When they turn for help, it is often not there. Problems that can start small, become crises as help is either lacking or arrives too late. Waiting times for mental health services are long and the targets for treating people have never been met.

“That was true before the pandemic, but the situation is now even graver. Sadly with resources vastly outstripped by the demands on services from those who need mental health treatment, departments are forced to focus solely on the acute end of the scale. that means more people are left sick for longer, and just getting worse. We need to aim for prevention as well so fewer people suffer mental ill health in the first place

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Scotland beat Wales in thrilling Maraphone clash

As I write, Scotland are playing Wales in the Six Nations at Murrayfield. As I write, Scotland are ahead by 17-3. I don’t know much about rugby but this seems unusual to me. Let’s hope we can hold on to that lead for however long a rugby match lasts.

However, an earlier clash between the two countries brought an assured victory for the Scots. The Welsh and the Scottish Liberal Democrats have spent the day tussling on the phone lines before kick off in a battle to see who could make the most phone calls to voters.

It’s all been great fun. Both leaders pumped up the rivalry, visiting each others’ phone banks Willie Rennie announced to the Zoom Room that the Welsh dragon behind him reminded him of me. I’ve never been so proud.

Jane Dodds almost got away with starting to sing a 14 verse traditional Welsh song to distract us from our work.

And Ed Davey showed up too! For an equal amount of time to both teams so as not to show any favouritism. He seemed to enjoy himself.

There really has never been a better time to make phone calls for the party. People seem genuinely happy to hear from us and are happy to share their concerns. We’ve noticed this both where we have elected representatives and where we haven’t.

Canvassing in a Zoom room is great because it spurs you on to do more, you can have a bit of a laugh with it. If you’re at home sitting there with Connect open, you can feel very alone. It is nice to have others to share your canvassing anecdotes with.

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Let’s all agree on a federal plan

The Liberal Democrats may favour a federal Britain, but it would be so much more persuasive if all the Unionist parties could come together to agree on a specific proposal to put before the Scottish electorate in any independence referendum. There are moves afoot to achieve this, with Conservative and Labour heavyweights Michael Gove and Gordon Brown cautiously circling around the issue like two Sumo wrestlers.

They might come up with a plan for more devolution to stem the tide of support for independence in Scotland. Or, if Gordon Brown gets his way, they might go further and consider some sort of federal arrangement. Moreover, if all this seems to be just a “Scottish problem” to people living in England or Wales or Northern Ireland, think what we are missing: the chance to reform our centralised British state and build a modern democracy.

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All quiet on the Brexit front

To judge by the silence in the media, Brexit is done and dusted, and the country has already moved on. Or perhaps it was all a bad dream and never happened.
Of course, the covid-19 pandemic has eclipsed much of the other news, but this is not entirely explained. There have been plenty of problems: mountains of red tape that never perished in any bonfire, failed deliveries, cargoes of rotting fish. Of course, the Government has played these minor irritations down, no surprise there. But more puzzlingly, Kier Starmer has staged a judicious retreat from the Brexit battlefield, fearful no doubt …

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Why don’t the Scottish Lib Dems support Independence?

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I am a founder member of the Liberal Democrats and I live in England. I respect the right of Scottish Lib Dems to decide their policy on Independence for Scotland. I hope, though, that they will permit me to ask the question “Why don’t you support Independence”.

We, that is Lib Dems on both sides of the border, are an outward-looking, pro-European Union party.  We argued long, hard and loudly that a Union of 28 member states with a home market of over 400 million citizens was better than a single state with 67 million.

The UK is no longer in the EU.  I don’t think anyone is optimistic that the UK will re-apply for membership any time soon, nor that England would be welcomed with open arms by our former colleagues if we did.

On the other hand, all indications are that an Independent Scotland would have the opportunity of a fast-track to membership, with a full say in shaping EU policy and allowing its citizen’s the benefits that are being taken away from the rest of us.

From the southern side of the border that looks like a very attractive option indeed.

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Willie Rennie’s New Year Message: Lib Dems will put recovery first

https://www.flickr.com/photos/policyexchange/9815585233/in/photolist-fXnrwa-4C63rJ-fQSzEG-4rW51x-5Z4kL2-4C1Kca-6jhoX5-nSybs-GtLAXb-EFShm-nZJzu-nSycj-atnm6F-53aUVG-FjDVj-QqjFZR-rKPkDc-rKJgQr-rKH3hN-rtng5p-rKJgiK-rruKrF-rHwGqu-qP3HST-rKJ6ho-rKH3oQ-rKJgGv-qNPxv7-rKPkoT-rKJgBR-rteyLw-rtngf4-rKH35o-rKPkcv2020 has been a year like no other. The stresses and strains of it will be etched in our memories for many years to come.”New Year is usually a point to reflect on a year that’s passed and set new goals for the year ahead. This year that feels different. We have to pause to take stock of the enormity of our loss.  The virus has devastated so many families and ripped the fabric of our liberal society apart too.

