Tag Archives: scottish parliament

7 November 2018 – (the rest of) today’s press releases

Tonight’s press releases are brought to you from Madrid, where hundreds of liberals from across Europe are gathering for the ALDE Party Congress. This feature might be rather more erratically timed than usual until Sunday…

Brexit legal advice must be published

Liberal Democrat Brexit Spokesperson Tom Brake has called on the Government to end their “murky games” and publish all legal advice on Brexit plans for the Irish border.

Mr Brake said:

Refusing to publish legal advice on Brexit makes a mockery of the discredited mantra ‘Take Back Control’. Choosing to withhold this information from the public raises serious questions about what

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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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Willie Rennie’s masterclass in what to do when you say something you shouldn’t

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie was interviewed today on Sunday Politics Scotland. Like Tim Farron earlier, he made some excellent points on the issues of the day.

This week, it looks as though the SNP could fail to get their budget through. The SNP does not have a majority at Holyrood. The Greens are pushing them for a 60% tax rate, which finance minister Derek Mackay has ruled out. Willie has been talking to Derek Mackay for weeks now and has made clear that unless he is prepared to put in significant investment in mental health and education, then the Liberal Democrats won’t support it.

Willie made that point very clearly in the interview, coming across very reasonably. You can watch the whole thing here towards the end of the programme.

It was when he was asked about the possibility of an election, that he made a wee slip of the tongue, though. We know that he loves campaigning. Remember the fun he had in last year’s election.. Unfortunately, rather than saying “I love campaigning”, he said “I love myself.” Believe me, those of us who work closely with him will make sure he never hears the end of that one.

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Rennie says SNP Government must put more into mental health, the police and helping disadvantaged kids in schools

It’s time for the Scottish Parliament to debate the Government’s budget plans for the coming year. It’s particularly interesting this year as the SNP no longer has a majority and must secure the backing, or at least the abstention, of others in order for the budget to pass.

Willie Rennie has written to Derek Mackay, the SNP’s Finance Minister, to set out the changes that the Liberal Democrats wish to see before they could consider supporting the budget.

It will come as no surprise to anyone that he is sticking to the priorities we outlined in our manifesto for the Scottish elections last year – more money for disadvantaged kids in schools as we implemented successfully south of the border, an expansion of mental health services, particularly for young people, and more funding for the Police who are struggling to cope with the SNP’s disastrous centralisation.

It’s quite important that we have all this in mind in everything that we do during this Parliament. We need to think about what we want to achieve and what we will have to say to voters in 2021 about what we have fought for and where we are not prepared to settle for tepid, unambitious half-measures. In the last Parliament, where the SNP had a majority, we still made issues like early years education, colleges, the Police, civil liberties and mental health our own and won significant concessions from the SNP in budget discussions. Now that there is no majority, we need to push for more.

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week? 12-16 September 2016

Scottish Parliament 3What are our MPs, MSPs, MEPs and AM’s going to be talking about this coming week?

Holyrood

On Tuesday, MSPs hear a statement on how the SNP government intends to resolve the mess they’ve made on agricultural payments.

There is also a debate on housing. Given that the government moved the goalposts on house building and the number of houses built for social rent has fallen well below both need and target, there is a great deal of jelly to be nailed to the wall.

On Wednesday there is a debate on Brexit and the UK’s negotiating position.

Domestic abuse law comes under scrutiny on Thursday

The Senedd

The Welsh Assembly is back this week.

On Tuesday they will debate substance misuse, implications of Brexit and First Minister Carwyn Jones will face his first question session.

Wednesday is an opposition day, with Plaid, UKIP and the Tories each having an hour for debate on a subject of their choice.

Westminster

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week? 5-9 September 2016

Scottish Parliament 3So, it’s term-time again. After a frenetic and dramatic end to the last parliamentary session, everyone has done their best to make sure it looks like nothing is happening over the past 6 weeks.

That’s all over now, though. The Westminster and Scottish parliaments are back in session this week.  Wales has another week off.

It’s time to get to grips with the major issues around Brexit. That’s going to be the only game in town for quite some time.

Holyrood

There are three major items of business this week. The first is a two day debate on the SNP Government’s plans for the year ahead.

They will include a Social Security Bill to take account of the new powers coming to Holyrood. The government has also stated that its key priorities are educational attainment (which it intends to tackle by national testing rather than more resources) and the economy. They will also be introducing measures on warm homes and climate change.

