Tag Archives: willie rennie

Willie Rennie’s speech to Federal Conference: Lib Dems stand for the majority of Scots

Willie Rennie made a keynote speech to Liberal Democrat Conference on Tuesday. It was the best speech I have ever heard him make. A very clear statement of why the Lib Dems stand up for the majority of Scotland’s people – along with some literary advice for David Cameron. Jenni Lang’s introduction is worth watching too for a wee secret.

It’s becoming a tradition to spill some beans about Willie when introducing him for a speech. Borders candidate Jenny Marr told Scottish Conference how he’d turned up to a Wintry canvassing session in Aberdeenshire wearing pyjamas underneath his clothes to keep warm.

Enjoy.

The text is below:

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LibLink: Willie Rennie We can change the course of the UK with Jo Swinson

Willie Rennie writes for the Herald, saying that the Liberal Democrats can win big in the coming election because we have the solutions to the current chaos.

He explains why we have to wait a few weeks to have that election:

So we want an election before the end of the year but I’m afraid we can’t trust the Prime Minister to abide by the law of the land and request an extension to negotiations with Europe. So we need to hold his feet to the fire until he does and until we have seen an end to the no deal aspirations of this reckless Prime Minister. That means waiting until November before we choose a new Parliament.

Jo offers fresh leadership at a time of crisis and we can stop Brexit.

It’s not necessary or desirable to break up the UK in response to the possible break from the European Union because we have another way. We can stop Brexit together across the UK.

I draw hope from millions who marched in London to stop Brexit or the six million who signed up to revoke Article 50, or the hundreds of thousands of people who backed the Liberal Democrats in the European Elections.

And we are absolutely going for it:

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It wouldn’t be an election without a Willie Rennie stunt

And here he is, waterskiing to show the Lib Dem wave of support.

Sone people enjoyed it too much.

And there’s video too:

Former Scottish Camapigns director Adam Stachura had his own take

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Aiming high: Scottish Liberal Democrats launch “Stop Brexit” manifesto

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are the only party in Scotland who want to keep Scotland in the UK and the EU.

You would not expect a Willie Rennie manifesto launch to be boring. Sadly, there were no farm animals, but he and Alex Cole-Hamilton had a race up a climbing wall in Ratho, near Edinburgh.

It’s a great picture!

The prospects for the Scottish Lib Dems have not looked this good in years. The field work from the ComRes poll at the weekend had us in joint second with the Brexit Party, which gives us a real chance of getting party legend Sheila sent to Brussels.

There is clearly everything to play for in the next 9 days. There are record numbers of doors being knocked the length of the country. My spies tell me that Borders candidate Jenny Marr’s local party is vying for the top spot in terms of doors knocked along with the Edinburgh West and East Dunbartonshire.

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Sheila Ritchie heads Scottish European list

As he launched the Scottish Liberal Democrats list of candidates or the European election, Willie Rennie stressed that every vote for a Lib Dem MEP will help stop the division and damage imposed by Brexit.

The list includes a partner in an Aberdeen law firm who has spent 20 years supporting start-up businesses and entrepreneurs in the North East, the former head of the European Parliament’s office in Scotland, and an EU citizen who represents the hundreds of thousands of people who have made their home in Scotland but whose futures are put at risk by Brexit.

The list is as follows:

  1. Sheila Ritchie
  2. Fred Mackintosh
  3. Catriona Bhatia
  4. Vita Zaporozcenko
  5. John Edward
  6. Clive Sneddon

Willie said:

I am delighted to announce our list of candidates for the European elections. We have a strong group of people who are committed to protecting our place in Europe.

This election gives voters an opportunity to demand an end to the constitutional chaos we’ve endured for years. People are fed up with Brexit and listening to all the arguments. It has divided our country and damaged our economy for long enough.

A vote for Scottish Liberal Democrats is a vote to stop Brexit and will send a message to the SNP on their unwanted independence plans. Every MEP we gain in Scotland will help make the division and damage stop.

Sheila Ritchie said:

I am thrilled to be leading the fight to secure Lib Dem seats in Brussels and a chance to stop the chaos of Brexit dead in its tracks. This election provides us with a tremendous opportunity.

