Tag Archives: willie rennie

Carmichael accuses Scottish Government of flip-flopping on vaccine passports

Alistair Carmichael has accused the Scottish Government of flip-flopping on vaccine passports for domestic use.

Way back last December, when questioned by Willie Rennie, Nicola Sturgeon sounded pretty sceptical about them. Here’s the excchange:

WR: With the great news about the vaccine, people will want to know how the restrictions will be eased. As a Liberal, I am nervous about talk of immunity passports for getting into shops and restaurants or on to planes. Putting personal information on to large databases means risks to privacy and the possibility of fraud, hacking and theft. The World Health Organization questions the value of immunity passports, and the UK Government has said that it has no plans to introduce them. I want to go further, and I think that we need guidance. We might need to make changes to the law to protect people from its misuse. What is the Scottish Government’s policy on immunity passports?

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Lib Dem researcher discovers proof that the Queen lobbied ministers to change climate change law

Lily Humphries is one of the Lib Dem team in the Scottish Parliament and the brains behind many of our scoops with her freedom of information requests.

She features in in today’s Guardian which reports that Lily discovered that the Queen had successfully lobbied Scottish Government ministers to get an exemption from a new law which “requires landowners to facilitate the construction of pipelines to heat buildings using renewable energy.”

That’s not bad for someone who owns as much land as Her Majesty does. As the Guardian reports:

Her lawyers secured the dispensation from Scotland’s government five months ago by exploiting an obscure parliamentary procedure known as Queen’s consent, which gives the monarch advance sight of legislation.

The arcane parliamentary mechanism has been borrowed from Westminster, where it has existed as a custom since the 1700s.

The article explains:

The new documents, uncovered by Lily Humphreys, a researcher for the Scottish Liberal Democrats using freedom of information laws, disclose how the monarch used her special access to Scottish legislation to intervene in the parliamentary process as recently as February.

Not only that, but the Government didn’t tell Parliament about this as Willie Rennie pointed out:

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Willie Rennie: “A cheerful voice for a more decent politics”

Willie Rennie has done two major interviews this weekend talking about his decision to stand aside as Scottish Liberal Democrat leader and his hopes for the future.

The Times (£) leader had praise for him yesterday, too:

It is to be hoped that Mr Rennie remains active in public life. He has been a cheerful voice for a more decent politics and his brand of low-key, relaxed liberalism is more necessary than ever. After a summer running in the hills he should return to the fray, ready to play his part in building a bigger and better centre.

Willie spoke to Magnus Linklater for the paper (£) and talked about his hope that Labour and the Lib Dems would work more closely together to present a progressive, pro-UK alternative to the nationalism and populism of the SNP and Conservatives:

“I think working together with Labour on issues of common interest would be a good thing,” he said in an interview with The Times. “I wouldn’t run before we can walk. But build confidence between the parties and also amongst the electorate to show we’re getting our act together.”

This is about trying to show that for middle Scotland there is something better and stronger than the Conservatives or the SNP, that it’s got energy, it’s got momentum, it’s got ideas, and that’s the most important thing, so people know that if they vote for it, it will be worth it,” he added. “The actual mechanism is less important — it’s the energy behind it that matters.”

He talked about how much Scotland had changed in the past decade or so – and not for the better:

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Willie Rennie stands aside as Scottish Lib Dem leader

After more than a decade in the role, Willie Rennie announced this evening that he is standing aside as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

Watch his statement here:

He leaves while he is still incredibly popular within the party – and the tributes he has received from outside it show how valued he is across politics.

When he took over in 2011, he inherited a party that had been given the hoofing of its life in the Scottish Parliament elections, reduced from 16 MSPs to just 5.

The small group he led had a big voice, though. Over the years, the Scottish Lib Dems have been the go-to people on issues like education and mental health. Willie’s dogged persistence, challenging Scottish Ministers week in and week out on issues like police centralisation, college places, mental health waiting times, childcare and free school meals shifted government policy on many occasions.

He stared wipeout in the eye in the Scottish Parliamentary elections of 2016. If you had told me we would emerge with 5 MSPs from that election after the disaster of 2015, I would not have dared to believe it. But he showed what he could do with a bright and optimistic campaign which include him launching the manifesto while running down a soft-play volcano and being interviewed on a slide. When his photocall at a city farm was overshadowed by two amorous pigs, journalists were given a packet of Percy Pigs each at the next big event.

His commitment to improving the party’s diversity saw him ensure that we had all women shortlists for both 2017 and 2021 elections, a gender balanced team of spokespeople and serious money invested in diversity projects in each year’s Scottish budget. He put his own neck on the line to get these measures approved by Conference. He needed a two thirds majority and he got it by basically ringing everyone who had registered and talking them round.