Nicola Sturgeon will be making a statement on Scotland’s place in Europe. Last week, Willie Rennie said that she was talking too much about independence. Will she offer any other approach?

Finally, there will be an update on the controversial named person scheme which was ruled illegal earlier this Summer. How will the government tackle the requirements of the court judgement?

Westminster

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Vikings, Unicorns and an open, inclusive Parliament to be proud of

Scotland’s Parliament is just 17 years old, but compared to its centuries old neighbour, it’s really been the grown-up this week. Four of its parties have really got to grips with strategic thinking, looking for ideas to help us through the current mire in which we find ourselves, a mire not of our making.

Today we had our equivalent of the State Opening of Parliament. It only happens once every five years and I was lucky enough to have a ticket. It\s very different from the Westminster event with all its pomp and tradition. True enough, there was a little bit of pomp, with the Queen’s Archers and bearers of such wonderful heraldic titles as “Unicorn Pursuivant.” However, this is very much an event for the people, filled with music, poetry and performance.

We were seated in the Gallery by 10am, an hour before the festivities were due to begin. We originally had fantastic front row seats, but were moved on because they were apparently reserved for the media. The National Youth Choir of Scotland sang songs including the Skye Boat Song, which has a special meaning for Lib Dems, and Burns’ Ae Fond Kiss.

At about 10:50, the state trumpeters who play the fanfare appeared near us. Screens showed the party leaders lined up outside, waiting for the Queen to arrive. We were slightly apprehensive about whether Willie would behave as he has form round royalty. Our fears were heightened when he bounded into the Chamber grinning and was the last to sit down and be quiet. We found out later that Prince Philip had complemented him on his buttonhole. The Duke wasn’t to know that five years ago, Willie hadn’t realised he had to have a buttonhole. His blushes were spared by Annabel Goldie, the then Tory leader, picking him a flower from one of Holyrood’s courtyard gardens.

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What Willie said…..when he stood for First Minister

Willie Rennie’s candidacy for First Minister in the Scottish Parliament this week attracted some comment in the press. Andrew Liddle in the Press and Journal was very complimentary:

While it was clearly going to end in defeat, it also offered up a golden opportunity for Mr Rennie to expound his platform.

True to character, it was an irreverent move, not a devious one.

Here is Willie’s speech – he combines exactly the right mix of self-deprecating humour and statesmanlike vision.

“Ohhhh dad. You’re not are you?”

Those were the encouraging words from my unimpressed 12 year old son when he heard on the radio this morning that I was standing for First Minister.

I told Stephen that I had been inspired by a women nationalist leader who stood up against the odds.

But unlike Leanne Wood I won’t be relying on UKIP votes today.

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It’s Willie vs Goliath in Holyrood

This afternoon, MSPs will choose the new First Minister of Scotland. Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the largest single party will not be unopposed, though. Willie Rennie, on his fifth anniversary as Scottish leader, is standing against her. Willie is a massive optimist, but I doubt even he expects to get more than a handful of votes. We won’t have a Wales scenario in Edinburgh. However, it is important that someone lays down a marker that the SNP, which no longer has a majority, has to work to make its case to Parliament. Nicola Sturgeon’s comments that she expects Parliament to respect her mandate are not the sort of comments you would expect from a leader without a majority. She has to show a bit of humility and respect for Parliament.

This will not be the only time when the Liberal Democrats will lead the opposition to the SNP, as we did so often in the last Parliament. On Thursday, Sturgeon presents her list of Ministers to the Parliament. Under its standing orders, Parliament can only reject any new names. It can’t pass judgement on any of the people already in post. Willie Rennie has appointed Mike Rumbles to be Business Manager (or chief whip). This is a role that he took during the last period of Holyrood minority government from 2007-11. His experience of the Parliament’s procedures will be helpful.

The Liberal Democrats have been horrified at the total muck-up the SNP has made over payments to farmers. During the election, Tavish Scott slammed the SNP for seeking to charge interest to farmers on emergency payments made to them while they sorted out their IT system. It seems incomprehensible that Parliament should not even get a say as to the performance of the Minister responsible. The Parliament has an opportunity to assert itself and reject that Minister. The Press and Journal reports:

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Alex Cole-Hamilton’s first week in Holyrood

It’s been a wee while since we’ve had a brand new Parliamentarian. Here’s how Alex Cole-Hamilton, who gained Edinburgh Western from the SNP last week, spent his first week in office.