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In full: Willie Rennie’s speech to Scottish Conference: Lib Dems will deliver better for the country

Here, in full, is Willie Rennie’s speech to Scottish Conference:

My elder son has left home and has started his career as a lighting engineer in concert halls and theatres.

So when I told him … I had a big part …. on stage … in Hamilton today … he was very excited.

I wasn’t going to miss my shot to make that joke.

This is the room where it happens.

That is the musical Hamilton. As the U.S. republic blinked into the light it was Alexander Hamilton who wrote a series of essays called The Federalist papers.

He recognised that for a country to thrive it needed institutions that shared power, allowing each part to thrive while having a care for the success of the whole.

What a message!

I believe our party is the proud flagbearer of that tradition.

I believe people can do great things with power in their hands.

Be aspirational for them and their family but caring about others whether they are around the corner, across the world or in the future.

I am a hopeful, optimistic person.

It’s why I am a liberal.

But even I am tested by what is happening.

I can understand why so many people are pained and troubled when they look around Britain today.

An endless loop of Brexit negotiations, where nothing ever really changes.

You know it’s not going well when the National Union of Groundhogs have gone on strike.

We live in a country where the political establishment in the two largest parties fails to provide any kind of vision or leadership at one of the most important periods in our country’s history.

Where the leader of the official opposition presides over a culture of bullying and anti-Semitism.

Jeremy Corbyn is turning his back on a people’s vote even when his own party backed it.

A man who offered so much hope to young people in 2017 has now driven even his most ardent supporters to despair.

Where the Prime Minister is incapable of explaining the point of her Brexit deal – and it’s the only job she has got to do.

Theresa May can’t even win over those who are paid to agree with her.

A woman who promised so much strength and stability but who is about as stable as Rab C Nesbitt after a night out in Govan.

Even the jam she promises for tomorrow is already mouldy.

What did this country do to deserve these two leaders?

This is a special kind of hell.

We deserve better than this.

Our country deserves better this.

We can deliver better than this.

So we need hope.

I am determined to provide that hope.

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“Those bloody Liberal Democrats are in town”

The main hall in the Town House in the South Lanarkshire Town of Hamilton was the room where it happened this weekend (see what I did there?). The song from the musical Hamilton tells us to “Talk less, smile more” but there was actually a lot of both this weekend as Scottish Liberal Democrats gathered for Conference.

I have to admit, I was sceptical about this new venue and the hour I spent dragging my suitcase round empty streets in the dark on Thursday night trying to find the hotel did not improve my mood.

One of our number overhead in the ASDA across the road from the conference hotel “Those bloody Liberal Democrats are in town this weekend.”

However, the Town House is a lovely building, even more so when lit up purple by LGBT Youth Scotland for Purple Friday, the last Friday of LGBT History Month. The staff there and in the Town House were so  friendly and helpful.

We had some intense debates over the weekend. I actually ended up making five speeches, which is unheard of. I had planned to do three – I was proposing a motion on providing better housing support for victims of domestic abuse, summating the Scottish Young Liberals’ motion on trans rights and I’d hoped to be called in the debate on sex work.

I ended up also speaking about the problems people face with housing and the social security system when they leave prison and proposing the constitutional amendment which would allow the implementation of the new disciplinary process in Scotland.

The latter struck true terror into my heart. It meant going up against Scotland’s wonderful constitutional guru, John Lawrie who had concerns that we were giving too much power to the Federal Party. Actually, Sheila had cannily drafted the amendment so that we retain the power and delegate the functions so covering all our bases.

As persistent troublemaker (in the best possible way) Richard Coxon said in his speech, two inalienable truths of the Scottish Party are that Sheila Ritchie (the convener who wrote the amendment) is always right. And John Lawrie is always right. The party dealt with the conflict in Sheila’s favour this time.

One of my best highlights was the look of utter surprise and mild irritation on Sheila’s face when she won the Scottish Lib Dem Women’s award for the person who had done most to advance diversity. She has become a real driving force for the implementation of the Alderdice Review, showing local parties how to engage more with BAME people and get them involved in the party. She absolutely deserved the accolade. The SLDW AGM, by the way, decided to name the award after Helen Watt, who devoted so much time to the organisation until her far too early death in 2016.

