Tag Archives: Scotland

History made as the Scottish Parliament passes landmark Social Security Bill, improved by cross-party co-operation

Last Wednesday the Scottish Parliament passed the Social Security Bill which gives power over many disability and carers benefits as well as some aspects of Universal Credit. It was a marathon debate with over 120 amendments. One of the really good things about the Scottish Parliament’s modern systems is that you can have many more votes. Unlike the House of Commons where each vote means 15 minutes of queuing, at Holyrood, it’s a second of button pushing. This has meant a much more wide-ranging debate. To the SNP Government’s credit, Social Security Minister Jeane Freeman engaged with the opposition parties and not only listened to what they had to say but took it on board as well.

One particular issue was the issue of terminal illness. At the moment, to access benefits if you are terminally ill, you have to have six months or less to live. In a move even supported by the Conservatives in the Scottish Parliament, there will be no limit.

The Liberal Democrats have no representation on the Social Security Committee, but worked with Green and Labour MSPs to ensure that there will be no unnecessary disability benefit assessments, and for those that have to take place, the person involved will have a say in when and where they should take place.

Unlike south of the border, the Bill provides for the housing element of Universal Credit to be paid directly to the landlord and, as the result of an amendment, to be split between joint claimants in a household. The latter is an important point. If there is domestic abuse in a relationship, there will likely be financial abuse as well, so it is important that everyone has some level of financial independence. That is going to be a difficult one to implement because the DWP will drag its heels. I hope, though, that they will find a way to do this for the whole of the UK.

The DWP also needs to address issues with the direct payment to landlords. At the moment, payments are being delayed. They are aware of the fault but not seeing a sense of urgency about fixing it.

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Scottish Lib Dems highlight “destructive” short prison sentences for pregnant women

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Liam McArthur MSP has today revealed that dozens of pregnant women have served destructive short-term prison sentences in the last five years. He says that this einforces the need for the Scottish Government to press ahead with a presumption against jail sentences of less than 12 months.

He uncovered figures under freedom of information which reveal that since 2013 there have been 104 pregnant women in prison, of whom 31 gave birth while serving their sentence. Of these 104 women, 37 were given sentences of less than 12 months.

In 2012, the Scottish Government commissioned a report from former Prosecutor Dame Elish Angiolini highlighted the negative impact of custodial sentences on the children of offenders, something that affects many more women than men:

More women offenders have dependant children than men and only a small proportion (17 per cent) of children with mothers in prison live with their fathers while their mother is incarcerated. Approximately 30 per cent of children with imprisoned parents will develop physical and mental health problems, and there is a higher risk of these children themselves also ending up in prison.

Liam said:

The fact that 37 expectant mothers have been given destructive short-term sentences in recent years should have alarm bells ringing.

All the evidence shows that short-term sentences don’t work and are less effective than robust community-based disposals in reducing reoffending. Rates of reoffending amongst those who have served short stints in prison are sky high. That is why Scottish Liberal Democrats have consistently urged the Scottish Government to introduce a presumption against sentences of less than 12 months, something Ministers now accept would be a positive step.

If in the process it means more pregnant women pay for any crime they have committed through robust means short of prison then that has to be in everyone’s interests.

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Willie Rennie calls for Land Value Tax “to shape society and economy in fair and just way”

It was the Greens’ opposition day debate in the Scottish Parliament. They chose to hold it on local government finance.

It was a worthy subject, but they were a little muted. Their Andy Wightman made a speech which pretty much said “The Council Tax is bad. Let’s replace it with something.”

Don’t get me wrong, this was fine as far as it went. It was certainly a million miles better than the Tories and SNP who voted together to keep the Council Tax that the latter had once railed against.

If you are one of those liberals whose hearts beat a little faster at the mention of Land Value Taxation, you might want to sit down and have some smelling salts handy. Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie espoused that old liberal idea from the dawn of time, saying that it would change the way our society and economy works in a fair and just way. Here’s his speech in full:

We have heard from Murdo Fraser and James Kelly that the SNP has been on a journey with the council tax. There was a time when it would take every opportunity to condemn it. Alex Salmond called it unfair and insisted that he would scrap it, but he did not. Nicola Sturgeon said—quite strongly—that she “hated” it. She went on to criticise any suggestion that it should be tinkered with, but then she did that.