Monday

Outgoing Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick instituted a 3 day induction for new MSPs so that they weren’t just thrown in the deep end. Here’s Alex enjoying his new office:

BBC Scotland were there filming. Watch from around 14 minutes in to see him have a wee bit of a jazz hands moment:

Tuesday

We always knew Alex would be a hard-working constituency MSP. On election day, the Post Office closed a vital Post Office with no notice. Alex was quickly on the case supporting local residents and explaining why this was such a problem for the community:

It’s terrible. The other closures in the area were carried out with the assurance that the office at Duart Crescent would remain open. If you are elderly, infirm or have kids it is too difficult to get down the hill to St John’s Road.

A post office is the surrogate hub of the community and much more than just somewhere to pick up your pension. It is the only slice of social inclusion available to some of the elderly residents. As we close these counters it is another barrier to their involvement in society.

I am sure we have all heard anecdotes of people raising the alarm as someone has not collected their pension for a couple of weeks. That will all be lost if this is a permanent closure.

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Willie Rennie: I want Scotland to be the best

In today’s Sunday Herald, Willie Rennie talks to political editor Tom Gordon about the Scottish Liberal Democrat campaign. He sets out the key Liberal Democrat themes:

I want to get Scotland back up there, with an ambitious programme for investing in education with a penny on income tax.

Protecting our civil liberties, getting our police force to be the best again so that it’s got the confidence of the public but also police officers themselves.

On the environment, making sure we have a very strong programme on fracking and not cutting Air Passenger Duty . And on the health service, making sure mental health services get the support they need and recruiting more GPs. You couldn’t be more positive than that.

As Holyrood gains new tax powers, Lib Dem plans to increase income tax by a penny to invest in education is the most radical in a set of fairly modest measures put forward by all the parties. The SNP have always talked a good fight, but when they are actually given significant power, it’s like they’ve been given a Ferrari that they won’t take out of second gear. Willie talked about the SNP’s timidity:

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What’s on in our Parliaments this week?

Scottish Parliament 3What are our MPs, MSPs, MEPs and AM’s going to be talking about this coming week?

Holyrood

Women will be a key focus of the Scottish Parliament this week with a debate on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against women on Wednesday which starts 16 days of activism lasting till Human Rights Day on 10 December.

There is also a debate on how welfare reform affects women on Thursday.

On Wednesday, controversy about the SNP Government’s decision to tender for the contract to run Clyde and Hebridean ferry services will be highlighted in a Labour Opposition Day Debate. No doubt Liam McArthur and Tavish Scott will want to mention the fundamental unfairness which has seen the Scottish Government cut ferry fares for islanders off the west coast, but not for the northern isles.  

The Senedd

AMs will be debating affordable housing, with North Wales Lib Dem Aled Roberts tabling some radical amendments calling for the planned rate of housebilding to be doubled. 

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MSPs reject Assisted Suicide Bill – read two compelling speeches from Lib Dems McArthur and McInnes

I was sad that Holyrood rejected the Assisted Suicide Bill yesterday, but I was heartened by the fact that support for such a measure is growing and I think the debate will continue.

It was also good to see that it was conducted in such a respectful and sensitive fashion.

I thought you might like to see the two speeches our MSPs made, one on each side of the argument from Alison McInnes and Liam McArthur. Both were brilliant, thoughtful and liberal. If I had been persuadable, Alison’s speech might have done it.

Alison McInnes:

I come to this debate as a liberal and

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Last chance to convince MSPs on Assisted Suicide Bill

From the Facebook page of my friend Anne, reproduced with her permission:

My mother was riddled with cancer, according to the Coroner, when she planned her successful suicide in 1972 at the age of 54. She waited for her first grandchild to be safely born, chose a day my brother and doctor wife were visiting so that my father wouldn’t find her, left notes around the house re unfinished business (including knitting for her grandson), went to a spare bedroom and took sleeping tablets writing a note as she fell asleep. It was the only way she could make sure the family didn’t watch her die a slow and painful death.

Under the new legislation, she could have met her grandson and we could have said our goodbyes. I have waited over forty years for this – please don’t make me wait any more.

Tomorrow the Scottish Parliament debates the Assisted Suicide Bill. This Bill would give terminally ill people the right to receive assistance in ending their lives within a very tightly regulated procedure as set out (from the My Life, My Death, My Choice” website) below:

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Who needs human rights?