I shall tell you more about the weekend in the next few days, but the agenda was absolutely packed with things that actually provoked debate. An attempt to overturn our policy on decriminalising sex work and replace it with the controversial Nordic model was unsuccessful, but the summating speech in favour of the motion affected everyone, whichever side of the debate you were on.

Diane Martin, who experienced the most awful treatment by exploitative pimps and ended up being trafficked for sex work, described her horrendous experience in an incredibly moving way. There was shock as she told how she was raped by a man with a gun who told her he was having a “freebie.” Diane won the award for the best speech of the Conference.

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WATCH: Willie Rennie questions Nicola Sturgeon about restraint of vulnerable and disabled children

In December, Scotland’s Children’s Commissioner published a shocking report which stated that local authorities risked breaking the law and breaching vulnerable and disabled children’s human rights with the way they used restraint and seclusion.

Out of the 18 local authorities which record such incidents, almost 400 children were subjected to these procedures a total of 2764 times. And 14 local authorities gave no information at all so the overall figure may be higher.

The report made 22 recommendations to which the Scottish Government was to respond to by the end of January.

There was one particularly disturbing account of the seclusion of a child with the mental age of 3:

One time I was called and he was being kept in the cloakroom with the door shut on his own incredibly distressed and not allowed out until I arrived. He was 5 years old with the mental age of a three year old… X very traumatised re the holds and not sleeping well and screaming in his sleep, very reluctant to go into school…

The staff had even put him in a room on his own in a totally unregulated state and held the door handle from the other side and wouldn’t let him out. X. was Distraught.

Willie Rennie asked Nicola Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions what the Government was going to say.

Watch the exchange here. The text is below:

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Vince: This is the beginning of the end of Brexit

Well, that was quite something. I had thought the estimates of a 200+ majority against were expectation management, so a defeat of less than 100 looked great.

But, no. The vote was lost by 230 votes. The biggest defeat in living memory.

A Government with a competent main opposition party would be in serious trouble.

But what was Theresa May’s instinctive reaction? She started talking about how this put EU citizens at risk. I mean, really. She turned them back into bargaining chips. I, for one, am not having that.

Jeremy Corbyn has finally won a motion of no confidence but when that is lost tomorrow, he will have to make up his mind whether to back a People’s Vote or not. We can only hope that he will listen to the almost 80% of his members who want Labour to back that.

Jo Swinson was the first Lib Dem to say anything after the  vote – she raised a Point of Order to  how Parliament could assert its authority to bring about a People’s Vote. In his response, Speaker John Bercow seemed to indicate on his reply that he would allow amendments to that effect.

Vince confirmed that he had signed Corbyn’s motion of no confidence and would support it and challenged the Labour leader to get behind a People’s Vote.

Brexit is becoming a national humiliation.

Liberal Democrats have campaigned since the referendum to give people the final say on Brexit. Theresa May has failed to persuade her party, failed to persuade Parliament and failed in her attempts to scaremonger MPs to back her.

The Prime Minister now needs to pull her head out of the sand and start acting responsibly by taking the ludicrous threat of a no-deal Brexit off the table. The only way forward for the country is through a People’s Vote where people have the right to choose to stay in the EU.

It is also time for Jeremy Corbyn to find his backbone, drop his plans for a Labour-led Brexit, and back our calls for a People’s Vote.

Willie Rennie also called for a People’s Vote to ensure that the Prime Minister couldn’t just look to her party to sort it out:

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Willie Rennie pulls Lib Dems out of Scottish budget negotiations

While all eyes are on a key vote on a proposal put forward by a minority government at Westminster this week, another political drama looms. On Wednesday  the Finance Minister of a minority government at Holyrood will present his budget.

Derek Mackay is going to have a hard time getting his proposals through. All Willie Rennie asked for as a preoondition to negotiaions for Lib Dem support was that they just drop the idea of an independence referendum in this Parliament, fulfilling a key part of our manifesto. It chimes with what we are hearing consistently on doorsteps – that people don’t want to go through 2014 again. They want to concentrate on getting rid of Brexit.