And he has travelled the length and breadth of the country so many times supporting candidates at every possible level of election. He’s encouraged people to stand who have now been elected. He has led campaigning with boundless energy, enthusiasm and a huge smile.

I am incredibly sad to see him go, but I can understand that after 10 years of unrelenting graft, he relishes the chance to do something a bit different. He’ll stay on as MSP for North East Fife, of course – but don’t expect him to stop speaking out on th issues he has championed.

And as a campaigner who has been responsible for many of the party’s successes over the past three decades, his skills in that direction will be in demand.

So what now?

The Scottish Executive will set a timetable for a leadership election in which any of the party’s other three MSPs will be eligible to stand.

But for now, let’s look at some of the lovely things people are saying about Willie:

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Willie Rennie; I will work for a liberal country – an open, internationalist, reformed, caring, fair and green country

Yesterday the Scottish Parliament chose its First Minister. Nicola Sturgeon was always going to win, although she is one short of an overall majority. Willie Rennie announced his intention to stand against her because “Most people did not vote for the largest party and it is important that their voices are heard.” Conservative leader Douglas Ross followed suit.

Willie gave a really strong speech, setting out the sort of country he wanted Scotland to be. He addressed the deep divisions in the country, which is pretty much split down the middle on independence and attacked both SNP and Conservatives for reinforcing these divisions.

The Conservatives, he said, were the biggest threat to the Union, rather than defenders of it.

That is certainly true. The SNP and the Conservatives need each other to take attention away from their failing governments and on to a bitter fight over the Constitution. Willie was right to call it out and to give a vision of what Scotland really could be like.

Nicola Sturgeon was pretty graceless, to be honest, attacking both of the leaders who dared to oppose her personally rather than on ideas. She proved Willie’s point, really. And his generous words when she was elected are a stark contrast to her disrespect:

It has been an extraordinary time with extraordinary pressures, both Covid and political. I have admired Nicola Sturgeon’s personal leadership through the pandemic; she has made life-and-death decisions every day. I was impressed by the clarity of the communications and I agreed with the caution, too.

The fact that we have political differences in the chamber should not prevent us from respecting each other, and we should appreciate the personal sacrifice that comes with public service and office. Of course, that personal sacrifice pales in comparison with the many struggles that our constituents face every day, but it is sacrifice nonetheless, so I thank Nicola Sturgeon for that service and offer my support as well.

I suspect Scotland will look back on Willie’s speech in 5 years’ time and realise that there was a lot of truth in his words.

I want Scotland to be a liberal country where everyone can live as they wish, not held back by prejudice or expectations, and where every person can achieve their potential, lifted up by a healthy body and an educated mind.

I want an open and outward-looking Scotland, not one that blames its neighbours for our problems. I want a country that looks to the needs of people next door and around the world, and of people in the future, and not just to our own interests today. I want a Scotland with people who come together to overcome the enormous challenges that time throws our way. That would be my driving philosophy as First Minister.

I would start by putting recovery first. The people who are waiting up to three years for mental health treatment need recovery to come first. The friends and family of the 1,256 people who lost their lives in a single year to drugs deserve our attention. Those who are looking for work cannot wait. Those who are desperate for a hip replacement or cancer treatment cannot wait, nor can those who wait for a good education and nor can future generations who want a healthy planet. They all deserve our focus, because they cannot wait behind another debate on the constitution. That is why I would put recovery first.

When no single party has a majority, no one should assume a right to the office of First Minister. Most people did not vote for the largest party, so it is important that their voices be heard today. I stand for nomination as First Minister with great hope, but with a liberal dose of realism.

This country is divided like never before—right down the middle, according to the polls and the election. Yet the situation is worse than that: hardened supporters on both sides cannot understand each other any more. They have stopped listening to each other, and the election campaign entrenched those differences. The Scottish National Party’s materials often featured Boris Johnson more than Nicola Sturgeon. The Conservatives were more interested in attacking Labour and the Liberal Democrats than in trying to win over SNP supporters. They both stoked up people’s fear, which resulted in thousands of people voting for one extreme for fear of the other.

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Parties adopt Kennedy Commitment to disagree well with open and respectful debate

Earlier today I  joined Willie Rennie in calling on all parties in Scotland to commit to a zero-tolerance approach to abuse and to lead a respectful campaign.

In the course of the Scottish campaign to date a brick has been thrown at Scottish Liberal Democrat HQ and the new Labour Leader Anas Sarwar has been racially abused outside Holyrood.

It just isn’t how politics should be done.