However, we can be proud, proud of the effort we’ve made as …

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Willie Rennie: Our children will be astonished that this Government pursued big bang Brexit in the middle of a pandemic

The Scottish Parliament debated whether to give legislative consent to the Bill putting the new trade deal with the EU into operation.

Liberal Democrats voted against, and Willie Rennie explained why:

This debate needs a bit of realism. The deal is going through. It’s going to go through because Boris Johnson has an eighty-seat majority, he has his Euro Sceptics on board and even the bulk of the Labour Party is backing it.

So no deal has, finally, been taken off the table.

But just because we accept Brexit is happening, that there is a deal and it is going through does not mean we have to like it.

We are realistic but we won’t swallow all our deep reservations about Brexit and especially this deal.

In no way is anyone compelled to vote for something they think will be bad for the country.
And after all the Brexit chaos this Conservative Government have inflicted on millions of people for years and after the Scottish Conservatives promised they would never back a deal that gave separate treatment to Northern Ireland, that party is in no position to lecture anyone else today.

There should be no surprise that we can’t support the Conservatives on Brexit today because our support for Europe has been resolute for decades.

From the liberals support for yes in the ‘75 referendum, the Gang of Four in the 80s and Paddy Ashdown bailing out John Major to support the Maastricht Treaty in the 90s to our enthusiastic support for remain in 2016 and our advocacy of a people’s vote for the last four years.

People who believe in a strong relationship with Europe can count on us.

We do not use Europe as a weapon in another battle, to be discarded when no longer useful.

We believe in international partnership and cooperation especially with our closest neighbours.

It is why we support keeping the UK together and believe the lessons from Brexit should be the lessons for those who advocate independence.

This is a bad deal. The Prime Minister ran down the clock in the most cynical fashion to give parliamentarians just three working days to read, analyse, scrutinise and vote on 1246 pages of complex legal text. That is not good government.

Giving companies just a week to get ready is not good business. Where is the sensible easement arrangement?
We will be the first country in the world to put trade barriers up as a result of a trade deal.

The Prime Minister claims no quotas or tariffs on goods. But if the UK diverges, and that was the point of Brexit was it not, there will be heavy punitive tariffs and quotas. Those quotas and tariffs will hang around like a bad smell for years.

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Scotland 2070 Healthy | Wealthy | Wise

Visions of a possible future for a country usually come from politicians or, more often these days, from think-tanks. This book is a notable exception, its authors coming from backgrounds in the oil and gas industry, the defence sector, and nursing respectively. The authors deliberately set out to make their vision non-political; what they suggest could equally well be achieved in an independent Scotland, in a Scotland that is part of a Federal UK, or a Scotland that has its present devolved powers. Their vision instead is for a Scotland with a renewal of the spirit that characterised the Scottish Enlightenment.

After an introduction to their vision, they go into more detail in six areas: the economy, the environment, renewable energy, healthcare, research and development, and infrastructure; then sum up the synergies that actions in these areas could bring to a Scotland that wholeheartedly embraced them. They do not claim to have painted a complete picture of Scotland in two generations time, but rather a framework to which others can add.

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A Europe policy for the Scottish elections: a humble suggestion

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I must begin with a disclaimer. I am not Scottish, I have no Scottish blood that I know of, and I have never lived in Scotland (the “Mc” in my surname is Irish, courtesy of a great-grandfather who left Galway in the Potato Famine and ended up in the Metropolitan Police). But I love Scotland. As a Lib Dem I campaigned in the 2014 referendum for Scotland to remain in the UK, and today I am as devastated as any Scot that we are leaving the European Union.

That certainly gives me no right to make any suggestion about what the people of Scotland should do at this juncture, so I float the following with due humility. It is an idea; it is not thought-through. If it is worth thinking about, there will be much devil and much detail to be grasped before it can be developed into a policy, but I throw it open for discussion in the party, north and south of the border.  Here goes.

In next year’s Scottish elections, we should campaign for Scotland to have the same status in the UK as Northern Ireland will have from 1 January 2021. It would mean Scotland remaining in the Single Market and having the same customs status as NI.

It would have the following advantages:

  • it would be democratic (giving at least some weight to the Scottish vote in 2016 to remain in the EU);
  • it would also respect the 2014 Scottish referendum decision to remain in the UK;
  • it would end the new invisible border in the Irish Sea between NI and Scotland (although leaving it in place for England and Wales).
Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 21 Comments

Why should we have to move?