The arguments that all parties apart from the Conservatives, have united behind in the Scottish Parliament against Brexit apply equally to breaking up the UK. While you don’t expect the SNP ever to give up campaigning for independence, keeping it off the agenda for the time being is as sensible for them as it is good for the country.

The SNP lost 21 seats in the 2017 General Election as Scottish people reacted with horror to the prospect, floated by Nicola Sturgeon, of another poll. All tests of opinion so far suggest that they would lose another referendum, which is why they won’t call one. The problem is that if they explicitly say they’ll delay, their own people will kick off.

So they wouldn’t agree Willie’s pre-condition. And so Willie has withdrawn the Lib Dems from the negotiations.

From the BBC:

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said he had met Mr Mackay and Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes on two occasions “to explore what could be done” with the budget.

Mr Rennie said his party had been willing to “step in to help address the problems that have been mounting since the SNP came to power 11 years ago”.

This included investment in education and mental health services, an improved deal for councils and action to help tackle staffing shortages in hospitals and schools.

But he said the talks ended when the SNP politicians “could not agree to even a short cessation in their independence campaign”.

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Lib Link: Willie Rennie Brexit’s promises have fallen through so a People’s Vote must be held

In the Scotsman, Willie Rennie sets out the case for a People’s Vote in the wake of a woefully inadequate Brexit Deal that satisfies nobody.

Do we sit by as Rees-Mogg’s band of Brexit followers try to force us out of Europe with no deal? No. This is the time to rally for a People’s Vote. When Parliament is so divided it’s time to return it to the people. Growing numbers of people support the move to a People’s Vote. People are signing up every day. This deal satisfies no one, regardless of whether they voted leave or remain. Brexit will

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Brexit deal open thread….Lib Dems react

I predicted on Facebook this morning that there would be few if any resignations in the wake of the Brexit deal and it looks like, thus far at least, I’ve been proven right. The thing is, Tories love power. They feel entitled to power. When they have it, even if they are trashing the place, they are not going to give it up. So they grit their teeth and put up with a deal we know that they hate.

The deal is by its very nature worse than the deal we have at the moment. For sure, the EU needs its backside kicking in many ways, but then so does our own governance. Let’s face it, we have a whole house full of unelected people, with special places reserved for the leaders of one denomination of one religion.  We allow governments elected on barely a third of the vote virtually unchecked power.

We have been leaders in the EU. We have helped form the rules. We’re giving up all that to take what we’re given. In what universe is that taking back control? It’s like we’ve gone into a restaurant and ordered a roast beef with all the trimmings and been given a heap of tripe.

Lib Dems have been reacting to the news tonight. Vince picked up on two little words in the PM’s statement – no Brexit, which she said was a possibility.

The crucial change is that the Prime Minister and the Government have admitted for the first time that the choice for the country is not just between this bad deal or ‘no deal’.  Instead, ‘No Brexit’ is a very real possibility.

“It is time to return this issue to the country, and give people the option to Remain.

 

Willie Rennie pointed out the chaos in the Tory Party:

This Conservative Government is in total chaos. The veneer of unity in the cabinet will not secure unity in the country, parliament or even their own party.

This deal will not satisfy anyone regardless of whether they voted leave or remain. Instead Brexit will hurt the pockets of ordinary people and leave the UK weakened.

Theresa May has a chance to steer the UK away from the cliff edge. She should call a People’s Vote and give the public the power to choose what happens next.

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The Budget – Lib Dems react

Senior Lib Dems have attacked the Budget as insufficient to end austerity. In a post on the party website, Vince set out what Lib Dems want to see in a “People’s Budget”:

We would:

  • Secure the future of our NHS, focusing on social care and mental health with an extra £6bn per year, funded through a penny in the pound on income tax.
  • Improve living standards for 9.6m parents and children, by reversing George Osborne’s cuts to the “work allowance” under Universal Credit, costing £3bn.
  • Invest an extra £2.8bn in to the schools budget, by reversing the Government’s proposed cuts to school funding.
  • Scrap business rates – replacing them with a tax on land values known as the Commercial Landowner Levy.  The reformed system would increase incentives to invest in new equipment and renovations, and cut taxes for businesses in nine out of ten English local authorities.
  • Reverse Conservative cuts to Corporations Tax – still leaving the UK with the lowest rate of corporation tax in the G7.
  • Work with the EU to crack down on tax avoidance by the tech titans, and working to secure agreement on taxing multi-nationals’ profits.
  • Reform wealth taxation – bringing capital gains and dividend taxes into line with income taxes, removing the most generous pension tax reliefs from the highest earners, and replacing the inheritance tax system with a fairer lifetime transfer tax.

