Tag Archives: scottish parliament elections 2016

“Press print”: Reflections on the heartbreak of losing a unique job

I’m rubbish at predicting elections. Always have been. Too many variables for my simple brain. What I do know is that working in politics puts you at the mercy of electoral ups and downs that can be weighted heavily against you at the drop of a box count. Beyond that, I leave the number crunching to those with better minds than this tragic idealist. For me, my 17 years in politics has been about believing in liberal values, sharing in those values with oddballs just like me and making firm friendships.

Stunt sheep; overnight bulk buy balloons; a giant toothbrush; and driving many weary miles to meet in the market square to start good mornings at 5am sharp “so don’t be late, Fee!” are just a few of the daft memories that will forever warm my heart. “Your job’s weird”, my friends outside  politics would say as I tried to explain GOTV and the need for the stunt sheep.

But this year’s Scottish Parliament elections handed me my saddest, and currently all too raw, memory with the loss of the brilliant Jim Hume.

When I first started working for Jim I had no idea that the nine years to follow would be jam packed with so many fantastic grassroots campaigns. It was the start of a teamwork of three bonded through a common work ethic and love for the cause, first with Charlotte, then Craig and now the talented Eleana. There was no room for half heartedness. From the chief’s messy office would come the clarion call, “press print”, which still now is a source of much comic value as we would set about bulk buying a volume of envelopes that would make even the parliament posties wince at the franking prospect. When facilities management tell you the volume is a safety hazard, you know you’re doing something right. Mailmerge was on. Jim has been an insightful and tenacious local campaigner, and an outspoken champion for mental health. He’s also a really good bloke and the South of Scotland is easily much the poorer for his absence. If politics isn’t a meritocracy, as a wise fellow staffer and friend once sagely observed, then it’s certainly reflected in losing Jim and the  fearless Alison McInnes. Even after umpteen years I still can’t fathom elections or the psychology at the ballot box. Sometimes it’s just painfully bloody unfair. But that’s life, I guess. It’s just politics.

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From elation to sadness: my mixed emotions on the Scottish results

If you had told me six months ago that we would retain 5 seats in the Scottish Parliament and win mainland constituency seats from the SNP, I’d have laughed in your face. It didn’t seem possible when polls were giving us 3% and 4% in the polls. It’s a testament to the bright, bold and ambitious campaign Willie Rennie has run.

@timfarron saying congratulations to @agcolehamilton and @willie_rennie for GAINING constituency seats. pic.twitter.com/c5PxBsf53l

I’m finally home now. I might be a little more flaky than usual as I have now been awake for approaching 34.5 hours. I’m desperately trying not to go to sleep for another couple of hours so I can just go to bed for the night then. I’m not sure that’ll work.

It’s been a while since I left a count or ended an election night smiling. For most of the last 4 weeks, I’ve been helping Alex Cole-Hamilton’s campaign in Edinburgh Western. Getting Alex elected to Holyrood is something I’ve tried to do for the past 9 years. In 2007, he topped the list in Mid Scotland and Fife but our success in Dunfermline stopped him getting in. In 2011, he stood in Edinburgh Central and was 2 on the Lothians list, but the coalition made that an impossible election for us. It was at that point that he made his tweet which was immortalised in Nick Clegg’s resignation speech:

In 2011, after a night of disappointing election results for our party, one of our candidates in Edinburgh, Alex Cole-Hamilton said that if his defeat was part-payment for the ending of child detention then he accepted it with all his heart.

Those words revealed a selfless dignity which is rare in politics but common amongst Liberal Democrats.

We will never know how many lives we changed for the better because we had the courage to step up at a time of crisis.

So this time, I really wanted him to win, not least to reward the huge effort he has made in building the team around him, knocking on 25,000 doors in the constituency and running a textbook campaign.

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Ten ways Willie Rennie made Scotland smile during #sp16

Many of the defining images of the election in Scotland have come from Willie Rennie. He has had a lot of serious points to make during this election, highlighting the need to invest in education, transform mental health, stand up for civil liberties, protect the planet from climate change and stop the SNP’s suffocating control and centralisation of public services, but he’s had tonnes of fun illustrating them.

In 2006, his by-election victory in Dunfermline was helped by an image on the front page of the Courier from the top of the Forth Rail Bridge. He’s had some similarly fantastic photos and videos this campaign.  On Monday he went go-karting and his photo on the podium afterwards, doing the “Schumi Jump” that Michael Schumacher always used to do when he won, made it into virtually every paper.