It was also worryingly reminiscent of an attitude in the 2015 campaign which resulted in the unacceptable campaign of intimidation against Charles Kennedy. And if the reaction to BBC Alba’s recent documentary about Charles’ life showed me anything, it was that this sort of behaviour is as unpopular now as it was then.

We must never go back to those old divisions.

With social media playing an increasingly prominent role in elections, politicians can show they have learned the lessons of the past and send a clear message of the value we hold in open, honest and respectful debate.

Our democracy is at its best when it is open, inclusive and free from intimidation or abuse. That is what Charles believed. He understood the importance of disagreeing well with political opponents. So the Kennedy Commitments put these values into practice:

Publicly challenge and denounce derogatory, untrue, or hateful messages on social media.
To disagree well and treat my political opponents, journalists and the public with respect.
Run an honest campaign that does not permit character defamation, libel, or slander against political opponents.

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Rennie: Tackle drug addiction with compassion and treatment, not imprisonment

Liberal Democrats care about people being able to fulfil their potential and getting the care and support they need to recover from illness and addiction. That’s why our Scottish manifesto highlights the need to take a public health approach to addiction. Scotland has the highest drug deaths rate in Europe, something which became very real to a friend of mine recently when her son died after taking street valium. Typically, she thought of others before herself and allowed the BBC to film his funeral.

Willie Rennie said today that the next Scottish Government will only end the drug deaths crisis through compassion and health treatment, not prosecution, as he revealed new figures showing 605 people convicted of possession without intent to supply being sent to prison.

Meanwhile, only 108 people received a Drug Treatment and Testing Order during the same three year period (2016/17 to 2018/19).

1264 people died of drug related causes in 2019. Each of them were individuals with talents and skills. Each of them loved and had people loving them. Pretty much 3 people a day lose their lives and each one of them, with the right intervention, could still be alive today.

So the Scottish Liberal Democrats, looking to the best evidence, has the following measures to tackle the harm that drug addiction causes to people and communities that are focused on help and support. The party will:

  • Reduce the misery of drug abuse with compassion and health treatment rather than prosecution.
  • Take radical steps with the prosecution authorities and the Lord Advocate to help establish heroin assisted treatment and safe consumption spaces.
  • Establish new specialist Family Drug and Alcohol Commissions to help provide wraparound services and to take a holistic approach to those reported for drug offences, learning from best international practice such as that in Portugal.
  • Divert people caught in possession of drugs for personal use into education, treatment and recovery, ceasing imprisonment in these circumstances.
  • Protect and enhance drug and alcohol partnership budgets, and adopt the principle that individuals and families shouldn’t have to pay for the care and treatment of those at risk of death from drugs or alcohol.
  • Use emergency housing funding to help people keep their homes and tenancies while they undergo treatment and rehabilitation.

Willie Rennie said:

The SNPs failure was more than just a political failure, it was a failure that cost the lives of hundreds of people.

Not only did the SNP fail to take the necessary action to save lives, they made it worse by cutting the alcohol and drug partnership budgets, surrendering services and expertise.

It was admitted in 2017 that essential drug reforms weren’t pursued because it wasn’t seen as a vote winner. This is political negligence of the highest order.

Scottish Liberal Democrats will put recovery first. We will reduce the misery of drug abuse with compassion and health treatment rather than prosecution. After years of being told no, Scottish Liberal Democrats have just won cross-party agreement for that important principle.

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Brick thrown at Scottish Lib Dem HQ

So, yesterday morning, this happened:

This would have been awful if it had happened to any political party, but you always feel it more deeply when the building is full of your friends, people you really care about.

You have to wonder what goes through the mind of someone who thinks it is ok to put human beings in danger like that.

Elections are stressful enough for any party’s staff. By this time, they’ve been working ridiculous hours for months, and the idea of work/life balance has completely gone out the window.

They shouldn’t have to worry about missiles coming in the window or any other threat to their safety.

Alistair Carmichael, our campaign chair, said:

This morning a brick was thrown through the window of our HQ in Edinburgh.

“Fortunately no one was hurt but it could have been very different and our staff are understandably shaken by this.

“I’m dismayed that this kind of behaviour seems to have taken root in Scotland. Political campaigning should be about the clash of ideas, not about acts of violence.

“I would like to thank Police Scotland for their work in detaining a suspect. I also want to thank all our party staff who have been affected by this incident but who continue to give their all in delivering our campaign in this election.”

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Lib Dems’ parliamentary tributes to Prince Philip

I am sure that all our hearts will go out to the Queen today as we see her sitting alone in St George’s Chapel at the funeral of her husband of 73 years.

Bereavement is horrific at any time, but the pandemic has made it even more cruel for millions of people.

