Tag Archives: snp

Cole-Hamilton to Humza Yousaf: Your actions have eroded any trust you had

Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton has declined to help Scotland’s beleaguered First Minister Humza Yousaf.

We need to remember that Yousaf’s predicament is entirely of his own making. He would not be facing a confidence vote this week had he not unceremoniously handed the Greens their jotters and booted them out of the Government on Thursday this morning, just two days after saying they were worth their weight in gold.

Alex understandably responded to Yousaf’s invitation to talks by asking him how on earth he could expect anyone to trust a word he said, given the way he had acted.

He also then outlined a few of the biggest failures of the Scottish Government before saying that the best solution would be for the First Minister to resign and for there to be a Scottish election. Here’s the text of his letter in full:

 

Dear First Minister,

Thank you for your letter. Scottish Liberal Democrats have always believed in working together in the national interest and building consensus across all political traditions. Our history speaks to that and we will continue to do so in the change that is coming for Scotland. However, I have decided to decline your offer of talks at Bute House.

Successful minority administration must be rooted in compromise and a spirit of mutual trust with other parties. However, your actions this past week have eroded entirely any remaining trust that you enjoyed across the chamber. They suggest that rather than being motivated by the national interest, you are presently motivated only by your own self-interest and by political survival.

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Drama in Scotland – could there be a Holyrood election?

Who would have thought that Scottish voters could face two national elections this year – and the first one for the Scottish Parliament before the too-long awaited Westminster poll?

If First Minister Humza Yousaf is forced to resign in the next few days, if the SNP can’t agree on a successor, if the Parliament can’t agree on a new First Minister within 28 days, then Scottish voters could be going to the polls on 4th July.

The SNP has been sharing power with the Scottish Greens for the past two and a half years with Green Co-Conveners Patrick Harvie and Lorna Slater holding ministerial office. This morning Humza Yousaf handed them their jotters in an early morning meeting before announcing to the world that he had decided that the SNP would be better off going it alone as a minority Government.

You have to wonder whether he had thought through the implications for his own future. It wasn’t difficult to imagine that someone would put up a motion of no confidence and equally predictable that the party that he had just unceremoniously booted out of Government would not find it in their hearts to support him.

As things stand, his best hope is a tied vote next week, relying on the casting vote of the Presiding Officer to save him. But even that can only be achieved by doing a deal with Ash Regan, his former leadership rival who went off and joined Alex Salmond’s socially conservative, populist Alba party. And even if he survives the vote, clinging to power by your fingernails is not the best way to lead your party into a UK General Election.

You have to wonder why he let that happen.

There are undoubtedly some in the SNP who have been wanting rid of Humza since he was elected.

Last year’s SNP leadership election was so close with Humza only just beating Kate Forbes. Deep divisions were exposed within the party. Now the SNP can take a fair amount of division. They are a very broad church. But the only thing they really care about is independence and when they are divided on how to achieve that, and the prospect of it ever happening is moving further and further away, they are going to implode.  It’s hard to think of anyone in their ranks who could come close to bringing them together.

Their Government is failing at pretty much everything, as Alex Cole-Hamilton said in no uncertain terms at First Minister’s Questions today.

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A Tale of Two Polls

There have been two much-publicised polls in recent days which have produced headlines in the press for their common message that the Conservative government is in deep trouble. A Survation Poll suggested that there would be just 98 Conservative MPs after the next election. The other, a YouGov Poll, suggested that the Conservatives would win 155 MPs. Quite a large difference, but in either case adding up to huge Conservative losses, and that is what the media have concentrated on. If they’ve mentioned any other party, it has been the Reform Party and its effect as a ‘spoiler’ of the Conservative vote.

What was much less commented upon was the fact that these two polls, both published at the beginning of April, and both based upon interviews conducted during mid-March, were widely divergent in their estimates of how the third and fourth parties (in terms of seats in the House of Commons) would fare. The YouGov poll suggested that the SNP would win 19 seats, a substantial loss compared to 2019, while the Lib Dems would win 49, restoring them to third-party status. The Survation Poll, on the other hand, had the SNP maintaining third-party status, losing only 7 seats (from 48 to 41), while the Lib Dems, despite doubling their seats to 22, remained very much in fourth position.