His bright and exuberant campaign has had loads of coverage and has caught people’s imagination. You know you are on the right track when people start repeating your campaign messages on the doorsteps. From a very challenging outlook, he has brought the party to the very real possibility of gaining a constituency seat against the SNP tomorrow. The media is watching Edinburgh Western and Alex Cole-Hamilton.

A lot of these photo-ops were very risky. Some could have been disastrous. Imagine the headlines if the canoe had capsized. Of course, one did go memorably wrong, but a few packets of Percy Pigs later, the journalists were laughing with rather than at us.

The manifesto launch was bright, exuberant and unforgettable. He got interviewed on a slide, for goodness sake.

There was the day they let him fly a plane.

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Willie Rennie gets the biggest cheer of the final Scottish Leaders’ Debate

Seriously, I’m not joking.

See for yourself.

I thought he would do well, but I wasn’t quite expecting cheering, and rapturous applause for him.

On this occasion, it was his answer to a question on a second independence referendum which got the audience on his side. He said that the Parliament and Government needed to concentrate on the neglected issues like health and education, to concentrate on making Scotland the best country in the world again. You can’t do that, he said, while having a groundhog debate about independence. He told Nicola that she was the one being anti-democratic by refusing to accept the result of the poll just 20 months ago.

“When you don’t get the result you want, you just want to do it all again.” he shouted in an exasperated tone that had the audience with him.

I somehow managed to pass the BBC’s rigorous selection test, which consisted not just of an online questionnaire but also a phone interview. Here I am, on the right, in the blue dress, behind moderator Sarah Smith as she introduces the debate, captured on my friend Jade’s tv.

BBC Leaders' Debate

The debate was, rather bizarrely, held in the opulent surroundings of Hopetoun House in South Queensferry. From there, you can just about see where Willie Rennie rocked the political establishment by winning the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election in 2006. I arrived to discover that there was no internet signal. Being offline for four whole hours during  waking hours is almost unheard of for me, but I somehow managed.

Unfortunately there wasn’t enough signal to tweet that for some reason the BBC didn’t trust us to walk a few feet from the place where we registered to the ballroom where the debate was being held. They hired a bus to take us over. I kid you not. You could walk it in less than a minute. The ballroom is more used to hosting weddings than political theatre. There was certainly plenty of drama.

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Katy Gordon challenges SNP minister on housing and homelessness failures

Scotland 2016 held its final election debate, on housing, earlier this week. West of Scotland lead candidate Katy Gordon represented the Liberal Democrats. She put forward the Lib Dems’ plan, which takes in mental health, addiction and prison services as well and confronted SNP Housing Minister Alex Neil on his government’s failure to keep its promises and deal with a very real housing crisis in Scotland. As always, Katy was full of practical detail and put in a very thoughtful and engaging performance. You can watch her here.

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You can see the whole …

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Nick Clegg tells the inside story of how the Conservatives put party before country

A couple of polls have suggested that Ruth Davidson’s Scottish Conservative Party might just edge ahead of Labour to become the official opposition in the Scottish Parliament. That is a truly horrible thought. Just imagine it, the timid, illiberal, centralising SNP opposed by David Cameron’s representative in Scotland. Their leaflets don’t push the fact that they are Conservatives. They are trying to make their campaign all about Ruth, as if she is somehow the saviour of the union. That, of course, is an argument that does not stack up, as this video from the Scottish Liberal Democrats shows.

It was the Scottish Conservatives who pretty much kept the SNP in power during their first term of minority government.

Do we really want them, with their contempt for benefit claimants, nonchalance about inequality and poverty and disregard for human rights and civil liberties, as the official opposition to an SNP government that is already so fiscally conservative and illiberal?

Their claim to be the only ones who care about the union has been shown up to be a pile of hogwash by Nick Clegg. In an article originally published in the Times and now on the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ website, he said:

As the Holyrood elections get closer and closer, I have become increasingly bemused that Ruth Davidson and others have sought to claim that the Conservatives are somehow the authentic opposition to the SNP.

It jars starkly with my experience when governing alongside the Conservatives in Coalition in Whitehall for five years.

In that time, I witnessed an odd ambivalence in the Conservative Party towards Scotland: indifference one minute; confrontation the next.

