Tag Archives: willie rennie

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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Budget drama in Scotland – Willie Rennie wants “an education focus as never before”

The Scottish Government unveils its budget this Thursday. The SNP mislaid their majority in Holyrood in the elections last year so there could be a bit of drama between now and February when the Finance Bill is finalised.

The last time a Budget fell was in 2009 when the Greens, to everyone’s surprise, voted against. A couple of weeks later, to nobody’s surprise, they voted for it but hadn’t extracted anything of consequence from the Government.

When John Swinney was Finance Minister, he used to engage pretty well with the other parties. Willie Rennie was able to get things like free school meals, tens of thousands of college places and nursery education for 2 years olds put in. However, now that we have started beating the SNP pretty comprehensively, the atmosphere has turned a bit nasty.

New Finance Minister Derek Mackay is playing games with crucial inter-island ferry services in Orkney and Shetland, both represented by Liberal Democrat MSPs. Various SNP Ministers have been giving the very strong impression that they would help the Islands Councils with the cost of these ferries without which some remote communities simply could not survive.

Now, however, they are inferring that it’ll only go in the Budget if the Lib Dems promise to vote for it. That sort of posturing doesn’t play well in those communities. The issue was debated in Parliament last week during a Lib Dem opposition day and the Transport Minister Humza Yousaf made a pretty blatant threat.

There is a window of opportunity for Liberal Democrat members of the Scottish Parliament. Either they can engage positively in the budget, have a discussion about this important issue and side with their constituents, or they can play party politics.

I mean, we’d brought the issue to the floor of the Parliament, which was discussing it at that time and made its view plain by passing the Lib Dem motion. If SNP ministers fail to honour Parliament’s wishes, that is a pretty serious thing. 

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WATCH: Willie Rennie’s speech to Scottish Conference

Here is Willie Rennie’s speech to Scottish Conference.

If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, here are a few highlights:

On Lib Dem values:

We stand with the weak against the strong, and will use the power of government to tackle the social and economic injustices that limit freedom.

We say power is safer when it is shared and will trust communities and individuals with the power to control their own lives.

We are trustees of our world, and our society, and must pass on a sustainable legacy which will benefit future generations.

Hammering the Tories:

Well, we know that the Scottish Conservatives are the Baked Alaska of politics.

Apparently warm, fluffy and attractive on the outside.

But when you cut it open you find an ice cold heart.

That went down well in the room, but the slight flaw in the logic is that Baked Alaska is delicious.

There was a strong section on tax, described as “pickpocketing” by the Tories:

Is it theft to invest in building the best education system in the world?

Is it pickpocketing to provide the social care for those in need?

Is it a crime to want to create a fairer society?

I tell you that this is no time for narrow, selfish Conservatives.

For care, for education, for a fairer society this is the time for Liberal Democrats to stand up and be counted for the greater good.

Alex Salmond’s decision to do a show on Russian propaganda channel Russia Today came in for some serious and not so serious commentary:

Good afternoon conference.

Or dobryj dyen to Mr Salmond.

Actually, conference, I don’t want to joke about it.

Russia is undermining western democracy.

They undermined the campaign of President Macron.

Attacked Chancellor  Merkel.

We first heard about them when we found out they had undermined Hillary Clinton.

When we met here a year ago people were grief-stricken that the first woman to run for President was defeated in the way that she was.

So it is a disgrace that Alex Salmond has decided to supplement his First Minister’s pension by legitimising a Russian organisation whose mission is to undermine western democracy. It’s a disgrace.

He really went after the Brexiteers on immigration:

Boris Johnson should explain why world class university research is on the wane because researchers have moved to other parts of the world.

Nigel Farage should tell shoppers why they can’t get home grown fruit, fish and veg in our shops because we don’t have enough people to grow them.

Theresa May should tell you why you can’t have a carer for your elderly mother, or why you have to wait weeks to see your GP because they have all gone back to Europe.

And Jeremy Corbyn should come and tell you why public services are being cut because we have fewer workers paying tax to fund these vital services.

When all of this happens, you can point to every leader who backed Brexit in the full knowledge of the price of Brexit but didn’t have the courage to stand up and be counted.

And he showed the right kind of humility and willingness to listen on sexual harassment:

Some people ask women – “why did you not mention anything before?”

Let me put this as politely as I can: communication requires listening as well as talking.

Maybe they haven’t been listening.

So instead of all the excuses let’s all make sure we are listening now.

This is not nothing.

This is not the fault of women.