It might be thought that the massive discrepancy over the projected seats for Lib Dems and the SNP in these two polls would arouse some interest in the media. Yet it hasn’t. The only thing that hit the headlines was the coming Labour landslide (of which the politics guru John Curtice appears to be 99% certain now) and the huge Tory losses. No one pretends that these aren’t the main finding of the two polls, but the question of who comes third and fourth matters too.

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Christine Jardine: Tinker, Tailor, Tartan Trews

Christine Jardine’s tongue is stuck firmly in her cheek in her Scotsman column this week. You can tell she’s enjoying making fun of the latest nonsense advanced by a former SNP MSP – that the reason the SNP is doing so badly is that it has been infiltrated by MI5 to discredit the independence cause.

It seems that after 16 years in power, including one term with an outright majority, the failure of the SNP to persuade the Scottish people to jump ship from the UK was all because of unionist subterfuge.

Not because of dissatisfaction with the state of our NHS, anger at failing education standards or frustration at the growing cost of those ferries. Nor the results of realising during the pandemic that the strength and size of the UK Exchequer and the economy were positive reasons for the Union. Nor was it the emotional ties we all have to family in the rest of the UK that swung the argument. No, it was spooks. British spies in the nationalist camp.

A potential new spy novel, she wonders?

A sort of ‘Tinker Tailor Tartan Trews’ expose of a pro-UK cell acting as a conduit for vital information that Holyrood would prefer to keep clear of the clutches of ‘Big Brother’ in Westminster. That, in claiming the Security Service is anti-Scottish, the originator of this particular conspiracy theory – apparently a former MSP called Campbell Martin – is actually laying the groundwork for a piece of fiction.

It might feature a handful of operatives, presumably well-trained in the love of square sausage and Irn-Bru, which has infiltrated the inner sanctum of the SNP. There they have painstakingly won the trust of the leadership and encouraged them down an independence cul-de-sac, for which they will be rewarded with a cottage in the Highlands and a new identity.

The online version of the article is illustrated beautifully with a picture of Claudia Winkleman in full Traitors get up

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The SNP will survive their crisis, and so they should

This week’s (26th April) BBC Debate Night (Scotland’s version of Question Time) discussed the question “Will the SNP survive the crisis they are in at the moment?”. With the panel made up of Labour, SNP, and Conservative MSPs, SNP supporter Aamer Anwar, and former Labour Special Adviser, Ayesha Hazarika, it lacked a liberal position on the issue. A position I hope I can articulate here.

So in my opinion, will they survive? Yes.

As a follow up question, should they survive? Yes.

This is a crisis for the SNP, undoubtedly, but it risks becoming a crisis for Scottish democracy in the medium-long term. The SNP have made a name for themselves in claiming to stand up for democracy, and for change in Scotland. A party which can take the moral high-ground over the Westminster establishment.

What happens now that they have been subject to two high profile arrests, infighting over party finances, a fridge-freezer, and a motorhome?

Polls so far have shown that SNP support is declining, but support for Labour, Greens, and Lib Dems has not risen enough to compensate. Furthermore, the latest YouGov poll, 16% of 2019 SNP voters said they don’t know who they would vote for in the next UK election. For Panelbase and Redfield & Wilton the figure was 10%, Survation 9%, and Savanta 7%.

This is especially significant when you consider that support for independence has remained stable in the aftermath of the resignation and leadership election. While the number of undecideds has also gone up, but this has always been volatile on the Indyref question.

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Cole-Hamilton: Reasonable minded people are re-thinking their support for the SNP

In a way I feel a bit sorry for Humza Yousaf.  Not because he’s taken over a failing Government that he has been a part of, but because of the way his party is imploding around him in a way that he probably didn’t expect. He definitely knew that he was inheriting a deeply divided party, but maybe didn’t realise that the chalice was so full of poison.

Since his election as First Minister 3 weeks ago, two senior figures in the SNP have been arrested and released without charge in an investigation in to the Party’s finances and he has discovered that the party’s auditors resigned six months ago. You can tell that my husband is getting way too interested in this story because he’s been getting adverts for camper vans on Facebook. Yesterday he faced the press in an encounter that will be shown at media training courses as an example as how not to do it for years to come:

We’ve been very used to Nicola Sturgeon’s very controlled media appearances for the past 8 years, so this was a massive contrast. Journalist Rob Hutton’s critique was brutal:

And let’s be clear, these surely are his thoughts, unmediated by anything as sophisticated as “spin” or “damage control”. The first minister seems to be gripped by a compulsion to speak whatever words have just popped into his brain, without the slightest consideration about what impact this might have on the situation. It’s compulsive viewing, the political equivalent of watching a toddler determinedly trying to work a fork into an electrical socket.