My party frequently disagreed with the Conservatives on Scottish issues, which was perhaps unsurprising since the only Scots around the Coalition Cabinet table were Liberal Democrats.

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Rennie: Sturgeon must shred China deal after human rights warning

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie today said that the SNP risks dragging Scotland’s reputation through the mud following reports that a Chinese firm at the heart of a controversial £10bn deal with the Scottish Government is tied to human rights abuses.

It was reported in today’s Herald that Amnesty International named China Railway Group Ltd (CRG) and subsidiaries it controls in a report exposing human rights abuses related to the mining industry in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

It had previously emerged that CRG had been blacklisted for investment by Norway’s oil fund over fears that the construction giant was involved in gross corruption.

Willie said:

The last thing that the First Minister did before the election started was sign a £10bn deal with a business directly tied to allegations of corruption.

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LDV Top Tip: If you’re going to accuse your opponent of negative campaigning, don’t call him names

Edinburgh Western’s SNP candidate Toni Giugliano has been telling anyone who’ll listen that his Liberal Democrat rival Alex Cole-Hamilton has been fighting a negative campaign. He certainly went to town on that particular theme when interviewed by a Herald journalist who was writing a profile on the seat.

The first words in the article are Giugliano’s:

“HE’S spineless,” says the SNP’s Toni Giugliano of his Liberal Democrat nemesis Alex Cole-Hamilton. “He’ll do and say anything to get elected.”

The problem is that in Scotland these days, any criticism of the SNP is seen by them as negative campaigning. Holding the Government and elected representatives to account is a vital part of any healthy democracy and the SNP’s record in West Edinburgh has given cause for concern. The current MP, who narrowly defeated our Mike Crockart last year, resigned the SNP whip pending an investigation over property deals. She took 9 months to open an office in the constituency.

The main features of Alex’s campaign have been first and foremost to promote him as the candidate, to outline Lib Dem policies like the penny on income tax to invest in education, improving mental health care, meeting our climate change targets (important as two of the roads in the constituency are the most polluted in Scotland) and putting local accountability back into policing. Thirdly, it’s to emphasise what people know only too clearly from last year – that the constituency race is between Alex and the SNP. Fourthly, it’s to hold the SNP to account on its record locally and nationally.

You can tell that he’s getting somewhere when the Press and Journal highlighted Alex as one of the candidates to watch across Scotland.

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Farron makes pitch to centre left voters – support Lib Dems for good local councillors and effective opposition to Tories

Farron in Edinburgh Western 28 April

At about 8:45, Tim Farron made a flying visit to Alex Cole-Hamilton’s campaign HQ in Edinburgh Western. He did notice that the SNP office next door was  already in darkness.

The visit had an additional bonus for us as the campaigns staff from Scottish HQ pitched up yesterday afternoon and pronounced the place not tidy enough to receive the leader and proceeded to tidy it up for us. No doubt we won’t be able to find anything this morning.

Tim was highly impressed with what he’d seen, which is definitely a compliment given the amount of campaigning that goes on on his patch.

He also told us of his visit to Cardiff Central and candidate Eluned Parrott where he visited a refugee centre and played football with some of the refugees.  We know how strongly he feels that we should be doing more to help refugees from conflict and particularly those children already in Europe. He told us how he’d just been speaking to one of the “Windermere Boys”, a group of young men who were welcomed to the Lake District after being rescued from the death camps at the end of World War 2. They had gone on to build successful lives for themselves, serving the community in many ways, too. Helping people in these desperate circumstances is, Tim said, the least we can do.

This morning, he is visiting a nursery in Cowdenbeath with Willie Rennie, with the challenge from us that he has to at least match Willie Rennie being interviewed on a slide at our manifesto launch.

First, though, he was up early to be on both Radio 5 live and the Today programme to talk about the Lib Dem local election campaign. He made a very clear pitch to centre left voters, asking them to lend their vote to the Liberal Democrats. For that, they’ll get a brilliant local councillor to represent them locally and the appalling Tory government would be held to account He emphasised how the Liberal Democrats had shown more gains in votes and seats in local council by-elections since last May than anyone else. 

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Tim Farron: SNP taking Scotland for granted

Tim Farron went to Aberdeenshire East to join candidate Christine Jardine on the campaign trail yesterday.

He had this to say about the SNP’s record and how the Liberal Democrats would improve things:

This is the first Scottish election when people are really starting to judge the SNP on their record. And the further you get from the central belt in Scotland, the more you get a sense that people don’t believe the SNP cares about rural communities.