Last week, in the run-up to Human Rights Day tomorrow,  the Scottish Parliament debated the Scottish National Action Plan on human rights. This aims to ensure that every citizen can realise these internationally recognised rights.

Alison McInnes led for the Liberal Democrats and she went through the SNP Government like a dose of salts for its dreadful stance on stop and search. She highlighted how any one of us might need these rights to protect us one day should we find ourselves sick or vulnerable. If you read the Daily Mail, it’ll tell you that human rights are nasty things that let terrorists off the hook. Well, actually, they  protect all of us from abuse by the state in all sorts of ways.

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Liam McArthur highlights Swinson’s and Featherstone’s work and supports ambition action on violence against women

Last week the Scottish Parliament debated violence against women during the 16 days of action between the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and International Human Rights day. Liam McArthur led for the Liberal Democrats. He noted that in the ninety minutes of the debate, 9 women would face violence at the hands of their partners.

It was a sensible, consensual debate which you can read here.  Liam’s speech in full is published below:

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What’s going on in our Parliaments this week?

Welsh National Assembly - Senedd - Some rights reserved by Wojtek GurakWhat will be on our parliamentarians’ minds this week?

The Senedd

The most important thing from a Liberal Democrat point of view is the ending of the consultation period on Kirsty Williams’ minimum nursing levels bill which she wrote about here in March. If you have something you want to say on this, you have till close of business tomorrow. Here’s the information you need to respond.

Today sees an event to mark Welsh Refugee Week. Later in the week there …

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Devo 15: 15 great achievements in 15 years of the Scottish Parliament

Tomorrow, it’s 15 years since the first meeting of the Scottish Parliament established after may years of work and campaigning by the Scottish Constitutional Convention. In that first decade and a half, it’s done some groundbreaking and pioneering things. It has a lot to be proud of. Here are some of Holyrood’s highlights.

1.  Free personal care for the elderly – Enabling older people to live at home for as long as possible

Stay Well At Home Service, Evesham, Britain

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Scottish leaders pay tribute to Margo MacDonald

Contains Scottish Parliamentary information licensed under the Open Scottish Parliament Licence v1.0.Today, the Lothians are especially grey and misty. The sight of brightly clad friends and colleagues of Independent MSP Margo MacDonald heading to her memorial service will be a real contrast, exactly as Margo has lit up Scottish politics since her Govan by-election victory 40 years ago. The whole of Scotland will have the chance to show its pride in a warm, straight-talking independent spirit.

Earlier this week, Scottish party leaders paid tribute to her in Parliament. Watched by her husband Jim Sillars and her daughters, they shared memories of how she fought for her causes, from independence to assisted dying and the rights of sex workers – and of how she told her female colleagues off if they didn’t wear enough jewellery.

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Alex Cole-Hamilton selected for Edinburgh Western

Alex Cole-Hamilton Edinburgh WesternThe Scottish Liberal Democrats are cracking ahead with selections for the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections. Alex Cole-Hamilton has been selected for the constituency of Edinburgh Western. This seat is part of Mike Crockart’s Westminster constituency and was held by Liberal Democrat Margaret Smith from 1999-2011.

From the Edinburgh Evening News:

Despite this year’s independence referendum and next year’s Westminster elections, Lib Dems in Edinburgh Western have already chosen their candidate in the 2016 Scottish Parliament elections and are promising a “relentless” drive to regain the seat from the SNP, who took it from them three years ago.

Former MSP Margaret Smith, who represented the constituency for 12 years, decided not to stand again.

In her place, charity worker Alex Cole-Hamilton – who has stood for both Holyrood and Westminster – has been selected to fight the seat.

He was chosen in a postal ballot of all party members in the constituency, which saw him win 71 per cent of the votes, with long-serving councillor Robert Aldridge the runner-up.

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Willie Rennie’s tribute to Nelson Mandela

This week, the Scottish Parliament paid tribute to Nelson Mandela. Here is Willie Rennie’s speech in full.

Like so many others, I saw today’s remarkable scenes from Johannesburg, with presidents and prime ministers, archbishops and cardinals, and village choirs and children from Soweto gathered in one place.

Nelson Mandela’s death was a moment that we all knew would come but, for most of our lives, we could only have dreamed that he would be able to pass on peacefully, in freedom and with the thanks of the world around him.