Our Rural Affairs spokesperson Molly Nolan drew another comparison on Twitter:

I know there’s many more pressing things going on at the moment but good grief. Mr Bean himself would surely have given a better interview than this

It was not the best build up to Yousaf’s big moment when he unveiled his programme for Government at Holyrood yesterday. And to be honest it wasn’t so much a programme for Government as a series of screeching U-turns. The deeply flawed deposit return scheme paused till next year, their flagship National Care Service paused. Those are both welcome, but I mean, if the only headlines that come out of such a statement is what you are not doing, you are in trouble.

Scottish Lib Dem Leader Alex Cole-Hamilton said that our party will be part of the change that is coming:

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Cole-Hamilton: SNP must do more to help Ukraine refugees

Writing in the Edinburgh Evening News, leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Alex Cole-Hamilton condemned the SNP government for its slow progress in accepting and settling Ukrainian refugees:

Scottish ministers wanted the kudos of being seen to help but did little of the preparation to make it happen. As such, we have homes across Scotland still waiting either to be processed or matched to a Ukrainian guest. We also have Ukrainians placed in remote areas without access to transport.

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Scotland’s national drink could be costing more for a dram in Scotland

The SNP Conference in October is proposing a new tax on whisky, to “mitigate the impact of this cost of living crisis”.

The Scottish whisky trade is one of our biggest assets in Scotland, with exports of £4.51bn in 2021. To Moray, whisky is a key part of the barrel in our local economy. You don’t need to look far to see a distillery across our area, with Moray Council listing 16 across the region.

The motion has been penned by the Glasgow Southside branch of the SNP, Nicola Sturgeon’s own local branch! How can a Scottish First Minister not understand how important this trade is to us in Moray? Or has she turned a blind eye?

This new levy on whisky may be reasoned as a consequence of the Tory-led cost of living crisis, but in real terms, a higher cost would mean Moray is hit even harder. Distilleries would suffer the cost, and that could in turn impact jobs in Moray.

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Public understanding of science

BBC Radio 4’s Day of the Scientist (12 Oct.) was timely in a world where science is serving us so well. Sir Patrick Vallance called for science to be as highly regarded as economics by politicians. To that I would add the need for interdisciplinarity. Science and society belong together.

Scotland, to its great discredit, was without a Chief Scientific Adviser for a lengthy period around 2016. Cynics might even have suspected the SNP preferred not to have scientific advice.

During 13 years as an Edinburgh city councillor there seemed little understanding of Science among the majority of councillors and council staff. It would have been comforting to read accurate accounts of properties of materials, to challenge the extremes of populism over e.g. genetic modification, to have been sure that sustainability was more than a buzzword. Happily Liberal Democrats had scientist councillors Sue Tritton and Jim Lowrie in our ranks. And the current group has councillor Kevin Lang.

Public understanding of science is vital, and it is encouraging that many excellent communicators have been given air time during the pandemic. Edinburgh has an annual Science Festival, where people can learn in a fun way – from making lie detectors (very useful for a politician’s bag of tricks) to tasting different chocolates – as well as hearing stimulating talks aimed at a general audience. Chaos theory remains one of my favourites; perhaps helpful in assessing the current crop of ruling politicians.

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Is there a role and purpose for coalition governments in the UK?

A very good friend of mine has emailed me recently to say that that he has joined the SNP. He is a supporter of an independent Scotland. He posed a very interesting questions, which I felt, is worth exploring a bit more. The members of the SNP were asked to vote whether to support a collaborative agreement with the Green Party. As we know, the agreement would create an overall majority for independence in the Scottish Parliament, push the climate debate and emphasise the importance of close cooperation with our partners in Europe.

It was really interesting to read that the SNP and the Greens decided to call it a cooperation agreement. In my view, there are very few differences and this was a tactical rather than a political move. We all know that both parties have a lot in common (referendum, green policies, attitude towards immigration), however there are also some differences. In Scotland, this arrangement might secure the second independence referendum, as the opposition will be out numbered. However, some would argue that this is not necessarily the best formula for “political harmony” as the country will be still divided into 2 camps.