For the Queen there is a particularly difficult aspect. She’ll be on her own, but with the eyes of the entire world upon her. I just hope that she gets some comfort from knowing that she has the compassion and love of those millions of people.

This Monday, all our Parliaments were recalled to pay tribute to Prince Philip. Below are the tributes paid by Ed Davey, Willie Rennie, Kirsty Williams and Dick Newby, covering so many aspects of his life. Ed’s tales of Paddy’s encounters with the Duke will make you smile.

They are fitting tributes to someone who was such a huge part of our nation’s life for almost three quarters of a century.

Ed Davey

Princess Anne said yesterday:

“You know it is going to happen but you are never really ready.”

That is a truth shared by so many grieving families. Most people know that their loved one is near the end of their life because they are old or very sick, but that does not mean that they can avoid the tidal wave of grief—that moment of finality. This year more than most so many families have faced that moment, so I am sure that the Princess Royal speaks for not just the Queen and the royal family but the whole country: you are never really ready.

However, as people grieve, we can also say thank you— thank you to one of Britain’s greatest public servants of the last 100 years. As other party leaders have said, Prince Philip has been a rock in the life of our nation since his betrothal to our Queen, then the young Princess Elizabeth. Above all, he has always been her rock. After 73 years of marriage, it will be our Queen who feels this loss far more than anyone else. If anyone says that bereavement is easier when a loved one has lived a long life, I have to say that that is not my experience. So, ma’am, our hearts go out to you.

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The week in the Scottish Election – debate, baby badgers and up in the polls

This week saw the first leaders’ debate of the Scottish election campaign and Willie absolutely smashed it. Here’s his opening statement:

And can we afford to tackle climate change?

 

The photo-ops

No campaign is complete without  some great Willie photos. Here’s one with a well behaved animal:

Daphne, the star of the first photo opp in the giant deckchair, was back to show Willie finer points of Connect 4.

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Willie Rennie highlights Lib Dem plans for health, education and climate change in first major campaign interview

It’s been a good start to the Scottish Liberal Democrats election campaign with our first photo opportunity getting on the front pages of the two main Scottish broadsheets:

Willie was out and about early for his morning run today. He posted it on Twitter at 6:30 when it was still dark due to the clocks going forward:

He had to be up so early because he Willie had a great first interview of the campaign on the Sunday Show. He always sounds so joyful and optimistic and got across our main talking points while avoiding the usual traps. He contrasted the SNP and Conservatives constant arguing over independence, which would continue into the next Parliament with our approach to get our health and education services.

Here are the highlights:

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Willie’s morning runs – Friday and Saturday

Here are Willie Rennie’s videos from his last two morning runs, posted at a more civilised hour.

On Friday, he talked about the campaign launched – and talked about how the Lib Dems are the alternative to the toxic battle between the SNP and the Conservatives.

Today, it’s less blustery and he contrasts how the Lib Dems offer changing people’s lives for the better, investing in education and the NHS, tackling climate change and unemployment People will be alarmed at the prospect of the election and beyond.

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Willie Rennie: Why Lib Dems abstained on Sturgeon no-confidence vote

Scottish Liberal Democrats abstained on the no-confidence vote on Nicola Sturgeon today, along with Scottish Labour.

Willie explains why here:

The tl:dr version is that of course the First Minister and the government she leads screwed up badly in its handling of the complaints of the two women but we weren’t going to get involved in Tory game playing. They first mooted a vote of no confidence before Nicola Sturgeon even gave evidence to the parliamentary enquiry into the situation.

Willie took the right decision here. What this unfortunate situation needs is considered and careful action to restore faith in the Scottish Government’s complaints sytem, not high adrenaline political drama.

Willie went into more detail in his speech during the debate on the motion:

Scottish politics today does not look pretty, with talk of lynching and assassination; the leaking of the private evidence of complainants; the lodging of motions of no confidence even before all the evidence has been heard; the attacking of a committee because it does not agree with the First Minister; the lauding of the performance of Nicola Sturgeon because she talked to a committee for eight hours—as if the show is more important than the facts; and the boasting about recruiting new members on the back of this tragedy. No one wins from this ugly episode—not the First Minister, not Douglas Ross and certainly not Alex Salmond, who has been exposed for what he really is.

We know who has been failed: the women who complained. When they stepped up, we were not there for them. In the committee’s report, which was published today, one woman tells how she and her fellow complainer were dropped by the Scottish Government and left to swim.

There are unresolved issues that I wish to explore today, so we would have voted for the amendment in the name of Anas Sarwar, if it had been selected.

The Conservatives have shown themselves to be interested only in removing Nicola Sturgeon from office rather than in the facts of this terrible series of events. They have undermined the integrity of the independent investigator. However, even the most ardent SNP supporter must recognise that the women who complained were let down by the Government and that £500,000 was wasted on defending the indefensible in court.