This is our opportunity to listen.

Listen to the decades of frustration and anger.

Listen.

And if we listen, we will change.

Enjoy the whole thing:

The text is below:

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Rennie: Stand up for immigration to save our universities, health service and farms

Willie Rennie puts immigration front and centre of his Leader’s speech to Scottish Conference today. He will will set out positive examples that immigration brings to local communities and call out hard line Brexiteers who risk tanking the economy in their obsessive pursuit of a damaging Brexit. He will say:

The Conservatives are about to betray Leave voters or trash the economy. This is the real political car crash that is heading our way.

If immigration is not cut with Brexit then Leavers will feel betrayed because that is what they voted for. If the Conservatives keep that promise, and immigration is cut, it will damage our economy and public services, and even more will feel betrayed because they were not told this would happen.

Whilst leaders bicker about transition periods and single markets and common external tariffs the elephant in the room is immigration. In the Brexit vote people were promised fewer foreigners in our country. Yet people were not told the price of that policy.  And it is big.

The price is a shortage of workers to get food from British farm into the shops.

The price is a shortage of carers, nurses and GPs.

The price is billions of pounds of lost taxes from these jobs.
They are already going home and Brexit has not even happened yet.

Some say that too much immigration is a threat to our way of life. But the truth is that not enough immigration is the real threat to our way of life. It’s not the workers from Poland, Romania or Bulgaria who we should fear. We should fear all those political leaders who are blindly backing Brexit. These are the people we should be sending home.

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Willie Rennie to hold talks with SNP over support for Brexit deal referendum

The quest to build a case for an “exit from Brexit” referendum continues. In his speech to the Bournemouth Conference, Willie Rennie said he would be trying to work with the SNP to build support for the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ campaign for an “exit from Brexit” referendum.

He wrote to the First Minister and she has agreed that this merits discussion.

Willie will now meet the Scottish Government Minister Mike Russell for talks on this issue. He welcomed this invitation:

This is a welcome step forward from the Scottish Government and shows that there is support from across the political spectrum for a clear approach to Brexit that gives the British people a final say.

Both Nicola Sturgeon and Mike Russell have shown support for our campaign to give the public the final say but this can only be achieved if parties are willing to work together to protect the UK’s relationship with the EU. I know that there are colleagues across all UK parties who support this position and I urge them to join this movement and build the momentum further.

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Happy Golden Jubilee to Willie Rennie

As if we needed any further proof that the best people were born in 1967 after Nick and I celebrated our Golden Jubilees this year, it is Willie Rennie’s special day today.

I wonder if he celebrated it like this.

If you look at the longer post, you can see him actually giving a political interview on a slide.

He probably didn’t do anything like this:

Or have an alpacalypse.

And we hope to goodness he didn’t meet any angry rams.

He might have had another Lady and the Tramp eating spaghetti moment with a cute dog, though.

We have to remember that Willie has done a lot more with his half century than fool around with cute animals. In 1993 he helped Diana Maddock win the Christchurch by-election. In 1997, he moved back up to Scotland where he was Chief Executive of the Party during the first devolution referendum. Then he moved to be Chief of Staff at the Parliament. All the early coalition achievements in Scotland – free personal care, free university tuition, had his fingerprints on them.

Then in 2006, he grabbed his place in history as a Lib Dem by-election winner. He audaciously took the Dunfermline and West Fife seat in Gordon Brown’s back yard after a dreadful few weeks for the party when we’d deprived ourselves of a leader and had a new tabloid scandal breaking roughly every half hour.

Since he became leader of the Scottish Lib Dems in 2011, he’s challenged the SNP Government on education and mental health, centralisation, justice, the Police, civil liberties and many other issues.

In the party, he put his own reputation on the line by championing radical diversity measures that saw Scotland elect 2 male and 2 female MPs this June. That took courage and determination on his part.

He has been the leader the party so desperately needed after the drubbing we took in 2011. He has campaigned with energy and always a massive smile in every part of Scotland.

And what is he doing on his birthday? Giving a speech on Brexit to the SCER Europa Institute. He’s challenging the SNP, Ruth Davidson the Scottish Conservative Leader who supported Remain and Scotland’s Labour leadership contenders to get on board with a Brexit Deal referendum. He says that such a vote would be entirely democratic and asks why we shouldn’t trust the people to give their opinion.

The full text of his speech is below:

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Lib Dems react to Theresa May’s Florence speech

Vince said that it was no wonder the Brexiteers were terrified of giving the people a say on the deal:

Both the Conservatives and Labour have now essentially converged on the same position, which is to kick the can down the road and simply delay the economic pain caused by an extreme Brexit.