As a Polish national, I am used to coalitions. I was growing up in Poland in the 1990’s and early 2000’s and I don’t remember a government formed by one party. This has changed only recently. Personally, I like coalitions. They bring different parties together, different solutions, ideas and policies to address some of the local and national issues. They “force” politicians to listen, compromise and dialogue. Coalitions are often complex political arrangement, which require patience and resilience.

When the Lib Dems formed a coalition with the Conservative Party (which I supported), loads of people were convinced that the government wouldn’t last longer than 18 months. They did last 5, however the Liberal Democrats paid a huge price. With almost 60 MP’s between 2010-2015, the party ended up having less than 10 MP’s after the 2015 elections. So I do understand people who are sceptical about coalitions. I can also see coalitions usually favour bigger parties.

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

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

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

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Scottish Independence

English nationalists made us vote blind on Brexit.  Our eyes are now well and truly open. The SNP ask us to vote blind on independence in May.  They offer no plan.  They can’t. For the foreseeable future, leaving the Union would be a disaster for the Scottish people.

Scottish Government figures for 2019/20 expenditure and revenue show a deficit of 8.6%, about average for the last five years.  Our expenditure per head at £1,633 was about 12% more than the UK, and we paid £380 or 2.5% less tax, including oil and gas.  The rest of the UK envy our free university education, prescriptions and home care.  UK subsidies by the Barnett formula underwrite our jobs, health, pensions, education, social security and other public services.  According to the 2018 SNP Commission, an independent Scotland would need 5 to 10 years of austerity to replace them.

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Malcolm Bruce writes…Whither Scottish Nationalism

The tectonic plates of Scottish politics are on the move again.

When Labour dominated politics in Scotland they were often lazy, arrogant, bullying and complacent and looked after their own. Sufficiently like the mafia to be caricatured as COSLA NOSTRA.

Labour lost its way and initially Liberal Democrats picked up ground. However, free of any obvious ideological positioning the SNP were able to move into Labour territory.

Now less than a generation later, the SNP have become the Scottish establishment and acquired an even more venal, more incompetent yet downright arrogant, complacent and nasty braggadocio.

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Why Holyrood 2021 has me (SN)Paranoid

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It’s approaching that time again, another four years have past and another government will be voted in. Next year Scotland will be holding the Scottish Parliament election in May.

As an activist and a proud political geek, I should be excited and ready to campaign till I’m blue in the face. But unfortunately that isn’t the case. On December 2nd Ipsos Mori published the latest polls, predicting the estimated results of the election. From a first glance, it’s hard to feel worried about the potential landslide form the Scottish National Party. At current the polls show the SNP set to earn 55% (in constituencies) of the vote (-3 when compared to early in October) and a clear majority government. However, you should never trust fully in election polls, they can go from 100% to completely and utterly wrong, and anything in-between.

The SNP first came to power in 2007 and have been in government for 13 years. This hasn’t been the 13 years of a “stronger for Scotland” government they have promised. Just broken promises, public lies and scandals that make you really question if they have the welfare of Scottish people at heart.

Since 2007 the SNP have lead a full frontal siege against our vital services. Scotland’s young people are stuck waiting nearly a year for mental health support, our councils are being cut to the point of near collapse under the strain of keeping things running, our industrial pillars such as the Caley rail yard in Springburn and Burntisland Fabrications (BiFab) are being ignored and left to go to ruin, our education system has went from one of the top ranking education systems in the world to average level, they’ve promised full support to fix the climate emergency then do a complete U-turn, and they fully support the oil industries who are scarring our countrysides and seas (fully backed by the Scottish Greens as well) – the list could go on but the article would be an essay if I was to mention every time the SNP have failed the people of Scotland.

Looking at this it all seems doom and gloom, especially when the Scottish Lib Dems are sitting at 6% (+2% since October) in the polls, but we need to  take the positives and learn lessons from the victories we’re achieving and the progress we are making. Our Willie Rennie and the rest of our fantastic MSP team have appeared more and more in the headlines of newspapers, news segments and on the TV, asking all the tough questions. Now Councillor Liz Barrett went from 3rd place to winning the seat of Perth City south, beating the SNP and the Conservatives as well. In last year’s General Election we managed to get now MP Wendy Chamberlain elected in North East Fife, cementing our grip on the area in both Holyrood and Westminster.