We know that the Government will win today, because it has the unconditional support of the Green Party, but this debate and vote cannot be the end of the matter. In his summing up, therefore, I would like the Deputy First Minister to tell us where this goes from here.

First, how does he explain why James Hamilton was unable to conclude whether the First Minister misled Parliament over whether she offered to help Alex Salmond when they met in her home? James Hamilton says that it is up to the Parliament to determine whether it was misled on that issue. We need an adequate explanation from the Deputy First Minister.

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Willie Rennie: Independence would be like Brexit on a rocket to Mars

Willie Rennie compared the SNP’s plans for Scottish independence as like “Brexit on a rocket to Mars” – ie

It would take a lot of energy, the journey is very long and there is no way back.

In his keynote speech to Liberal Democrat Conference, Willie set out the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ plan to deprive the independence supporting parties of a majority with our plan to put recovery first by investing in mental health, jobs and education.

He also highlighted our idea for a Commission to look at ways of preventing violence against women and girls in all its forms.  We hope that other parties will back it.

Watch here. The text is below:

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Willie Rennie reaches out to disillusioned SNP voters in speech to Scottish Conference

In his speech to Scottish Spring Conference, Willie Rennie reached out to disillusioned SNP voters who may be upset by the division in their party and the SNP Government’s failures in so many areas. He set out what I reckon is the Scottish Liberal Democrats most bold and radical offer for 22 years. It really has that vibe of reform about it. Free human rights based social care, a job for every teacher on the register if they want it, a housing first approach to homelessness, economic regeneration are all part of the package to put recovery first.

He also shared memories of Charles Kennedy after last week’s documentary.

He was introduced by Cllr Liz Barrett, who won a fantastic Council by-election victory at the end of last year.

The full text is below:

Councillor Liz Barrett.

Councillor for the ancient capital of Scotland.

Victor over the SNP in John Swinney’s back yard.

Winning from third place.

Thank you, Liz.  You are a true liberal champion.

Conference, it’s almost six years since we lost our Charles, Charles Kennedy.

But last week we were treated to a wonderful tribute to his life in that BBC Alba documentary: A good man speaking.

We all have our own personal recollections of Charles.

Mine was the extraordinary courage it took, just days after acknowledging his alcoholism and resigning as Leader of the Liberal Democrats, to come to Dunfermline.

He came to help me win that by-election.

He would have been forgiven if he had chosen to hide away, to recuperate, to nurse his wounds, but instead he chose to face it up.

As we walked down the High Street, surrounded by the mass ranks of the media, a voice from a pensioner at the back shouted – “we love you Charles”.

As quick as a flash he retorted: “now madam, I am in enough trouble as it is”.

But that lady spoke for us all.

And if there is a lasting legacy from Charles Kennedy’s life it should be the conduct of the debate, of elections, of political life.

That would be a good way to remember our Charles.

I think Charles would be pleased with how the Liberal Democrats have conducted ourselves over the last year through the pandemic.  To put recovery first.

We set aside our differences to work together.

Working constructively with the government to deliver funds for business, tourism, fishing; an expansion of testing; access for parents of new borns; and a faster roll-out of the vaccine.

Ministers have recognised the part we have played from the First Minister to the Health Secretary to the Economy Secretary.

We rolled up our sleeves to get us through this pandemic.

There was a lovely sight this week that has made all that work worthwhile.

After months of separation, families are safely back together again in care homes.

It was certainly the right thing to do.

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Two ways the Liberal Democrats stood up for people who have to quarantine in hotels

This time tomorrow, anyone arriving into

the UK from certain countries, and from any country into Scotland, will have to undergo ten days of mandatory quarantine in a hotel, an experience for which they will be charged £1,750.

I get that these measures are necessary. We do need to make sure that we limit the spread of new variants of Covid-19.

My issue, to be honest, is that I don’t think we should be charging for this if we think it is necessary to save lives. It’s arguable that it should have been done months ago. Typically both governments are acting too late and are being less than competent about the details of the implementation.

And we most especially shouldn’t be charging people who can’t afford it. If you are in a minimum wage job and a parent or a sibling dies or becomes seriously ill abroad, you are going to want to, in some cases need to, be with your family, to look after them. You should not be prevented from doing so because you can’t afford the cost of the quarantine.

The Scottish Government’s transport minister Michael Matheson announced on Tuesday that there would be a welfare fund to help people who couldn’t afford the cost of this quarantine.

But with less than 24 hours to go, we have scant details of what form this will take, how people will apply for it and how much they will get. Will it meet the whole cost or not?