We’ve seen the terrible way they’ve handled farm payments. Farmers should have been paid what they are owed months ago. We’re now nearly into May and the delays have led to a huge black hole in the rural economy.

Liberal Democrats stand up for the communities for they represent. There is real Liberal Democrat strength in Scotland, our MSPs punched well above our weight at Holyrood and voters know that people like Christine won’t take rural Scotland for granted.

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And the biggest threat to the Union is….Ruth Davidson

If short-term party political advantage is the aim of the game, then you can understand why the Scottish Tories have chosen to play the unionist card in the Scottish election. Ruth Davidson knows that Tory economic and social policies do not win elections (or even the runner-up spot) in Scotland. She must despair at her colleagues supposedly running the show in London who are tearing themselves apart on Europe and rapidly abandoning any claim to economic competence or social conscience.

Instead, she has put the independence question at the front and centre of her party’s Scottish programme. This is a headline currently on the “Herald” website:

Ruth Davidson: SNP wants to keep wounds of independence debate open.

I did a double take when I first spotted the story because at first glance I didn’t take in the “SNP” part. Of course, if you read it without the “SNP” it still makes perfect sense. Every time Ruth Davidson harps on about the union – and she does it an awful lot! – she is poking at the scab.

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WATCH: Two very different interviews for Willie Rennie

Scottish Lib Dem Leader Willie Rennie faced two very different interviews this week. The first was with STV political editor Bernard Ponsonby.

Willie said he thought we were going to grow because of our record as the strong liberal voice and because of our positive, uplifting plan for Scotland with its transformational investment in education and investment in mental health.

Before he was able to talk about all these plans though, he faced quite a grilling over coalition mistakes (he said the Bedroom Tax was one which should never have happened) and over Alistair Carmichael (he said he would still vote for him despite his mistake, which was an aberration and out of character for the Orkney & Shetland MP).

Ponsonby gave him a really hard time over tuition fees in Scotland. Liberal Democrats were responsible for their abolition, against coalition partner Labour’s wishes. He tried to make out that us supporting the Graduate Endowment – which was not a tuition fees, which didn’t go to pay for lectures or learning but simply to enable more students from disadvantaged backgrounds to go to university – and then voting to abolish it (when circumstances allowed) was inconsistent. Willie managed to get across that the Liberal Democrats had been the drivers behind free education.

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Willie Rennie’s most embarrassing moments – and his favourite films

In London, they have the taxi thing, but in Scotland, the BBC are doing a Leaders’ Lift Challenge. As they travel up the lift in what I presume is their Glasgow HQ, people get on and ask random questions.

Here’s Willie Rennie’s. The answer to “Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with?” is very sweet. And we find out about the transgressions in his past. Stealing apples, indeed.

This comes out as a BMG opinion poll had two bits of potential good news. First of all, 51% backed the idea of a penny on tax for education, which is the party’s key policy in this election. On hearing this, Willie said:

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The “trailblazing, hell-raising rule breaking Rennie”

Another Friday, another day Willie Rennie wins the internet.

I don’t think there has ever been such fun at a manifesto launch ever.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats’ manifesto is centred around opportunity in so many ways. Children are at the very heart of it, so it seemed appropriate that the event took place in a soft play event in Edinburgh. And if you are going to go there, you need to get into the spirit of the place. You can’t afford to look too stiff and sober. And Willie didn’t.

The team got three specific things right. First a bit of humour, reminding everyone how you won the internet last week too.

And, let’s be honest, it’s a bit of a treat to imagine hard-nosed political hacks being asked to wait in a room like this:

Finally, if you have a leader who can do a 3 second pitch while going down a slide, then that’s a talent you have to exploit.

Jamie Ross from Buzzfeed absolutely loved it:

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Scottish Liberal Democrats to launch manifesto – a plan to make Scotland the best again

Willie Rennie will today unveil the party’s “bold, positive and progressive plans to make Scotland the best again” as he launches the Scottish Liberal Democrat manifesto.

He will set out ambitious proposals for a transformational investment in education, a step-change in mental health services, the protection of our environment and guaranteeing Scots’ civil liberties.

Speaking ahead of the launch, Willie said:

Scottish Liberal Democrats offer an ambitious, positive and uplifting programme for Scotland.

The Liberal Democrats are back to our best. Scotland should be the best again too.