Vince has been doing the media round, telling LBC:

And here he is on the BBC:

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Lib Dems could double Holyrood seats according to new poll

Well, this looks interesting…

I know, I know, it’s only a poll, but an almost doubling of support for us should encourage Scottish Lib Dems to get campaigning.

The Survation poll for the Daily Record shows what could be on offer for the Scottish Liberal Democrats and should give the party confidence. The findings echo what people are finding on the doorsteps.

For a few fraught years, …

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Lib Dems call for recall of Parliament, Jane Dodds calls for PM to go and Rennie challenges Scottish Tories on People’s Vote

Here’s a quick summary of the Lib Dems’ reaction to Theresa May’s statement on the Brexit negotiations yesterday:

Tom Brake called for Parliament to be recalled:

The Prime Minister has had the most humiliating European summit in recent memory and returned with a tattered Chequers deal, making a no deal Brexit more likely than ever.

Two years down the line and the only consensus the PM has made across Parliament and the EU is that Chequers is unworkable.

Instead of pontificating to television cameras, May must now recall Parliament to explain how she got the country into this terrible mess, what her plan is to get us out of it, and when we can have a people’s vote and an exit from Brexit.

Welsh Leader Jane Dodds reckons we need a change of PM:

Theresa May pledged to the country to get the best deal possible but her unwillingness to compromise has left her isolated and now she’s doubling down on her fantasy Chequers deal. You cannot simply keep trying negotiate a deal which has already been ruled out by almost everyone involved and expect an eventual success, politics does not give marks for effort.

Brexit did not, and should not, mean whatever the PM decides it means. It took us 18 months to get the Chequers paper and her religious support of it shows the PM has no realistic plan for Brexit, that’s why she must resign. She has failed to listen to the people, failed to listen to the EU and never quite accepted she lost the General Election. I fully understand the difficulties she faces within her own party, but the buck must stop with her as PM and party leader.

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Willie Rennie: Join us to stand for fairness, justice and equality of opportunity

Yesterday, Willie Rennie gave his keynote speech to Scottish Conference.

In it he made clear that Liberal Democrat MSPs would not back the SNP’s budget this year unless they took a second independence referendum off the table.

He highlighted the party’s support for a boycott of the SNP Government’s national tests for 5 year olds and said that Scotland should follow other countries where formal education does not start till 6 or 7.

He praised Nicola Sturgeon for the way she handled allegations of sexual harassment against Alex Salmond and criticised the former first minister for running his defence like an election campaign, asking what message that sent to any women who had experienced sexual harassment.

In his final paragraph he invited people to join the Liberal Democrats to make a stand for justice, fairness and equality of opportunity

Our country is on the wrong track.

People who play their part often get left behind.

The rules are stacked in favour of big corporations and the most powerful.

Liberal Democrats stand up to power and privilege to bring fairness and opportunity for everyone.

It’s why we stood up to Amazon and demanded they paid fair wages and paid fair taxes too.

It’s why we stood up for human rights and integrity when the SNP put a grubby Chinese deal first.

It’s why we stood for early education, put mental health at the top of the agenda, and got funding for our colleges;

It’s why we stood against big, hungry central government that grabbed control of our police, our fire and our NHS.

It’s why we put our shoulder to the wheel for Scotland to remain in the UK.

It’s why we are standing up for a final say on Brexit.

This is what we do.

Once a small team, now a growing team we have achieved all this.

With more of us we can do so much more.

This is why I joined the party.

And why more people should join our party.

Vince Cable is opening the door across the whole of Britain.

People who share our values should join our movement.

To challenge.

To stand for the weak against the strong.

For the fishermen, the farmers and the crofters.