Now SNP members seem to be the staunchest defenders of the council tax. When they secured the support of the Greens and the Labour Party for their arbitrary increases to the council tax, I argued that those would not be the first steps towards further reforms but the last steps. We have heard from the minister this afternoon that we will have to get a consensus across the Parliament from the other parties before he will even consider taking our proposals forward. Rather than being with us on developing a consensus, he is going to be a bystander, and his long-grass amendment confirms that.

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Brexit isn’t just causing problems with Northern Ireland

One of the most astonishing things about the last few days is how willing Brexiteers have been to jeopardise decades of peace in Northern Ireland.

Most of them are old enough to go better. I grew up in the 70s and 80s and remember the turmoil. I had relatives who missed being blown up by a matter of minutes. The loss of life and violence and uncertainty was horrendous and that time should not be easily or lightly forgotten.

But it’s not just that part of the UK that’s heading for constitutional issues because of Brexit. The failure of the Scottish and …

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Vince focuses on housing as he visits his old Council ward

Vince Cable is up in Scotland this weekend. He’s speaking at East Dunbartonshire Lib Dems’ dinner tonight. It’s the local party’s first dinner since Jo Swinson was re-elected as MP last June.

He took a nostalgic trip to his old Council ward in Glasgow Maryhill first. He was a Labour councillor back in the 70s. When he was a councillor he and colleagues got tenements refurbished and saved a community from dispersal.

He said:

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Scottish Lib Dems launch consultation on social care.

We will all have some contact with the social care system at some point whether it is for ourselves or for someone we love.

Social care policy is devolved to Scotland and the Liberal Democrats have a proud record. Despite what the SNP tried to tell us in their party political broadcast this week, it was the Liberal Democrats, in coalition with Labour, who introduced it back in the glorious days of the early 2000s.

Things aren’t going so well, though, as an ageing population puts huge pressure on the system.

At any one time, around 1,000 patients are stuck in hospital because …

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15 year old Lib Dem Jess Insall’s campaign gets support from Scottish Government

Last month, 15 year old Scottish Young Liberal Jess Insall successfully proposed a motion at Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference which called for gender neutral school uniforms, a simple concept that would make a huge difference to the culture in our schools. Jo Swinson backed the motion and told Conference that if uniform stopped girls doing cartwheels, then it was the wrong uniform.

Today the Scottish Government has expressed support for this move, as reported in iNews.

Schools across the country should consider making uniforms gender-neutral rather than forcing girls to wear skirts and boys to wear trousers, the Scottish Government has said.

Responding to a campaign led by a 15-year-old schoolgirl, a spokesman said ministers agreed that boys and girls “should be treated equally” when it came to the uniforms they wore. “It’s not about dictating the way anyone dresses”

The development comes after teenager Jess Insall successfully passed a motion in favour of the move at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference earlier this year.

Jess is quoted in the article:

“It isn’t saying that everyone has to wear the same uniform – it’s saying that whatever the uniform is, there can’t be any difference between genders,” she told i. “Instead of saying boys have to wear trousers and girls have to wear skirts, schools can say pupils can choose between skirts or trousers. “It’s not about dictating the way anyone dresses. ‘Gender-neutral’ can be quite an alienating term, but all it really means is not treating people differently because of their gender.”

She also talked about the practical disadvantages of strict gender rules:

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Sick absence figures reveal extent of strains on NHS staff as 45 million hours lost in Scotland alone

Last year, my husband spent 51 days in hospital. He received excellent care from compassionate and skilled staff at what was an absolutely terrifying time for us.

That experience gave us an insight into the strains and stresses that the NHS faces. The most common refrain from staff was that it was so stressful and the Winter hadn’t even started yet.

He spent a just over a month in a medical ward in our local hospital and a further three weeks in a specialist centre in our nearest city. On only one occasion in the whole 51 days did I see staff going home when they were actually supposed to. There were times when I was shocked to see the same members of staff on their 5th or even 6th 12 hour shift in a week. One day I arrived at the hospital in the afternoon to see a health care assistant who had been on night shift the previous night. Because the ward was so under-staffed, she had gone home, slept for a couple of hours and come back in for the busy stretch around lunch and dinner.