Our programme for Scotland is ambitious and progressive. We are offering the biggest investment in education since devolution, new plans for mental health services, new laws to guarantee our civil liberties and new investment so we can exceed our climate change targets.

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It’s postal vote polling day!

Postal vote Scottish Lib DemsAs postal votes start hitting doorsteps in our elections, the Scottish Liberal Democrats have compiled a list of things people should know.

Here are 6 of them:

  1. We’re the only party with a plan to invest half a billion in schools, colleges & nurseries (find out more here: scotlibdems.org.uk/education).
  2. We’ll get serious about mental health (find out more here: scotlibdems.org.uk/health).
  3. We’re the only party with a credible plan to tackle the GP crisis (find out more here: scotlibdems.org.uk/health).
  4. We’ll take real action to make sure Scotland finally meets its climate change targets (find out more here: scotlibdems.org.uk/environment).
  5. We’re the only party that will protect your civil liberties, in Westminster & in Holyrood (find out more here: scotlibdems.org.uk/freedom).
  6. We’ll free public sector workers from top-down targets (find out more here: scotlibdems.org.uk/public sector)
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Watch: Christine Jardine in BBC Health debate “Let medical professionals do their job”

On Tuesday night, Aberdeenshire East candidate Christine Jardine took part in a BBC Scotland debate on health. This is one area in which the SNP has consistently failed. We are going to be 700 GPs short by the end of the decade, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to get a GP appointment, there are no mental health beds for children north of Dundee, and there’s a LOT of Scotland north of Dundee and mental health care is even worse than it is south of the border. In addition to all of that, health professionals often find that top-down targets get in the way of them doing their job.

Watch Christine take on the SNP Health Minister on all these points. The Minister at one point suggested that criticising the SNP’s health policy was in some way talking the NHS down – their usual refuge when they know they are on the losing side of an argument.

Here are Christine’s highlights:

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Rennie’s penny on tax for education is progressive – IPPR

The Institute of Public Policy Research Scotland has been looking at the parties’ tax plans ahead of the Scottish parliament elections.

The SNP has had a go at us for raising the basic rate of tax for workers, making out like they are protecting the low paid. In fact, IPPR says that our plans are progressive and will deliver what we say they will.

 Willie Rennie has welcomed this conclusion.

The IPPR shows that the Lib Dems’ penny (why do we not call it Rennie’s penny?) for education will raise £475 million a year, with almost half of that revenue coming from the richest 12%.

The IPPR research also shows that the Conservatives’ plans help the richest, giving those on highest incomes an extra £390 a year.

Willie said:

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Watch: The day they let Willie Rennie fly a plane

That should strike fear into the heart of anyone who has ever driven with Willie! Or maybe it’s just that I’m ultra cautious on the road.

Today, Willie went on a training flight with the UK Civil Air Patrol, who provided air support to Tayside Police prior to the SNP’s disastrous merger of Scotland’s Police forces.

The point of his visit was to outline what he would do to restore accountability to the Police service. The party would not do another top down re-organisation, but would ensure that local councils had control of the policing plan in their area to ensure that it meets their needs. Since the merger, it’s been very much a roll-out of what used to happen in Strathclyde across the country. That resulted in armed police being used for routine duties in places like Inverness, much against the views of the local community. After the intervention of the Liberal Democrats, this was stopped.

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LibLink: Alex Cole-Hamilton: Criticism of SNP policies is vital

Alex Cole-Hamilton Edinburgh WesternA few days ago, Edinburgh Western’s SNP candidate took to the Evening News to take a swipe at the Liberal Democrats, accusing us of being negative before lobbing a few insults our way.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, who hopes to regain the seat for the Liberal Democrats, wrote his own article for the News. He writes:

Toni, I’m sorry you’ve been offended. But I don’t think that drawing attention to the failings of your government or your local representatives should be viewed as underhand, I’d view it as the democratic duty of a healthy opposition.

When the person you asked us to vote for last May turns up for fewer than half of the votes in the House of Commons since September then I think that as your nearest challenger, I should voice the view of the significant majority of those in our constituency who feel that’s just not good enough.

When your ministers preside over a year on year decline in the global rankings of our education system, the shambolic and unwanted centralisation of public services or a waiting times crisis in our health service, then someone should point out that we deserve much better.

Now, I understand it’s hard for you. The constitution of the SNP prohibits you from openly criticising your party or its policies. But I’m not in your party so I can provide a counterpoint to the nationalist dogma that is currently choking Scottish Politics.