Against big government and huge corporations.

For better mental health, better education so that everyone can be all they can be.

To change the world in which we live.

To stand for fairness, for justice, for equality of opportunity.

Liberal Democrats Demand Better.

The full text is below:

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Scottish Liberal Democrats highlight perinatal mental health

As Mental Health Awareness Week draws to a close, Willie Rennie again used his questions to the First Minister to highlight the crisis in Scotland’s mental health provision:

Post-natal depression and depression during pregnancy affect up to one in five women. Half the women who experience it will go undetected and untreated.

During an FMQs session in April, Willie Rennie highlighted the lack of perinatal mental health services and drew attention to the fact that new mothers in half of Scotland cannot access specialist services. Only Glasgow meets the required standard in the whole of Scotland.

Scottish Liberal Democrats have a number of ideas to provide better perinatal services. They include:

  • The six week post-natal check to include support from a GP and Health Visitor with specific training on maternal mental health;
  • Referrals to suitable community support networks, supported by a health visitor;
  • Inpatient care to allow mothers to continue caring for their babies and be close to home;
  • A new campaign to remove the stigma of mental ill health for new mothers;
  • A new plan to increase core training for GPs and health visitors in identifying and treating maternal mental health.

Yesterday there was a debate on perinatal mental health at Holyrood:

Our health spokesperson Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said:

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Vince Cable as you have never seen him before

We’re used to seeing Vince outlining his Liberal Democrat vision in typically thoughtful style. Action shots are more likely to be gliding effortlessly across the dance floor in a graceful and flawless foxtrot.

We’re used to seeing Willie Rennie dialling the fun in any photo opportunity up to the maximum level.

When Vince came to Aviemore yesterday to speak at Scottish Conference, he got a taste of photo-ops, Rennie style – and he loved it. He threw himself, quite literally, into the spirit of the occasion when he found himself next to a sign saying “Jump and Smile Adventure Park”

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WATCH: Willie Rennie’s speech to Scottish Conference

Here is Willie Rennie’s leaders’s speech to Scottish Conference. In it he talks about how the Liberal Democrats have influenced Scottish politics and policy in education, mental health and justice, calls on the Health Secretary to resign, tells us we can stop Brexit and has a huge challenge to Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Conservative leader.

The text is below:

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Willie Rennie completes 117 mile run and raises over £7000 for mental health charity

He’s done it!

For those of you who haven’t been following the story over the last few days, Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie has had a combined mid-life crisis/election substitute. He has run four and a half marathons in the last 3 days, 117 miles, around the Fife Coastal Path.

He finished just over an hour ago. He ran 44 miles today. I can barely drive that distance. It’s absolutely incredible. About 10 minutes ahead of him, I walked up the last part of the path – a not very steep, but long hill. I knew it was boing to be tough for him at the end of that uber-marathon stint.

I’d seen him at his penultimate stop 17 miles and 3 hours earlier. He was in good spirits but clearly very sore. His left ankle was protesting pretty severely at having been put through about 150,000 steps.

It was almost funny when he was asked by the photographer to go back down the hill a bit and run through the arch and ribbon (held by his wife Janet and son Stephen again) so he could get a better shot.

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#RunRennieRun: The highlights of day one and how you can help on day two

As we reported yesterday, Willie Rennie is running the 117 miles of the Fife coastal path to raise money for Scottish mental health charity SAMH. Yesterday he ran more than 40 miles from Kincardine to Buckhaven.

The weather was not in any way co-operative – the odd shower might have been a bit refreshing but driving rain, cold and sleet is never fun.

He’s now raised more than £5000 – with £1000 going on since Thursday. If you want to give him some motivation to keep going, please give all you can here.

If you want to go and cheer him …

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A year to Brexit – time to remember that we could and should get out of this mess

A year ago, I watched in sorrow and horror as Theresa May triggered the Article 50 process, motivated more by keeping her restless Brexiteers in check than what was actually good for the country.

With just a year to go before we are scheduled to leave the European Union, most of the really difficult issues are unresolved and every day the problems become more apparent. From the Irish border to how we sell and buy the things we take for granted from abroad, to the reappearance of roaming charges to uncertainty over aviation to nuclear safety, we still don’t know how our post Brexit life will take shape.