During their shifts, the nurses did not stop. They were dealing with multiple stressful situations at a time. They were stretched to the limit.

Obviously a situation like that is not sustainable. It’s going to affect people’s health in some way or another. Alex Cole-Hamilton now has evidence of that.

He revealed that more than 45 million hours have been lost by Scottish NHS boards to staff ill health during the past four years and said the immense pressure staff are under could account for rates rising.

Data obtained from health boards under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that the number of hours lost to illness increased from 11.4 million hours in 2014-15 to 13.1 million hours in 2016-17, with the number rising year on year.

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Willie Rennie’s Christmas Message: Scottish Lib Dems stand up for better mental health, education and police services

Embed from Getty Images

Here is Willie Rennie’s Christmas Message:

May I wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

2017 was the year the Liberal Democrats turned the corner. We started winning elections again with more MPs and in charge of more councils. I believe that winning is not just good for the Liberal Democrats but is also good for the country.

It means that we have moderate, outward looking, optimistic voices making the case for change and challenging authority and government.

It means that we can shout louder for people who need mental health services. The services are inadequate and must change.

It means we can challenge with greater impact the government and police chiefs on the running of Police Scotland. Without the Liberal Democrats many of the problems of Police Scotland would have gone untested and unchallenged.

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Politics Galore – a new podcast about Scottish of politics

One of the reasons I prefer writing over speaking in public is that my gob doesn’t have a backspace key. However, I am not known for my silence or unwillingness to express an opinion so when I was invited to take part in a new podcast about Scottish politics, I jumped at the chance.

On Thursday, just after the Scottish Budget was announced, I spent an enjoyable half an hour talking over the issues of the day with the hosts Andrew Jackson and David McColgan.

I don’t think I said anything too embarrassing but have a listen to try and …

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Budget drama in Scotland – Willie Rennie wants “an education focus as never before”

The Scottish Government unveils its budget this Thursday. The SNP mislaid their majority in Holyrood in the elections last year so there could be a bit of drama between now and February when the Finance Bill is finalised.

The last time a Budget fell was in 2009 when the Greens, to everyone’s surprise, voted against. A couple of weeks later, to nobody’s surprise, they voted for it but hadn’t extracted anything of consequence from the Government.

When John Swinney was Finance Minister, he used to engage pretty well with the other parties. Willie Rennie was able to get things like free school meals, tens of thousands of college places and nursery education for 2 years olds put in. However, now that we have started beating the SNP pretty comprehensively, the atmosphere has turned a bit nasty.

New Finance Minister Derek Mackay is playing games with crucial inter-island ferry services in Orkney and Shetland, both represented by Liberal Democrat MSPs. Various SNP Ministers have been giving the very strong impression that they would help the Islands Councils with the cost of these ferries without which some remote communities simply could not survive.

Now, however, they are inferring that it’ll only go in the Budget if the Lib Dems promise to vote for it. That sort of posturing doesn’t play well in those communities. The issue was debated in Parliament last week during a Lib Dem opposition day and the Transport Minister Humza Yousaf made a pretty blatant threat.

There is a window of opportunity for Liberal Democrat members of the Scottish Parliament. Either they can engage positively in the budget, have a discussion about this important issue and side with their constituents, or they can play party politics.

I mean, we’d brought the issue to the floor of the Parliament, which was discussing it at that time and made its view plain by passing the Lib Dem motion. If SNP ministers fail to honour Parliament’s wishes, that is a pretty serious thing. 

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Scottish Conference to discuss WASPI women, Exit from Brexit, mental health and gender neutral school uniform

Scottish Lib Dem Autumn Conference takes place next Saturday, 11th November, in Dunfermline.

There are keynote speeches from Willie Rennie and Jo Swinson and a dazzling array of debates and policy motions.

The Scottish Young Liberals have provided some excellent motions on getting young people more involved in shaping public services and on civil education. Also, a young member has independently put forward a motion calling for gender neutral school uniform.

Christine Jardine MP and Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP put forward West Edinburgh’s motion to support women affected by changes to the State Pension age.

Housing standards and mental health provision for rural areas will also be debated. 