Willie Rennie called on the Scottish Government to get its act together on this:

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Scottish Lib Dems say “Put recovery first”

The Scottish Lib Dems have released a new party political broadcast. Enjoy.

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Willie Rennie’s New Year Message: Lib Dems will put recovery first

https://www.flickr.com/photos/policyexchange/9815585233/in/photolist-fXnrwa-4C63rJ-fQSzEG-4rW51x-5Z4kL2-4C1Kca-6jhoX5-nSybs-GtLAXb-EFShm-nZJzu-nSycj-atnm6F-53aUVG-FjDVj-QqjFZR-rKPkDc-rKJgQr-rKH3hN-rtng5p-rKJgiK-rruKrF-rHwGqu-qP3HST-rKJ6ho-rKH3oQ-rKJgGv-qNPxv7-rKPkoT-rKJgBR-rteyLw-rtngf4-rKH35o-rKPkcv2020 has been a year like no other. The stresses and strains of it will be etched in our memories for many years to come.”New Year is usually a point to reflect on a year that’s passed and set new goals for the year ahead. This year that feels different. We have to pause to take stock of the enormity of our loss.  The virus has devastated so many families and ripped the fabric of our liberal society apart too.

However, we can be proud, proud of the effort we’ve made as …

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Willie Rennie: Our children will be astonished that this Government pursued big bang Brexit in the middle of a pandemic

The Scottish Parliament debated whether to give legislative consent to the Bill putting the new trade deal with the EU into operation.

Liberal Democrats voted against, and Willie Rennie explained why:

This debate needs a bit of realism. The deal is going through. It’s going to go through because Boris Johnson has an eighty-seat majority, he has his Euro Sceptics on board and even the bulk of the Labour Party is backing it.

So no deal has, finally, been taken off the table.

But just because we accept Brexit is happening, that there is a deal and it is going through does not mean we have to like it.

We are realistic but we won’t swallow all our deep reservations about Brexit and especially this deal.

In no way is anyone compelled to vote for something they think will be bad for the country.
And after all the Brexit chaos this Conservative Government have inflicted on millions of people for years and after the Scottish Conservatives promised they would never back a deal that gave separate treatment to Northern Ireland, that party is in no position to lecture anyone else today.

There should be no surprise that we can’t support the Conservatives on Brexit today because our support for Europe has been resolute for decades.

From the liberals support for yes in the ‘75 referendum, the Gang of Four in the 80s and Paddy Ashdown bailing out John Major to support the Maastricht Treaty in the 90s to our enthusiastic support for remain in 2016 and our advocacy of a people’s vote for the last four years.

People who believe in a strong relationship with Europe can count on us.

We do not use Europe as a weapon in another battle, to be discarded when no longer useful.

We believe in international partnership and cooperation especially with our closest neighbours.

It is why we support keeping the UK together and believe the lessons from Brexit should be the lessons for those who advocate independence.

This is a bad deal. The Prime Minister ran down the clock in the most cynical fashion to give parliamentarians just three working days to read, analyse, scrutinise and vote on 1246 pages of complex legal text. That is not good government.

Giving companies just a week to get ready is not good business. Where is the sensible easement arrangement?
We will be the first country in the world to put trade barriers up as a result of a trade deal.

The Prime Minister claims no quotas or tariffs on goods. But if the UK diverges, and that was the point of Brexit was it not, there will be heavy punitive tariffs and quotas. Those quotas and tariffs will hang around like a bad smell for years.

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Lib Dems react to new Covid restrictions and Christmas misery

For the second time in 6 weeks, the prelude to Strictly involved the Prime Minister announcing tougher restrictions to deal with a new strain of Coronavirus which, although no more lethal, can spread up to 70% faster.

Much of London and the South East have been put on a much stricter Tier 4 from midnight tonight and the 5 day Christmas bubble is now no longer allowed. Outside of Tier 4 areas, bubbles will be able to see each other on Christmas Day only – but the advice is very much “only if you have to.”

The thing that struck me most …

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WATCH: Partnership for recovery: Willie Rennie’s speech to Scottish Lib Dem Conference

Willie Rennie’s keynote speech to Scottish Conference today was one of the best I have ever seen him make.

Brimming with ideas – more power and pay to teachers, a career path for carers, ideas for a green recovery, an emphasis on partnership as an antidote to the division we’ve seen in recent years.

He delivered the speech from the Conference hub, at Morningside Parish Church in Edinburgh.

The text is below.

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Willie Rennie pays tribute to long-standing Lib Dem Cllr Ellen Morton

Sad news this week from Helensburgh. Ellen Morton, a councillor since 1999, has passed away.