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Willie Rennie stands up for Scottish farmers let down by the SNP’s CAP payments failure

Ok, let’s get this out of the way first. We know that Willie has had his issues with farm animals recently.  I know it’s kind of hard to stop laughing, but try for a second, because this is important.

Before Willie had even set foot in that city farm yesterday, he’d been standing up for farmers across Scotland. As we told you earlier this week, the SNP has totally failed on delivering payments to farmers on time. This has caused our farmers tremendous difficulty. To add insult to injury, apparently whacking rates of interest will be charged on the emergency loans farmers were given by the Scottish Government. Tavish Scott highlighted this the other day. Willie made it clear in yesterday’s Press and Journal that the SNP Government should be compensating farmers for its failures:

Speaking on his visit to Fife, which came after the Press and Journal revealed farmers could be charged extortionate interest rates on state loans they have only received because of the CAP payment bungle, Mr Rennie said: “Farmers should not be footing the bill for SNP incompetence.

“Liberal Democrats will guarantee to increase the resources deployed in advance of the future rounds of CAP payments to ensure there is no repeat of the shambles we have seen this year.

“We will also establish an immediate restitution scheme to compensate farmers who incurred extra banking costs because of the delay in their CAP payment.

“That is the right, fair thing to do.”

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Friday fun: The story of Willie Rennie and the friendly pigs

An awful lot of planning goes into those photo-ops you see every night on the telly during an election campaign. The party leaders have a specific message they want to get out.

Today, Willie Rennie was at Gorgie City Farm in Edinburgh to talk about the importance of vocational training. He’s done a lot with animals this campaign. Remember those ultra cute therapets? He also got the “seal” of approval at Deep Sea World. What could possibly go wrong?

Today’s visit started so well:

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LGBTI Scottish hustings reveals consensus on gender recognition law change

The five main Scottish Party leaders participated in a hustings organised by Stonewall Scotland, the Scottish Transgender Alliance, the Equality Network and LGBTI Youth Scotland. Those four organisations do ground-breaking work to support LGBTI people. Their role in providing positive and practical help can’t be under-estimated and they are helping to change the culture of the country.

If you are a young person struggling to come to terms with your sexuality or gender identity today, you can see that five party leaders, including the woman who runs the Scottish Government talk about how important it is that in school, at work, in society, you are free to live your life without discrimination. They agree that health services need to improve so that they meet your needs.  Compare and contrast to even 20 years ago, when Section 28 (or 2A as it was in Scotland) was in force. It’s such a powerful signal of acceptance for all leaders to participate in something like this. It will help those young people walk taller, with more confidence.

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Willie Rennie’s week – a whirlwind start to the campaign featuring children, animals and the other party leaders

You can tell there’s an election on. This week, Willie Rennie has painted Easter eggs, sung songs with children at a nursery, visited a farmers’ market and fed seals.

Here’s a look at a whirlwind week in Scotland. Some of it is quite funny.


Willie was supposed to be going to Amazon in Dunfermline to discuss working practices and pay with employees. At the last minute, Amazon cancelled the meeting. Undeterred, Willie went anyway and recorded this video outside the depot:

Locked outToday, I was supposed to visit Amazon in Dunfermline.At the last minute, they cancelled the visit, because they were too embarrassed to let me see conditions in the center – and too embarrassed by the wages they pay their staff.Big companies like Amazon, that receive government grants, should pay their staff the living wage.That’s why we will never pay government grants to companies that don’t pay the living wageAgree? Add your name here: scotlibdems.org.uk/livingwage

Posted by Willie Rennie on Monday, 21 March 2016


He was on Scotland 2016 to talk about the SNP’s tax plans, or lack of them. In short, they say they can raise £1.2 billion without anyone paying any more tax. That seems to defy the laws of any sort of finance.

Last night I was on Scotland 2016 talking about the SNP’s tax plans and challenged John Swinney’s claims over what this would mean for public services. The truth is that their plans will not raise an extra penny to invest in schools and deliver the transformation in education that we need.

Posted by Willie Rennie on Wednesday, 23 March 2016


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Scottish Lib Dems to oppose jail terms of less than a year

The Scottish Liberal Democrats have announced another major policy. A few weeks go, they announced their penny on income tax to raise £475 million for investment in education.