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Cole-Hamilton: Children must have equal protection from assault

Well, this will probably be a controversial one as the issue over whether parents should have the right to hit their children for some peculiar reason always causes a big argument in liberal circles. My own view has always been that there are no circumstances in which it is justifiable to hit a child and that there is always a better way. Having children grow up thinking that it’s fine to hit someone smaller and defenceless to get your own way really isn’t a good look. Some children will grow up emotionally scarred from the experience of what some people …

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Willie Rennie to hold talks with SNP over support for Brexit deal referendum

The quest to build a case for an “exit from Brexit” referendum continues. In his speech to the Bournemouth Conference, Willie Rennie said he would be trying to work with the SNP to build support for the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ campaign for an “exit from Brexit” referendum.

He wrote to the First Minister and she has agreed that this merits discussion.

Willie will now meet the Scottish Government Minister Mike Russell for talks on this issue. He welcomed this invitation:

This is a welcome step forward from the Scottish Government and shows that there is support from across the political spectrum for a clear approach to Brexit that gives the British people a final say.

Both Nicola Sturgeon and Mike Russell have shown support for our campaign to give the public the final say but this can only be achieved if parties are willing to work together to protect the UK’s relationship with the EU. I know that there are colleagues across all UK parties who support this position and I urge them to join this movement and build the momentum further.

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Willie Rennie: Liberal Democrats have been at the forefront of devolution

I was still living in England at the time of the 1997 election. As the results came through, I nipped upstairs in the sports centre in Chesterfield where I was at the count to watch some results on the telly. There were was one other person in the room, Tony Benn, who was eating a white chocolate Magnum. Anyway, I was quietly blubbing with joy because I knew that this result would mean that we would get a Scottish Parliament.

A lot has happened since then. Some of the Lib Dems’ finest moments came during their 8 years in coalition with Labour at Holyrood. Free personal care, STV for local government, free eye and dental checks, the smoking ban (ahead of similar measures down south), right to roam, decent freedom of information legislation were just some of the things that we got done. The paucity of the SNP’s achievements in their decade in power do not compare well.

On this 20th anniversary of the devolution referendum, Willie Rennie said:

Liberal Democrats are proud of the part we played in bringing about the devolution voted for in 1997 and enacted from 1999. A decentralised United Kingdom, with decision making closer to people, with a pluralist approach at its heart, reflected decades of campaigning for Britain to become a modern democracy.

Liberal Democrats were part of the civic movement in Scotland, through the Constitutional Convention, that set down the clear path for a devolved parliament with real powers. And they were able to take up their places inside the newly elected Scottish Parliament after the first elections.

Liberal Democrats can be proud that the big difference made to people’s lives in Scotland –free personal care for the elderly and the revolution in renewable energy to name just two – came as a result of the work of Liberal Democrats in the first term of office. People even now still demand that governments of all stripes get as much done in their terms of office as we did back then.

The whole of the UK has benefited from devolution and the transfers of powers that have taken place since 1999.

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LibLink: Willie Rennie: Lib Dems put forward a vision of Scotland at the heart of both unions

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are the place to be if you want to stay in the UK and the EU, says Willie Rennie. In a wide-ranging article for Holyrood magazine, he sets out what we would do to tackle the crisis in Scotland’s public services. Health, education and the Police are all in a mess and we have the ideas to fix them.

A strong education system is the key to a strong economy in the long term. It is critical that we educate future generations so that they have all the skills they need to succeed.

Failing at education is failing on the future of Scotland. The SNP have let Scotland’s world-leading education system fall from the best in the world to just average.

Eighty-six per cent of teachers say their workload has risen in the last year, yet John Swinney has his head in the sand and refuses to take action to relieve the pressure our teachers face.

We have had a year of assurances from the Scottish Government that they are tackling this major problem, but teachers say the problem is getting worse rather than better.

Instead of nationalist spin, teachers, parents and pupils want concrete action.

That’s why my party used budget negotiations to press the SNP over its dramatic cuts to college budgets, which have led to 150,000 fewer college places today compared to when the SNP came to power, as well as for transformative investment in Scottish education.

The health service in Scotland is under immense pressure. GP surgeries are closing their lists to new patients and others are contemplating closure because they can’t find the staff they so desperately need.