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Scots need hope for a progressive United Kingdom

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

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

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

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A sensible strategy for the Scottish election

The Liberal Democrats should be able to prosper mightily in the Scottish parliamentary election on 6th May. But only if we stop attacking the SNP.

The SNP are unassailable. They are riding at over 55 per cent in the opinion polls, boosted by Nicola Sturgeon’s impressive performance in the Covid-19 emergency. And by next spring, they will be able to surf the wave of anger over Brexit and the expected surge in unemployment.

The Nationalists will blame the Johnson government for all the problems and the lack of resources to tackle them. In that they are quite right and it would be counter-productive for the Lib Dems to take a different tack. It’s misleading and dishonest to suggest the Scottish government can fix our schools and hospitals, and the potholes in the roads, with the austerity budgets they’ve been given by Westminster. Yes, the SNP could put up taxes to raise more funds but not by a significant amount.

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All is not well in the SNP

Next year, the Scottish Parliament elections take place. Nicola Sturgeon’s minority SNP Government’s record will be up for the judgement of the electorate.  The SNP has been in power now for 13 years. The children who were done over by the exams fiasco up here have had their entire education with the SNP in charge. And, as 16 year olds have the vote in Scottish Parliament elections, they will have the chance to make their voices known.

Scotland’s public services are failing, local government is being undermined and underfunded and it’s hard to think of anything major that the SNP has done that has been as positively transformative as free personal care, land reform, free eye and dental checks and STV for local government introduced by the Liberal Democrat/Labour coalition which governed for the first 8 years of devolution. And it’s the Liberal Democrats who were the driving force behind those reforms.

Nicola Sturgeon is getting a lot of credit for the way she has handled the Coronavirus crisis. Certainly her communications have been a lot clearer than the UK Government’s but she has faced the same issues in care homes. Willie Rennie highlighted lack of testing for new care home residents early on and, eventually, she had to change course. We have had a more cautious approach to the easing of lockdown up here, but I get the sense that people don’t really understand what they are and aren’t allowed to do. Conversations with parents of school age children set alarm bells ringing for me. Our schools have been back for two weeks. I’ve heard several accounts of there  being a few kids off with coughs at several schools. Their families didn’t seem to be self-isolating or getting tested, though…. You would think that one would be a no-brainer, but the message that the whole household should self isolate for 14 days unless there is a negative test result does not seem to be getting through.

Aside from the challenges of defending its record and managing the pandemic, the SNP has its own internal problems and divisions. They used to be, at least in public, suspiciously united. Any disagreements were kept private. Now there are fault lines between those who favour a more gradualist approach to independence and those who basically want to do a Catalonia, between those who favour a more progressive and equalities centred agenda and those who think feminism has gone too far and those who think that Alex Salmond’s behaviour towards women has been unacceptable and those who think that he is the innocent victim of a feminist conspiracy theory. The party’s internal civil war on transgender rights is a symptom of a much wider schism.

Two programmes this week are well worth your attention. Kirsty Wark’s BBC documentary on the trial of Alex Salmond is shocking and infuriating. The outcome of the trial did not really get the attention it deserved as it ended on the day that lockdown was announced. While no guilty verdicts were recorded on any of the charges, the evidence highlighted behaviour towards women in a professional environment that was at the very least questionable. On Tuesday journalist Dani Garavelli took a look at the history of the deepening divisions within the SNP in a programme for Radio 4, Scotland’s Uncivil War

Unsurprisingly, both women have been subject to abuse on social media for daring to investigate. And the abuse they have taken is nothing compared to what the women who actually complained about Salmond’s behaviour are getting. Garavelli mentions within her programme how some nationalists called for her to face criminal proceedings. Politicians calling for journalists to be prosecuted is not a good look. On Twitter, a couple of days after her programme was broadcast Garavelli spoke out about some of the criticism she had received:

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LibLink – Christine Jardine SNP’s policies on education have failed to make the grade

It’s been a hugely stressful week for thousands of Scottish teenagers and their parents.

They did not receive the results they were expecting for their HIgher exams after marks submitted by their teachers were downgraded by the Scottish Qualifications Authority. This has disproportionately affected pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds. Willie Rennie supported pupil protests against the system used by the SQA.