From the Helensburgh Advertiser:

She was first elected to Argyll and Bute Council as a Scottish Liberal Democrat in 1999, representing the Helensburgh North ward.

From 2007, following the introduction of a new system of local government elections across Scotland, she became one of three councillors representing the Helensburgh and Lomond South area, taking in the Colgrain, Craigendoran and Churchill areas of Helensburgh as well as villages and hamlets including Cardross, Ardoch, Arden and Muirlands.

In her 21 years as a councillor she served in a variety of roles, including chair of the authority’s Helensburgh and Lomond area committee and depute to long-serving council leader Dick Walsh, as well as chair of the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park planning authority and chair of the Northern Roads Collaboration.

She is survived by her husband Gordon, children Catriona, Aileen, Andrew and Fiona, and grandchildren Kate, Logan, Emily and Elliot.

Willie Rennie highlighted her humour and leadership:

Ellen Morton was a lady that you crossed at your peril.

She was quick, bright and, occasionally, sharp tongued and she was kind, caring and such a hard worker.

Her twenty one years on the council were colourful because she had firm beliefs and was a fierce defender of her constituents.

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Willie Rennie calls for recall process to be used for Margaret Ferrier if she doesn’t resign

What on earth was Margaret Ferrier thinking when, having had a test for Covid-19, she left home and got on a train to London, potentially putting at risk everyone on the train, everyone on whatever method of public transport she used to get from Euston to Westminster, everyone she encountered at Westminster, including Commons and parliamentary staff?

And if that wasn’t bad enough, what on earth was she thinking when she left her London base and got on a train home to Glasgow when she knew she had the virus and was actually putting everyone she met at risk from contracting a potentially deadly disease?

I feel furious because it’s despicably reckless behaviour like this that is basically keeping me at home at the moment. Because my husband and I are at high risk from this disease, we are keeping our interactions with other people to a minimum. We know we are going to have to do that many months to come. We might feel better about going out to shops and restaurants if we knew that everyone was taking social distancing and mask-wearing seriously, but we just don’t have the confidence that they are. And when we see things like Margaret Ferrier wandering the length of the country while knowingly infected with Covid, it is a reminder of why we are having to make our world smaller.

I do know that it is easier for us than for many others. All of us can do everything we need to do from home and we do all generally like each other and get on well. I am struggling a bit, though, with not being able to see my friends in person as much as I am used to doing. It’s great to catch up online, but it can never replace actually being with people.

Nicola Sturgeon was understandably livid about Ferrier’s actions and took to Twitter to say that she should resign as an MP. They have thrown her out of the SNP group but they can’t force her to resign as an MP. She certainly will come under pressure to do so from both within  the party and beyond.

However, there is one way she can be forced to resign. The recall process. This was introduced in 2015 by the Liberal Democrats in coalition government. It provides a mechanism for forcing a by-election where an MP has been found guilty of some wrongdoing, either in court or by being found in breach of parliamentary standards. It’s a two stage process which is triggered in these circumstances:

  • If they are convicted in the UK of an offence and sentenced or ordered to be imprisoned or detained and all appeals have been exhausted (and the sentence does not lead to automatic disqualification from being an MP);

  • If they are suspended from the House following report and recommended sanction from the Committee on Standards for a specified period (at least 10 sitting days, or at least 14 days if sitting days are not specified).;

  • If they are convicted of an offence under section 10 of the Parliamentary Standards Act 2009 (making false or misleading Parliamentary allowances claims)

A petition can then be activated and operated by the Returning Officer for the seat. If 10% of the electorate sign it, a by-election, in which the MP can stand, is held. You can find out more in this Commons Library briefing.

The process has been used three times, resulting in two by-elections. The most recent, in Brecon and Radnorshire last year, was won by Welsh Liberal Democrat Leader Jane Dodds. Unfortunately she lost the seat just over four months later in the General Election.

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Willie Rennie’s speech – Lib Dems are a Third Way for Scotland

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On the official party website: Conference home


Willie Rennie’s speech to Conference was broadcast on his birthday on Sunday. It had been recorded in North Queensferry a few days before.

They filmed the speech twice, the first time outside, but there were interruptions from a flypast, a potato lorry and runners from his local club – no amorous pigs or other assorted livestock, though as has happened in the past.

Watch here. The text is below:

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Willie Rennie pays tribute to Diana Maddock

Many party figures have been paying tribute to Diana Maddock, the much loved Lib Dem Peer who died yesterday.

One of the highlights of her career was winning the Christchurch by-election in 1993, overturning a 23000 Tory majority with a 35% swing.

Her agent in that campaign was a 25 year old Scot by the name of Willie Rennie.

Now leader of the Scottish Party, and a famous by-election winner himself, he wrote a warm tribute to Diana on his Facebook page.