That’s partly because Theresa May has chosen to pander to the hard right gung ho Brexiteer elements in her own party rather than build support for a more moderate cross-party approach.  The negotiating tactics have been ridiculous, disjointed and devoid of any sort of strategy. They are making this country look very stupid on the international stage which isn’t a good look for our forthcoming leap into isolation.

When you have an international trade war being ignited by a protectionist in the White House, surely you are better off ganging up with 27 of your mates rather than entering negotiations alone and powerless.

21 months on from the referendum, we know that Brexit is much more complex than was at first portrayed and there is little sign of a fawning world queuing up to offer us trade deals that are even half as good as the one we currently enjoy from within the EU.

People are brining up Brexit a lot on the doorsteps. They think it is a really bad idea, but think we are stuck with it. The message from Liberal Democrats today must be very strongly that we can get out of it – and we will. We have to offer tangible hope to people.

Vince Cable kicked off an Easter weekend of intensive Lib Dem campaigning on this issue, saying:

Today the Liberal Democrats are launching our biggest ever campaign outside an election.

Article 50 was triggered a year ago and since then few concrete steps towards a deal. May’s tactic of kicking the can down the road has meant that no tangible progress has been made, and year ahead is overloaded.

In the coming months, the country faces two critical issues. One is on membership of the Customs Union, which we must remain in, as it is essential to our supply chain industries and solving the matter of the Irish border.

The other is that it must be made clear what a ‘close transition’ truly means – at the moment it is just a messy vacuum.

The poorly-handled negotiations and the Cambridge Analytica scandal means that there is, rightfully, a heightened sense that any Brexit deal must be signed off in a test of public opinion. This must include the option of an exit from Brexit.

Willie Rennie said:

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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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Lib Dems respond to the Spring Statement – Hammond ignores the Heffalump in the room

You know, I actually wrote Autumn Statement in the headline and had to change it. Old habits die hard. I’m so used to the Big Budget being in March and that ritual of having to go and fill up with petrol the night before in case the prices went up…

Anyway, here’s what Lib Dems have been saying about Philip Hammond’s statement, starting with Vince:

The Spring Statement was a non-event. The OECD gave us the clearer picture – that the economy is bumping along the bottom of the G20, well behind the likes of Australia, Canada and the Euro area.

The OBR’s fresh forecasts are still a long way behind the figures estimated in March 2016 before the EU referendum.

It is time the government was honest with the public: there will need to be tax increases to pay for the NHS and social care, police and schools.

This is why the Liberal Democrats have advocated a penny in the pound income tax increase for health and care and why we must scrap cuts in Capital Gains Tax and Inheritance Tax introduced since 2015.

Christine Jardine got a bit carried away with Winnie the Pooh metaphors:

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Willie Rennie: It’s time for pro EU progressives in Labour to speak out

This week, Willie Rennie gave a keynote speech to the David Hume Institute in Edinburgh. He said that all pro-Europeans must step up and called on particularly those supporters of the Labour Party who oppose Corbyn’s position to join with us to campaign against Brexit.

I know many in the Labour Party feel very frustrated by Jeremy Corbyn’s approach to Europe.

His long standing Bennite antipathy.

His lacklustre participation in the referendum.

His failure to put any real pressure on the Conservative Government.

His oscillating position on our future relationship with our neighbours.

When we look back at this time people will be astonished at the leader of the opposition.

Labour has a big responsibility.

It cannot stand by as we are made poorer, are more divided, and are rejecting our neighbours.

My warning to Labour moderates is this.

The people are running ahead of the people’s party. People want the final say on Brexit.

Jeremy Corbyn is not playing a long game on Brexit. He does not have a masterplan to swing into action at the last minute.

You will get to the last minute.

You will check your watch and he won’t be there but Brexit will be.

It is time for pro-EU progressives in the Labour Party to speak out.

To those who are angry and frustrated with their leadership now is the time to speak out.

Vague complaints about Brexit won’t be enough.

You need to show how to escape from it.

Join us to make that case before it is too late.