Meanwhile, children are waiting years to receive mental health treatment while the country barrels towards a staffing crisis that risks bringing the service to its knees.

This year my party have pressed the SNP to deliver the required funding and provide a new mental health practitioner in every surgery, relieving the pressure on other parts of the service. This is how we build a healthier Scotland.

Only the Liberal Democrats consistently opposed SNP centralisation of the police force and once again, this year we have been central to scrutinising the actions of the single force.

We told the SNP that their politically motivated centralisation of the police would damage those services, but they did not listen.

Instead, the closure of police control rooms in Aberdeen and Inverness has caused havoc to the services in the North and North East, leading to a series of serious and potentially life-threatening blunders, like sending police to Glasgow instead of Aberdeen.

Every time the SNP attempts another power grab, mistakes are made and our communities suffer.

The Scottish Government must call an end to the one-size-fits-all agenda and find a way to give powers back to our communities.

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Scottish Parliament calls for rollout of Universal Credit to be halted

Alex Cole-Hamilton was one of the MSPs calling for the rollout of Universal Credit to be halted during a debate in the Scottish Parliament today. Only the Conservatives defended the continued rollout.

We know that people are having to wait up to 6 weeks for any money at all. MSPs had some real horror stories to report which you can see in the full record of the debate here.

Alex’s speech was very well crafted – and it was candid, too. He both acknowledged and distanced himself from the Liberal Democrat role in the coalition government’s welfare reform. However, he was able to show that without us there, the Tories have done a great deal worse. Here’s his speech in full.

I often speak with hyperbole in this place about the various responsibilities that we as decision makers discharge both in this Parliament and at Westminster, but the safety net that we provide for those who, for whatever reason, cannot provide for themselves should be the measure of any civilised society. My party has a proud history in the genesis and introduction of the welfare state in the early days of the 20th century, with the first state pension introduced under Lloyd George. In the 1940s, that great Liberal William Beveridge was the catalyst for the advent of social security when he identified the original “giant evils”, as he described them, of ignorance, idleness, squalor, want and disease. It is a failure of progress that, if we strip out the antiquated language, many of those evils still hold sway in our society today.

We should remember that, until this decade, the systems of welfare in this country had not undergone significant reform since their introduction, despite generations of incremental modification. For decades, welfare reform was sought by poverty campaigners, third sector organisations and academics so that we could dispense with unneeded red tape and inject much-needed social mobility into the system.

It fell to my party, in its period of coalition government, to co-preside over that much-needed redesign. I would, however, that we had had different bedfellows in that task. There are elements of the system that underpins the process that I take no pride in at all, and there are aspects of the new system that I still find shameful. Nevertheless, I am glad that we were there, for I dread to think of the welfare system that our Conservative partners would have designed unencumbered. We all saw the measure of the ideological compass behind Conservative social policy in the ill-fated manifesto that Theresa May published in the spring.

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Willie Rennie’s programme for government: Better schools, mental health care, more democracy in police

Yesterday the Scottish Government unveiled its Programme for Government for the coming year. It wouldn’t have to go far to beat last year’s which saw precious little legislation. However, there is some stuff that we can welcome, so long as it delivers what it says on the tin. Lib Dems pardons for those convicted of consensual same sex activity, consultation on gender recognition and more inclusive sex education, presumption against prison sentences under 12 months, free personal care for people under 65 with seriously disabling conditions and raising the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12. This last measure is one which they shamefully and resolutely refused to do during the last Parliament despite pressure from the then Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Alison McInnes.

There is still precious little investment in mental health. The warm words doesn’t match up to the facilities available on the ground. One real pinch point is the transition from child to adult mental health services. Young people have to wait up to a year and more to even be seen by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. Once they have managed to be seen, the treatment is good – but when they hit 18, there is very little for them and the services are arranged in a very different way. A child can go from fairly intensive support to nothing.

Below is Willie Rennie’s full speech in response to the Government’s programme in which he sets out Lib Dem priorities of using the tax powers to invest in education and to provide more and better mental health services.