Pupils who have worked hard for months have been marked down because of how previous students performed at their school. This is grossly unfair as it reinforces the inequity that has been growing for years.

The Education Secretary and the SQA were warned for months that their moderation process would damage the prospects of pupils for life. It’s no surprise that so many young people are out protesting. They feel as if their grades and their futures are being robbed by the SNP.

We can only hope that the appeals system is robust enough to deal with the tsunami of appeals heading its away. The funding and the resource for the appeals process must be increased to meet the considerable demand and the Scottish Government must ensure teachers have the time they need to fully support the many appeals that will be required.

Yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon apologised and today Education Secretary John Swinney faces a vote of no confidence in the Scottish Parliament.

But the problems in Scottish education go much deeper than this fiasco. Christine Jardine used her weekly Scotsman column to highlight how pupils leaving school this year have had their entire education under SNP Government – and the system is mired with problems with schools, colleges and universities.

International reports show Scottish education plummeting down the league tables which compare our schools with those abroad.

That proud boast that ours was the finest education in the world now seems empty, and out-dated.
Certainly for those at the chalk face it has long ceased to be the case, replaced by the reality that too many of our young people leave school functionally illiterate and the past few years have been to endure rather than enjoy.

Many of those who graduated from our universities this year are the same young people whose school years were disrupted by being the first to sit the new National 5 exams. Their teachers had to deliver a curriculum which was not only untried and untested but, by common consent, largely chaotic and stressful for all.

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The Scottish constitutional question

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The constitutional question has dominated Scottish Politics for years and shows little sign of going away. It’s something the Liberal Democrats should have total strength on – we have been interested in where power does and should lie for decades. Decentralisation in a system of cross-national cooperative government is in our DNA.

However, this period of constitutional obsession and wrangling has done little to support our party. Many across the UK may feel a similar sense of exhaustion talking about Brexit that we feel in Scotland about independence, except we have been doing it for nearly 10 years, not just the last 4.

It is for this reason that many in the Scottish Liberal Democrats feel tired and done with talking about the SNP, wishing that we would take a different stance to our pro-UK position. This often comes with the accusation that we risk looking like Tory-lite and we must talk about federalism as an alternative – a proposal that no Liberal Democrat I have ever met disagrees with. However, we also run the risk then of looking to be insufficiently pro-UK, or that we have qualifications to our support of the UK, which is unacceptable to the majority of our base or floating voters and risks alienating us from the Scottish electorate even further. 5 MSPs and 4 MPs are better than none.

However, both of these suggestions miss the point. Brexit and Scottish Independence are symptoms of a much larger problem. Those that would vote for these, come what may, are far from the majority of the Scottish or UK population. Focusing on the constitutional wrangling of the UK does not address that so many people vote for these because they feel they have nothing to lose, in an economic system of stagnant wages, few opportunities, an ageing working population lowering the promotional opportunities for them to advance. A housing market has allowed house prices and rents to rise for the majority of property owners, but priced out the young and low income earners from saving and buying a home of their own.

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Liberal Democrats – the Interdependence Party

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One of the things I like about our Party is our willingness to bounce ideas off one another.

On a Zoom meeting of our local party Exec this evening, once the formal business was out-the-way, we socialised over an optional drink. This was no epic drinking session of lore in the making, to be sung-about to our as-yet unspawned grandchildren, but a glass was nonetheless raised.

The frustrations of campaigning in Scotland, where the national dialogue is no longer Left vs Right, but Unionism vs Nationalism, came to the fore. In this common parlance, Liberalism doesn’t get much of a look-in. You might as well try to talk to people in the street about Confucianism.

Ask people why they voted SNP in their local council election, and they’ll go glassy-eyed and start bandying around words such as ‘Independence’ and ‘Freedom’, meanwhile their bins go unemptied. Even on a national scale, failings in Education and Health get brushed aside for this snake-oil cure for all ills, this panacea that is Independence. How exactly this constitutional change is supposed to improve their lives… well, let’s just say the detail starts to get a bit thin.

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The crude reality of independence and the renewal of federalism

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Hopefully come 2021 we will be in a position to hold elections again, which must mean a return of focus to our message in Scotland. What’s our message and why is it both unique and important for the people of Scotland?