The vocation of politics to play a part in a changing world grew

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SNP’s white paper on independence – some first reaction and three initial questions from me

For months, years, even, whenever we’ve asked questions about independence, after we’ve been accused of scaremongering, we’ve been told to wait for the White Paper.

Well, that wait is over as the White Paper has now been published – or is it? Scotland’s Future, it’s called. That’s profound. We have a future? That’s kind of inevitable. It doesn’t promise a bright future, or a happy one.

On the big questions of the day, such as the three on pensions, currency and cost posed by Alistair Carmichael two weeks ago, we are really none the wiser. We know what the SNP …

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Launch of Scottish Government’s white paper on Scottish independence

scotlands-futureThis morning the SNP is launching the Scottish Government’s white paper on Scottish independence. It is 670 pages long and can be downloaded here.

Yesterday the Lib Dem Chief Secretary to the Treasury minister,Danny Alexander, who is, of course, a Scottish MP, has written to Alex Salmond, First Minister in the Scottish Parliament, to warn him of the consequences of independence. He wrote:

The White Paper published tomorrow must address the tax rises or spending cuts required to balance the books in an independent Scotland.

Even under the most optimistic scenario the

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Jim Hume MSP launches consultation on bill banning smoking in vehicles with children present

Jim Hume launching consultation on smokingLiberal Democrat MSP for the South of Scotland Jim Hume this week launched a consultation on his Members’ Bill which would see smoking banned in vehicles where children are present. When I initially flagged this up a few weeks ago, there was a mixed reaction to the proposals.

Jim says in the foreword to his consultation document:

Recent research has shown that 17% of 11-16 year olds in the UK are exposed to second-hand smoke more than once a week while in a car with a further

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Willie Rennie on Iraq and four tests for future military intervention

Willie Rennie - Some rights reserved by Liberal DemocratsThis week the Scottish Parliament debated the Iraq War, ten years on. This could have disintegrated into a “this is why we need independence” bunfight, but, actually, it ended up being one of those occasions when you could be proud of your Parliament for being thoughtful and mindful of the terrible human cost of this conflict.

Willie Rennie spoke for the Liberal Democrats in the debate and actually was applauded by the SNP benches who are, shall we say, not usually so friendly towards …

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Scott ensures scolding for SNP Government

The BBC has the story of how the  SNP Government received a ticking off from the Scottish Parliament’s Presiding Officer Tricia Marwick yesterday. They’ve developed a bit of an unfortunate habit of leaking reports and the like to the press before sending them to Parliament, in the style of the excesses of the Labour Westminster government. This infuriated Liberal Democrat MSP for Shetland, Tavish Scott, not known for his patience in dealing with the Government’s shortcomings at the best of times.

He raised a Point of Order in the Parliament yesterday, asking the Presiding Officer to intervene “in defence of …

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Opinion: Cease this injustice

I was outraged to find out yesterday in my copy of The Times that the University of Edinburgh, my alma mater, has been selling off internships with Members of Scottish Parliament (MSPs) for an eye-popping £5,750.

I don’t know about you, but I certainly would love the opportunity to undertake such work, but at such a price I cannot. This is disadvantage defined, as those who can afford it can have such an educating experience.

The internship involves completing “three academic courses which are classroom based, followed by a research project supervised by a member of the Scottish Parliament and an …

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“Thursday is decision day” – Charles Kennedy’s eve of poll message to members and supporters

Charles Kennedy MP has emailed Liberal Democrat members and supporters with a “get out and vote” (and “get out the vote”) message, ahead of tomorrow’s elections and referendum:

Tomorrow you have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to have your say on how we elect our MPs to Westminster. Important elections are also taking place across the country for the Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament & local councils. Thursday is Decision Day.

When I was first elected in 1983, the idea of changing our voting system for Westminster elections seemed important, but the chance seemed remote. When the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly were established, neither

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LDVideo: Tavish Scott in Scottish Lib Dems’ latest election broadcast

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Changes coming to Scottish Parliament election rules

The Scottish Parliament (Elections etc.) Order 2010 has been tabled in Parliament this week bringing about changes in the law for the Scottish Parliament elections. As it is a Statutory Instrument (SI) it cannot be amended – either it gets Parliamentary approval or it is rejected outright. It is extremely rare for an SI to be rejected and there are no signs that this one will be in that class.

The main changes people can therefore expect for the next Scottish Parliament elections are:

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