He also suggests that the Lib Dems are sceptical about Holyrood voting against the European Withdrawal Bill because he thinks that the SNP are using it to drive a wedge between Scotland and England. Certainly the issue is more complex – both Scotland’s governments are letting it down in this regard.

“On Saturday afternoon, together with Alex Cole Hamilton, I joined a group of breast cancer survivors called the Port Edgar Dragons.  We were on their magnificent dragon boat Isla May on the River Forth.  They are a wonderful group of women who show gutsy human spirit to improve their health.

We had an alternative view of the Queensferry Crossing whilst thousands of lucky people enjoyed a stroll over the magnificent new structure.  The engineers and workers should be proud of their achievement.

“Those who argued it was not necessary only need cast their mind back to the winter of 2015 when the old bridge was forced to close or a little further back when it was discovered that the main cables were corroding.

“As with any project of that scale it has not been without its problems but it was a necessary investment to guarantee one of the major arteries down the east of the country.

“The summer recess should have allowed us all to reflect on one of the most turbulent periods in politics for some time.  With nine sets of elections and referendums in the last six years people have had their fill.

“People want elected politicians to deliver real improvements to their lives. They are fed up with the endless focus on independence. To give credit to the First Minister she recognised that in June when she signalled that she was cooling on independence.  I was sceptical at the time and will always be suspicious but for now we have a chance to focus on real change.

“And today’s announcement on a presumption against prisons sentences of twelve months or less is a start.  We have been calling for this for some time.

“After opposing it twice I am pleased to see the SNP are now prepared to raise the age of criminal responsibility. These are real liberal measures which we will support. Yet the problems our country faces are significant.

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Linda’s last day

I can’t quite imagine Clifton Terrace without Linda

What will we do without Linda?

An utter legend

Variants of the above have been said so many times in Scotland in recent weeks, ever since it was announced that our much-loved Party Manager Linda Wilson was leaving us.

For the last 8 and a half years, Linda has been the heart and soul of our headquarters in Edinburgh, running the party with incredible efficiency, with a tremendous capacity to sort stuff out.

She’s run our conferences so that they are enjoyable for media, members and exhibitors alike.

Everyone who has anything to do with Conference or HQ has something nice to say about her.

Apart from her ability to Get Stuff Done, she has a wicked sense of humour and has constantly made us laugh with her pithy observations about life and the universe. She has no reservations about telling people exactly what she thinks when they deserve to hear it.

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The Press Pack: A round-up of Lib Dem media comments – 22 August 2017

Here’s a roundup of  media comments made by Lib Dem parliamentarians and spokespeople today.

GP numbers

Norman Lamb slammed the Government for failing to deliver more GPs:

The government’s promise to recruit 5,000 more GPs by 2020 lies in tatters, with fewer GPs now than when this pledge was first made.

“The pitiful increase we have seen in recent months is nowhere near enough to cope with rising patient demand.

“This failure to recruit enough doctors will inevitably have a damaging impact on the ability of patients to access the healthcare they need.

“We are already close to breaking point, with people in many parts of the country struggling to get appointments with their GP.

“More doctors are urgently needed to guarantee a fully-staffed NHS that provides everyone with the care they need.

Swinson criticises UK support for Trump Afghanistan move

The government didn’t really get round to condemning Donald Trump’s appalling remarks in the wake of Charlottesville, but they were quick off the mark to support him sending more troops to Afghanistan. Jo Swinson said:

For once, sense seems to have prevailed in the White House.

“But to succeed in Afghanistan will require winning the hearts and minds of its people and working closely with neighbouring countries.

“On that front, Donald Trump has already done untold damage through his proposed refugee ban, Islamophobic comments and cack-handed approach to foreign affairs.

“The government’s rapid statement of support for Trump today contrasts with its failure to swiftly condemn his divisive views and actions in the past.

“Simply pouring more troops into Afghanistan will not work without a broader strategy involving careful diplomacy and redoubled efforts to build a stable government.”