I first met Diana Maddock when I was asked to be the agent for the Christchurch By Election in 1993. It was a solid Conservative seat but in just three months Diana became the Member of Parliament with a swing that rocked the political establishment.

Diana was a gentle, caring and kind woman who was anxious to do well for the thousands of people who travelled hundreds of miles to help her win.

From the old car showroom on Barrack Road, Chris Rennard and I plotted the campaign. It was an amazing effort with public meetings, Lords Teas and canvass and leaflet teams scouring the area like ants.

The issue of the by election was VAT on fuel and came when John Major was having problems with the “bastards” in the cabinet.

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Rennie calls for UBI summit to help those who can’t get government support

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has today called for an intergovernmental summit on a universal basic income to take place to ensure that support is urgently made available for those who have fallen through cracks of the current furlough and income support measures.

He highlighted the plight of self-employed workers who were not trading for the entirety of the last tax year, PAYE freelancers,  self-employed workers who are paid in dividends, people who work from home and those who have recently changed jobs as examples of people who have experienced a sudden and dramatic loss of income as well as those struggling to access existing anti-poverty measures.

Across the UK, the Institute for Fiscal Studies estimate that roughly 675,000 people will be ineligible for the government’s Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, which mirrors the 80% wage subsidy scheme for the employed.

The IFS says another 1.3 million people with some self-employment income are likely to be ineligible because they received less than half of their income from self-employment last year.

His call comes as the The Poverty Alliance, Scotland’s anti-poverty network, has identified a number of shortcomings in the current crisis responses, including a lack of targeted social security support for families with children at either the UK or Scottish level, limited access to community care grants and gaps in employment protection programmes.

Willie said:

I fully understood and supported the decision to use the existing tax and spend apparatus to help people financially. Time was short and we needed to act fast. Now that those schemes are getting into place we need to take the next steps.

With economic uncertainty destined to loom for the foreseeable future, we need to ensure that everyone can afford to keep a roof over their head and a meal on the table.

We should be adopting the principles of a universal basic income: no one should be left behind. The UK Government has acted swiftly to back businesses and support furloughed workers but too many are slipping through the cracks and there’s a real risk that furloughed staff will lose their jobs when the current scheme ends.

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Willie Rennie’s New Year Message

This is Willie Rennie’s New Year message:

Around the globe, dark currents have buffeted liberal democracy. Boris Johnson’s Brexit threatens to cut us off from our European neighbours, while Donald Trump’s trade wars and Twitter tirades threaten to undo America’s status as a global leader. Meanwhile from Hong Kong to Xinjiang, protestors and activists face brutal clampdowns. These are the challenges we must face up to over the next twelve months.

Closer to home there are huge challenges too. From long waits for mental health treatment to the bungled rollout of the new childcare entitlement, Liberal Democrats will highlight, debate and scrutinise the government so that everyone can rely on great public services that help them to build a brighter future.

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Santa Rennie delivers festive lump of coal to SNP

It wouldn’t be an election without Willie Rennie doing something eye-catching.

And today, he took part in a Santa dash in Glasgow.

 

He placed the SNP firmly on the Naughty List for the decline in public services since they have been in government and suggested that they’d be getting a lump of coal on Christmas morning.

The only reason that the SNP want to talk about Brexit is because their domestic agenda is truly abysmal.

Hundreds of children are waiting far too long for mental health treatment, the third Police Authority chair in three years has resigned and we are falling down the international education rankings.

This Christmas the SNP deserve a lump of coal for the way they’ve mishandled these services. Our teachers, nurses and police officers are working hard day in day out but they don’t get the support they deserve from an SNP government which has independence on the brain.

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Scottish Liberal Democrats’ bright campaign launch as party overtakes Labour in poll

The Scottish Liberal Democrats launched their campaign in Cramond on Thursday mornings. The bright umbrellas provided a contrast to  damp  grey  surroundings.

Alistair Carmichael and former Leader Lord Campbell of Pittenweem joined Willie Rennie, North East Fife candidate Wendy Chamberlain and many activists.

Willie Rennie told the assembled crowd:

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My favourite election moment of the week

It’s a toss up between Jo Swinson and arriving at a visit in Auchtermuchty and Willie Rennie and Alex Cole-Hamilton being, well, themselves.

Yesterday, Jo visited North East Fife

The typo in this, from a Courier reporter, is very amusing, but I just loved the exuberance of it.

The baby is Daphne Grint, 5 month old daughter of Scottish Lib Dem environment spokesperson Rebecca Bell.

And it’s Willie himself who provides the other iconic moment along with Edinburgh Western MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton. And there wasn’t a farm animal in sight.

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