“Why should we have to move everywhere and everything because of him?”

That question is on the front of Change, Justice, Fairness, a Scottish Women’s Aid community research project into homelessness caused by domestic abuse in Fife.

Too often, the trauma suffered by victims of domestic abuse is exacerbated when they are forced to leave their homes, often with their children. It is not acceptable that they should be forced into this situation.

It is unlikely that the event that led to them seeking help was the first incident. Safe Lives suggest that someone will endure 50 incidents of abuse or violence before getting effective help.

So you have very vulnerable, traumatised individuals, the vast majority of whom are women, having to declare themselves as homeless. That means that they are put in temporary accommodation, perhaps for short periods into bed and breakfast accommodation with no cooking facilities, where they don’t have the comfort of having their own things around them, the children don’t have their toys. They are perhaps in an unfamiliar area away from their support networks. They could get moved at any time to different temporary accommodation. That instability and insecurity piling even more distress on to them.

Those who aren’t married and aren’t named on the tenancy face a lengthy and complicated battle to gain occupancy rights if they wish to stay in their home.

The process of transferring a tenancy can also take time, during which the victim can be homeless. This needs to be sorted with greater speed. The Scottish Government needs to produce guidance that strengthens the rights of the victim to prevent them going down the stressful homeless route.

This is why I persuaded the Scottish Liberal Democrats to pass policy calling for better support for housing for victims of domestic abuse. In a very moving debate, members shared their own experiences.

We call on the Scottish Government to do more to ensure that they have the right to stay in their own home if they wish to do so. If they are to be moved, that should be done in a planned way. We recognise that the statutory homeless route is not appropriate for families who are suffering the effects of abuse.

I was surprised to learn that not all social housing providers have stand alone domestic abuse policies so we call on housing associations to do more to support people in this situation

The Women’s Aid research identified serious flaws in the way victims were treated. Women described how they had to talk about what had happened to them in an open plan office.

A third of the staff who dealt with disclosures of abuse said that they had not had any training.

Particularly troubling was the fact that the majority of service providers didn’t have any idea that the moment of leaving an abusive partner was the most dangerous for the victim.

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Could Scottish Independence save the Scot Lib Dems?

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There’s no denying that the first 20 years of the 21st Century have hardly been auspicious for the Liberal Democrats in general and the Scot Lib Dems in particular. North of the Border the numbers of our elected representatives has been in rapid decline; in the period 2000 – 2020, numbers of our MSPs in the Scottish Parliament have dropped from 17 in the first Parliament to five now; at Westminster, in roughly the same timeframe, our MPs have reduced from 10 to four; whilst in Scotland’s local authorities the number of Lib Dem councillors has atrophied from 170 in 2003 to 67 today.

That’s an approximate reduction of two thirds overall which, however you might try to dress it up, cannot be celebrated as progress; quite the opposite. The reasons  why this might be so are many and varied and I have written about some of them before, so now is not the time to beat that particular drum again. Suffice to say that continuing to do more of the same, in terms of electioneering and campaigning, and expecting different results falls very neatly into Einstein’s definition of madness. Radical change in strategy and tactics is called for, and it can’t come a moment too soon.

What hope for the future, then? The prospects for the Holyrood elections next May – if Covid-19 allows them to take place – aren’t looking too rosy for the party. Multiple successive polls have put the party at between 6 – 8% or the projected vote, in many cases a lesser proportion than the Scottish Green party. Below the Greens for goodness sake! How are the mighty fallen. Most commentators predict a healthy majority for the SNP and their Green allies, although the only poll that matters is the election vote itself, and politics is a fickle mistress. We may be surprised yet.

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Scotland passes landmark bill aimed at ending period poverty

It is unbelievable that in the third decade of the 21st century, people have to miss out on education because they can’t afford tampons or sanitary towels during their period.

In a 2018 survey, a quarter of respondents said they had struggled to access period products.

Yesterday, Scotland became the first country in the world to pass a law putting an obligation on local authorities to provide period products free of charge to anyone who needs them.

From the BBC:

The scheme will need to be operational

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Scots need hope for a progressive United Kingdom

Boris Johnson has clearly demonstrated this week that he is a severe threat to Scotland’s place within the United Kingdom. Liberal Democrats need to consider any strategy which can give Scots a vision of a progressive United Kingdom freed from Boris Johnson’s “leadership”.

This is a speech I intended to deliver at Scottish conference last month, and I dearly hope this course can be seriously considered and deployed in good time to positively affect our performance in elections next May.

“I am deeply worried about Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom. I see polls showing support for Independence at 58%. I see within those polls that younger generations support Independence at a rate close to 4 to 1.

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