Even Brussels must be tired of this waffle

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Willie Rennie – the “secret guilty pleasure” of singer and columnist Michelle McManus


MichelleMcManus2010
Michelle McManus

Winner of Pop Idol 2003, singer, broadcaster, actress and columnist, Michelle McManus must have brought blushes to the cheeks of Willie Rennie with this passage in her Glasgow Evening Times column:

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Another civil liberties victory for the Scottish Lib Dems

Over the years, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have been responsible for a number of changes in policing and civil liberties policies in Scotland. After we led the opposition, the Scottish Government had to abandon plans for a super ID database that would have made Labour’s look like a champion of civil liberties. Alison McInnes, when she was Justice Spokesperson in the last Parliament, successfully fought both routine arming of the Police and indiscriminate stop and search.

That record continues as the Lib Dems have now ensured that Police Scotland has deleted records of half a billion numberplates captured under numberplate recognition.

From Scotland on Sunday:

The climbdown comes after a Lib Dem Freedom of Information request last year revealed that 852,507,524 number plate records captured by automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras across the country were held in a Police Scotland database, with data available from as far back as 2009. Data retention laws require that any such information is only kept for crimes, while all other data must be deleted. The Lib Dems had expressed concern that the retention of so much information relating to innocent individuals was infringing on people’s civil liberties. The number of records deleted was revealed by the police in response to another Freedom of Information request submitted by the Lib Dems. Information provided by the police showed 547,459,904 number plate records had been disposed of.

Scottish Lib Dem Justice Spokesperson Liam McArthur said:

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Willie Rennie’s final rallying call: Lib Dem MPs will put Scotland at heart of UK & UK at heart of Europe

Willie Rennie holds his last campaign rally in North East Fife where he hopes Elizabeth Riches will take the seat for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

He will say

In place like East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh West, North East Fife, the North East, Argyll and the Highlands people have a chance to have a MP that will stand strongly against independence and put the local community first.

In this election we have set out a clear and positive message that Scotland is best served when it is at the heart of the UK and the UK is at the heart of Europe. The

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Scottish Liberal Democrats to launch manifesto

Willie Rennie will launch the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ manifesto this morning at an Edinburgh mental health charity.

We will have the details later, but ahead of the launch he said:

Votes for the Liberal Democrats will stop another divisive independence referendum from the nationalists.

With the Scottish economy teetering on the edge of a recession, the performance of Scottish education dropping down the international rankings and mental health services failing to deliver, the last thing our country needs is another divisive and distracting independence referendum.

The Liberal Democrats are setting out a positive plan to invest in mental health and education. A modest penny on tax secures those.

We will protect jobs in Scotland by opposing an extreme Conservative Brexit and giving people the right to reject a bad deal.

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The SNP and the Tories are using the same playbook to delegitimise opposition and checks on their power

There has been a very unfortunate trend in recent years of those in power condemning anyone who stands in their way. We all remember the failure of the Conservative Justice Secretary Liz Truss to stand up for the Supreme Court judges who upheld the law after the “enemies of the people” headline. However, that wasn’t the first time the judiciary had come under such attack. Back in 2011, Alex Salmond insulted Lord Hope, a judge who had found the Scottish Government to be wanting on human rights. As I wrote at the time:

Peter Cadder, whose case sparked the SNP’s casual quadrupling of pre-charge detention time in an afternoon last year, won his human rights case because, then a teenager, he had not had access to a lawyer before a police interrogation that led to his conviction for assault.  Now, to me, it seems eminently reasonable that people should have access to lawyers. A system that does not allow that is flawed. Rather than slag off judges and court judgements, surely the Scottish Justice Department would be better off comparing Scots law with European human rights law and sorting out where there could be problems. You could argue this should have been done years ago.

Alex Salmond is pandering to a Daily Fail type agenda with is comments and he needs to catch himself on.

The Tories and the right wing press are playing from the same playbook with their “saboteurs” and “enemies of the people” narrative as if they alone are the true diviners of the will of the people as if that is as immovable as Mount Everest. There’s a certain irony about those who claim to be all about enacting the will of the people zealously ensuring that the people don’t get a chance to mark their homework.

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Rennie reveals “appalling” child mental health waits

There are five key elements to the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ main themes for this General Election. We plant ourselves firmly on the side of the majority of people in Scotland – pro EU, pro UK and progressive. And we say that our priorities for any extra money coming to Scotland are education and mental health. None of this is particularly surprising as Willie Rennie has been banging on about it for years.