He also set out very clearly that Brexit is not inevitable:

If I started talking about life after Brexit people might think that even I think it is unstoppable, inevitable, irreversible.

So that is not what I will address this evening.

Especially as in 2018 people are starting to think again.

And we now know Article 50 can be stopped.

It’s remarkable that 20 months on from that vote, the UK Government is still no clearer on what it wants to achieve by Brexit beyond broad wishful thinking and formulaic incantations.

Tonight I am going to look at the new evidence on the costs of Brexit to the UK and Scotland.

I am going to show how the public is taking note of these costs and that minds are changing.

Here is the speech in full:

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Brexit starts to look very, very scary

Leave voting areas of the UK are amongst the worst hit in the Government’s own analysis of the impact of Brexit.

Staying in the single market, which the Government refuses to do, would see a 3% fall in GDP in the North East. That is best case scenario. If we crash out with no deal, that hard-hit area of the country stands to lose 16% of GDP.

Similarly in the West Midlands, no deal amounts to a 13% fall in GDP.

Here’s the full analysis:

Tom Brake said:

This is a damning outlook for Britain. The Tories are putting everything on the line because they do not care about the lives and livelihoods of the people of the UK.

The government need to start being clear what they are fighting for. They are still keeping no deal on the table despite how crippling it would be to the regional economy.

People did not vote to make themselves poorer.  They should be allowed a vote on the final deal and a chance to exit from Brexit.

Willie Rennie looked at the impact on Scotland and across the UK and accused the Conservatives of putting the public in the firing line;

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Lib Dems mark #vote100

Today, Lib Dems marked the 100th anniversary of women getting the vote.

Vince put 16 and 17 year olds at the heart of his comments:

Today we celebrate 100 years since partial extension of the franchise to women.  It is shocking to think that another decade had to pass before votes were offered on a fully equal basis.

The causes both of gender equality and real democracy in the UK still have far to go.  A century on, we still see unjustifiable gender pay gaps, and sexism remains a scourge in the workplace and throughout society.

Parliament itself remains unrepresentative of society and of political opinion.  The next historic battle for democratic rights in the UK is to extend the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds, and reform our broken electoral system so that every vote counts and all voices can properly be heard.

Sal Brinton said that at current rates of progress her baby granddaughters, 2 this Summer, would be in their 9th decade by the time there was gender quality in the House of Common

In the last 100 years there have obviously been massive changes for the role of women in society. We are more equal, we are treated more fairly, and we face fewer obstacles in our lives. But the job is not yet done. As women we are not yet truly equal, we are not yet treated fairly, and we still face obstacles in our lives.

We are still behind in our politics and change must be led from the top. My granddaughters will be two this summer. At the current, glacial, rate of change they will be in their ninth decade before we have parity in the House of Commons. That is not good enough.

Willie Rennie tweeted:

In Wales, Jane Dodds found herself on the telly – and as the only woman on the panel discussing women getting the vote.

And there is a fabulous video and, of course, call to arms, from Jo Swinson:

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Rennie warns of budget cuts to councils and health boards

Speaking ahead of the Scottish Parliament debate on the Budget, Willie Rennie set out the Liberal Democrat priorities of investment in education and mental health. The SNP Finance Minister has not made good on a promise to provide funding for inter-island ferries in the Northern Isles of Orkney and Shetland.

The Budget needs to do more to meet the long term needs of the economy.

It should invest in people through education and mental health. We have a fully costed plan to make that happen.

We have yet to hear how the SNP are going to change the Budget to make sure

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Willie Rennie to run almost 5 marathons in 4 days to raise funds for mental health charity

As far as we know, Scotland doesn’t have any elections this May.

Willie Rennie isn’t going to be slacking though.

Over the Easter weekend, he’ll be running the 117 miles of the Fife Coastal Path which runs from the Firth of Forth to the Forth of Tay. He hopes to raise £1000 at least for the Scottish Association for Mental Health a Scottish mental health charity. This reflects his personal and political priorities of securing better mental health care.

That 117 miles is not far off being 5 marathons so …

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

Embed from Getty Images

Here is Willie Rennie’s Christmas Message:

May I wish everyone a Merry Christmas.

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

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

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

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

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