In 1992, James Carville was a strategist in the successful Presidential campaign of Bill Clinton. Carville hung a sign in Bill Clinton’s Little Rock campaign headquarters that read:

  1. Change vs. more of the same
  2. The economy, stupid
  3. Don’t forget health care

We know fine well where both the SNP and Conservatives stand in their message going into next year’s election, it’s a straight fight between IndyRef2 and Unionism. The Scottish Liberal Democrats can cut through all that white noise by sticking to Carville’s sign.

In 2014, independence campaigners failed because they couldn’t produce a clear and credible economic narrative. I find little evidence to suggest that narrative has found new ground, in fact quite the opposite. There is a crude reality for IndyRef2 supporters and it’s the price of crude oil.

In 2014 the price of crude oil was over $110 per barrel and was the economic basis for the ‘White Paper for Scotland’. At the beginning of this year that price fell by a half and then stabilised at roughly $60 per barrel; the industry itself survived on a round of deep cost cutting and slashing employment in the North Sea on a large scale.

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Weaker for Scotland!

In 2015 while an election agent in my hometown of Inverclyde, I watched while Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP swept the board with one clear simple mantra: Stronger for Scotland. Five years on from that election and thirteen years into SNP government that’s simply untrue. The SNP have been weak, ineffective and downright scandalous in it’s handling of affairs in Scotland.

I’ve sat by and watched while Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government receive praise from their supporters for it’s handling of the Coronavirus pandemic. The reality is it’s been an absolute disaster and this slopey shouldered, pass-the-buck attitude of ‘Well we did a bit better than the Tories’ is just simply not good enough.

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Christine Jardine challenges SNP to back People’s Vote

As everybody from Gary Lineker to the Independent is now backing the People’s Vote campaign for  a referendum on the final Brexit deal – which started out as a Lib Dem idea in the Summer two years ago – there is one notable exception.

The SNP is the third largest party in Parliament. It could make the difference. Yet it continues to sit on its hands on this most important question.

Nicola Sturgeon could have used her meeting with Theresa May to say that the SNP will block the deal and push for a People’s Vote, but she didn’t. It was all …

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SNP stunt kills off chance of devolution debate

Well, I suppose a bit of drama at PMQs brightens up the day, but what exactly was the point of the SNP’s mass walkout and their leader depriving himself of a vote as one of the most crucial pieces of legislation ever to go through the Commons. Not only that, but he had an application in for an emergency debate on the devolution related issues that everyone except the Scottish Tories are livid about. That fell because he was no longer allowed to be there. Presumably the SNP decided that a walkout would get them more attention on the news than a 3 hour debate. It did, but when this news cycle is over, what have they actually achieved? The square root of bugger all, to be honest.

At the heart of all the fuss is the issue of what happens to powers that were enacted by the EU when/if we leave. There is no agreement between the two governments about what should come to Westminster and what should come to Holyrood. The Scottish people don’t seem to give two hoots either way, to be honest. However, the Scottish Parliament voted by a large majority (everyone except the Tories) for the Scottish Government’s Continuity Bill rather than give consent to the EU Withdrawal Bill. This means that the two Governments are not in agreement and the Tories think that the way to resolve that is for Westminster just to dictate what happens. That is simply not acceptable.

However, there isn’t likely to be a settlement that satisfies the SNP. Their prime motivation is to drive as many wedges as they can between the two Parliaments. The clue is in their name. Everything they do is about trying to get independence.

So today, Ian Blackford, the SNP leader, had a justified go at May at PMQs and then pulled one of the biggest diversionary Parliamentary stunts in the book – moving a procedural motion for Parliament to sit in private. That would have meant that the public galleries would have been emptied and that the broadcast would have been stopped, but only if MPs had voted for it. Speaker John Bercow decided to flambe the situation rather than calm it down. He was all over the place on the procedure. First of all he said that the vote should happen straight away. Then he said he was minded to have it at the end of PMQs. Then he gave the SNP a choice. They all said they wanted it there and then and he insisted it would happen later. If he had just held the vote in the middle of PMQs, the SNP would have lost it and normal service would have been restored. Instead, Bercow went over the top and threw Blackford out. I know I’m always saying that Bercow should be throwing people out, but not like this. I meant the people who jeer and behave like toddlers.

The result was that Bercow’s dithering gave the SNP much bigger headlines than they were expecting. The Speaker isn’t usually so ignorant of procedure. You might be forgiven for thinking that he knew exactly what he was doing. He certainly seemed quite chuffed with himself.