The SNP is in charge of health and education in Scotland and has failed miserably on both. This week very poor literacy figures came out. Given every child under 15 has received their entire education under the SNP.

One barrier to being able to make the most of education is poor mental health. Willie has been talking for some time about a constituent whose child had to wait a year for mental health treatment. If you think about it, that’s a sixth of their secondary education. Once proper support begins, it’s not a quick job to restore good health so the impact on children’s lives is real and damaging.

New statistics acquired by the party through freedom of information requests have shown that five big Scottish health boards, including Lothians, Fife and Highland, recorded cases of children waiting over a year for mental health treatment in 2016/17 or on their current waiting lists.

They include children and young people waiting:

666 days in Lothian before starting treatment in 2016/17
623 days in Highland before starting treatment in 2016/17
611 days in Fife currently
448 days in Ayrshire and Arran currently
385 days in Grampian before starting treatment in 2016/17

After publishing the new figures, Willie commented:

It is appalling to learn that children and young people are still waiting almost two years for the mental health treatment they need. Waiting more than 600 days for help must feel like a lifetime. SNP ministers should hang their heads in shame.

These new statistics show why SNP Government was so wrong to reject the opportunity to invest to transform mental health services in its budget. It shows the damage caused by its letting the mental health strategy expire for 15 months. Its replacement has finally been published but charities and pressure groups have rightly declared it lacks ambition, detail and investment.

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Why we don’t need another divisive independence referendum

Willie Rennie will probably be disappointed that he didn’t actually get to scrap a car when he visited a scrap yard in Fife this morning. He went there to say that the Liberal Democrats would “scrap the SNP’s plans for another divisive independence referendum.”

He did, however, manage to look disapproving:

He said:

The Liberal Democrats are clear that we want to scrap the SNP’s independence referendum.

The news this week that Scottish education standards on literacy and numeracy have dropped right back shows why it is important.

It is clear to me that if we can stop the SNP’s independence referendum then we can force the Scottish Government to focus on education instead.

The last thing Scotland needs is another divisive independence referendum. It must be scrapped.

There is actually very little appetite, even from some who voted Yes last time, to go through another independence referendum. The divisions from that time are only just starting to heal for some. And as soon as Nicola Sturgeon made her announcement in March, my Twitter timeline was full of the old invective from the cybernats. The rancour invades even the most random areas of our lives, as my husband’s experience shows.

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Willie Rennie: Every Liberal Democrat councillor will be a champion for their community, not a cheerleader for independence

Willie Rennie has delivered his final rallying call of the Council campaign in Scotland. Every council seat in the country is up for grabs today.

This is what he had to say:

It is incredibly important that everyone has their say on who they want to represent their community.

Every Liberal Democrat Councillor will be a local champion that communities deserve. They will work all year round, not just at election time. Despite the Greens and the SNP wanting to put independence back to the top of the agenda, Liberal Democrats will serve to deliver the improvements to local services that we need.

Our

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Save the date: 24 May for TV Leaders’ Debate

And it’ll be a good one, too.

No, Theresa and Jeremy haven’t overcome their fear of Tim Farron. This is the Scottish Leaders’ Debate where Willie Rennie will spend an hour and a half at 8:30 pm on STV debating Nicola Sturgeon, Kezia Dugdale and Ruth Davidson.

From the STV website:

The Scottish debates are usually of pretty decent quality and you should be able to watch on the live stream south of the border.

 

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Rennie: Liberal Democrats have the momentum

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has  declared that momentum has given the Liberal Democrats the upper hand in the snap general election.

Since the announcement on Tuesday of a snap election 8,000 people have joined the party with membership more than double than what it was before the election in 2015.  The party also raised £500,000 in just 48 hours.

In an email to members, Willie wrote:

Nobody was expecting the announcement on Tuesday but the calling of the general election has given the Liberal Democrats real momentum. A staggering  8000 new members joined the party in the 48 hours after the election was called as people have flocked to us in a bid to change the direction of this country. No other party has seen such a surge.

The upcoming election comes on top of the 30 council by-elections that the Liberal Democrats have gained since last year, including in Scotland. And who could forget that historic by-election victory in Richmond, overturning a Tory majority of 23,000 to be the voice against the Conservative hard Brexit.

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