Today, Justice spokesperson Alison McInnes has announced that the party will oppose prison sentences of less than a year.

From the BBC:

As part of their 2016 election manifesto, the Scottish Liberal Democrats are to formally back doubling that, by extending the presumption to 12 months.

Justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes said prison sentences for more serious offenders should be complemented by “tough” community service programmes.
“One of the main priorities for Scottish Liberal Democrats is having a criminal justice system where if someone breaks the law, they are swiftly brought to justice,” she said. “But we also believe offenders deserve a chance to get back on track and community rehabilitation is a fundamental part of that.

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Photo of the week: Alex Cole-Hamilton in a gas mask to highlight air pollution

ACH gas mask

Edinburgh Western and Lothian List candidate Alex Cole-Hamilton took to the most polluted street in Edinburgh this week. St John’s Road in Corstorphine, where he has his campaign office, is the most polluted road in Scotland. It’s one of the main routes from the west into Edinburgh.

Pollution levels in Corstorphine and Queensferry Road are a national disgrace. They represent a clear and present threat to public health, yet the SNP, who have been in charge of this City and this country for nearly a decade, continue to drag their heels.

Almost 2,000 Scots die prematurely each year as a result of vehicle emissions and nowhere is this risk more present than in communities that span the arterial routes into Edinburgh. Investment in my 5 point action plan will actually save our country money in the future in terms of reduced demand on health services and days lost to work through illness.

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SNP “talk left but act right” says Willie Rennie in first leaders’ debate

The first leaders’ debate of the Scottish election campaign took place in Dundee this week. Liberal Democrat Willie Rennie faced SNP First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Labour’s Kezia Dugdale, Conservative Alex Johnstone (standing in for leader Ruth Davidson) and Patrick Harvie.

He strongly attacked the SNP’s record, saying, according to the Evening Telegraph:

Nicola presents herself as an anti-austerity party but look at her record in comparison with George Osborne.

She wants to match him on the income tax, she wants to undercut him on air passenger duty and she is undercutting him on the council tax.

This is not an anti-austerity party, they talk left but act right. They need to match up their record with their rhetoric.

This is consistent with what he’s been saying for some time. In December, the SNP Government were forced into yet another humiliating freedom of information climbdown as they had to release a memo from Nicola Sturgeon’s poverty advisor which highlighted that the SNP’s universal benefits disproportionately helped the better off. At that time, Willie said:

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Edinburgh West Lib Dems re-open their office ahead of Alex Cole-Hamilton’s bid to gain Holyrood seat

Edinburgh West office

This is the site greeting commuters and pedestrians in one of Edinburgh’s main roads.

In June, sadly, the office which had been rented by Mike Crockart and the local party closed down. This week, it’s re-opened, four months ahead of the Scottish Parliament elections in May where Alex Cole-Hamilton hopes to regain the seat. He also heads the Lothian list.

Since May, newly elected MP Michelle Thomson, who is yet to open a constituency office, has had to resign the SNP whip after a police investigation started into her company’s property deals.

Edinburgh Western’s sitting SNP MSP was deselected in the Summer and replaced with a candidate endorsed by former First Minister Alex Salmond.

Alex Cole-Hamilton told us:

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SNP Scottish Parliament selections – 2 MSPs deselected so far as Salmond endorses one challenger

The SNP is currently choosing its candidates for the Scottish Parliament. Like the Liberal Democrats, they allow challenges of sitting parliamentarians. Two MSPs have been deselected so far. Of greatest interest to Liberal Democrat fortunes is the deselection of Colin Keir in Edinburgh Western. The seat will now be fought by Toni Giulani who had the backing of former SNP leader and first minister Alex Salmond. In our party it would simply not be permitted for a senior, powerful party figure to take such an influential public stance in a selection.

SNP parliamentarians already have a fairly draconian disciplinary code to obey. They are not allowed to publicly criticise any decisions of the group and have had very few rebels in parliamentary votes. Their MSPs are, on the whole, pretty compliant. When two of them voted against the party’s new position on NATO in a vote at their conference, they resigned from the party. It now seems that if their faces don’t fit, key players will contribute to your demise.

Alex Cole-Hamilton is our candidate in Edinburgh Western. He also tops the party’s Lothian regional list. Although we lost Mike Crockart in Edinburgh West in May, the SNP’s margin of victory was comparatively small, our West campaign organisation is pretty strong and the SNP have given up any benefits of incumbency. 

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