But this excitement will die down. And we’ll be no further forward.

Tim Farron has form for this sort of stuff and he thought they’d made a mistake:

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Actually, Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP could help win a People’s Vote on the Brexit deal.

Nicola Sturgeon was on the Peston show today talking about various aspects of Brexit. One thing struck me when she was pressed on the issue of a People’s vote of the Brexit deal. She said that the SNP won’t be the block to that but if there was to be another EU referendum, the big question for Scotland would be what would happen if we got the same outcome, where Scotland voted to remain and Wales and England voted to leave.

To be honest, I think it would be so much better if the SNP threw their massive campaigning energy behind securing a vote that means we can all stay in the EU. I reckon we could do a lot better than the 62-38 result. To be honest, the SNP sat the last one out. Our local SNP didn’t do much because they said they were tired after the Scottish elections.  It was the Lib Dems who ran the street stalls and did all the work.

It is unlike the SNP to be tired. For three years up to the Independence referendum in 2014 they were everywhere. They campaigned their hearts out. For the last month of the campaign, you couldn’t go to the shops to buy your rolls in the morning without seeing a posse with saltires and Yes leaflets. In that referendum, there was an 84.6% turnout. In the EU referendum, only 67% of people voted.

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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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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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Another civil liberties victory for the Scottish Liberal Democrats

A couple of years ago, the SNP was planning to make this super ID database which made what Labour’s planned ID cards from 2008 look positively timid. They intended allowing 120 public bodies, including the Royal Botanic Gardens and Quality Meat Scotland, access to the NHS Central Register.

Alison McInnes, our then Justice spokesperson was on it straight away, as was Willie Rennie and made such a big fuss that the idea has now firmly been consigned to the dustbin.

Following parliamentary questions from Liam McArthur, our new Justice Spokesperson, the Scottish Government admitted that it had “decided it would not …

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Rennie calls on SNP to back Lib Dem efforts on Brexit deal referendum

The Scottish Government consults on all sorts of important things. At the moment, it’s consulting on expanding early learning and childcare in Scotland and on the best way to empower teachers. What could possibly be more important than that?

How predictable. I don’t expect the SNP to give up on their quest for independence, but do they really have to give it the top billing? The SNP take comfort from a poll which shows support for independence still pretty much where it was at the referendum – but ignore that more than 50% of those asked really don’t want to do it all over again.

In the aftermath of the EU Referendum, it seemed like Nicola Sturgeon was building a pretty big tent to try to find a way forward for Scotland. Sadly, though, it seems that the SNP are unable to find a road that doesn’t lead to independence whereas the Lib Dems are focused on keeping Scotland in the UK and the UK in the EU. If the SNP were to work with us, then we might well have the parliamentary numbers to ensure a key part of that – a referendum on the Brexit deal.

Willie Rennie called on them to do just that today:

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Nothing of public interest in lurid headlines about SNP MPs

Pick up any newspaper today, particularly the Scottish ones, and you’ll find a whole load of froth about two SNP MPs who have apparently had relationships, not at the same time, with the same woman. Both MPs have separated from their wives, most recently Deputy Leader Stewart Hosie from Scottish Health Minister Shona Robison at the weekend.

Those events will be particularly traumatic for the people involved and most especially for their children. I can’t however, see why it is any of our business. If either of them had shown hypocrisy and sought to curb others’ personal freedom, then perhaps calling them out for that would be relevant. Where is the public interest in this?

Much of the reporting is sensationalised and, more importantly, misogynistic on all sorts of levels. The woman concerned is cast as the “home wrecker” and extensive scrutiny is made of her blogs she has written which are simply not relevant. Nor is it appropriate to compare with the SNP MPs who have had to resign the whip and sit as independents. They have had to do because of various allegations of financial misconduct which are being investigated, not their personal lives

We really don’t need to know all of this stuff, and I wish editors would think about the effects of their articles on everyone affected. It’s hard enough for kids to come to terms with parents’ separation without their schoolmates hearing all sorts of lurid, unverifiable speculation. Maybe people who buy these papers and enjoy reading these stories should ask themselves how they would feel if it was their child going through it. We need to remember that behind each wild headline are lots of people having a really hard time. Our demand for such coverage makes their lives worse and it’s not necessary.

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