Neither are prepared to fight to keep Britain in the single market and customs union or to offer people a chance to exit from Brexit

Voters were promised £350m a week for the NHS, instead Theresa May is admitting the UK will have to pay a hefty Brexit bill worth billions of pounds.

No wonder the Brexiteers are terrified of giving the British people the final say through a referendum on the facts.

Willie Rennie said the “delinquent’ May was trashing our relationship with Europe.

Theresa May is kicking the can down the road. Sixteen months on from the Brexit referendum this delinquent Prime Minister is trashing our relationship with Europe.

She seems incapable of deciding what kind of relationship she wants with Europe and that prolonged uncertainty is causing economic damage.

We were promised Brexit would be an easy negotiation and that £350 million each week would be invested in the NHS. Neither are true.

This makes the compelling case for a Brexit deal referendum even stronger.

Yesterday, the Lib Dems laid out seven tests for Theresa May’s speech. Tom Brake said that only one of them was even slightly met. 

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WATCH: Willie Rennie’s speech to Conference

Willie gave one of the best speeches I’d heard him give. It was robust and clear – putting the Liberal Democrats back at the forefront of driving change in Scotland.

The text is below.

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Willie Rennie: Liberal Democrats have been at the forefront of devolution

I was still living in England at the time of the 1997 election. As the results came through, I nipped upstairs in the sports centre in Chesterfield where I was at the count to watch some results on the telly. There were was one other person in the room, Tony Benn, who was eating a white chocolate Magnum. Anyway, I was quietly blubbing with joy because I knew that this result would mean that we would get a Scottish Parliament.

A lot has happened since then. Some of the Lib Dems’ finest moments came during their 8 years in coalition with Labour at Holyrood. Free personal care, STV for local government, free eye and dental checks, the smoking ban (ahead of similar measures down south), right to roam, decent freedom of information legislation were just some of the things that we got done. The paucity of the SNP’s achievements in their decade in power do not compare well.

On this 20th anniversary of the devolution referendum, Willie Rennie said:

Liberal Democrats are proud of the part we played in bringing about the devolution voted for in 1997 and enacted from 1999. A decentralised United Kingdom, with decision making closer to people, with a pluralist approach at its heart, reflected decades of campaigning for Britain to become a modern democracy.

Liberal Democrats were part of the civic movement in Scotland, through the Constitutional Convention, that set down the clear path for a devolved parliament with real powers. And they were able to take up their places inside the newly elected Scottish Parliament after the first elections.

Liberal Democrats can be proud that the big difference made to people’s lives in Scotland –free personal care for the elderly and the revolution in renewable energy to name just two – came as a result of the work of Liberal Democrats in the first term of office. People even now still demand that governments of all stripes get as much done in their terms of office as we did back then.

The whole of the UK has benefited from devolution and the transfers of powers that have taken place since 1999.

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LibLink: Willie Rennie: Lib Dems put forward a vision of Scotland at the heart of both unions

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are the place to be if you want to stay in the UK and the EU, says Willie Rennie. In a wide-ranging article for Holyrood magazine, he sets out what we would do to tackle the crisis in Scotland’s public services. Health, education and the Police are all in a mess and we have the ideas to fix them.

A strong education system is the key to a strong economy in the long term. It is critical that we educate future generations so that they have all the skills they need to succeed.

Failing at education is failing on the future of Scotland. The SNP have let Scotland’s world-leading education system fall from the best in the world to just average.

Eighty-six per cent of teachers say their workload has risen in the last year, yet John Swinney has his head in the sand and refuses to take action to relieve the pressure our teachers face.

We have had a year of assurances from the Scottish Government that they are tackling this major problem, but teachers say the problem is getting worse rather than better.

Instead of nationalist spin, teachers, parents and pupils want concrete action.

That’s why my party used budget negotiations to press the SNP over its dramatic cuts to college budgets, which have led to 150,000 fewer college places today compared to when the SNP came to power, as well as for transformative investment in Scottish education.

The health service in Scotland is under immense pressure. GP surgeries are closing their lists to new patients and others are contemplating closure because they can’t find the staff they so desperately need.

Meanwhile, children are waiting years to receive mental health treatment while the country barrels towards a staffing crisis that risks bringing the service to its knees.

This year my party have pressed the SNP to deliver the required funding and provide a new mental health practitioner in every surgery, relieving the pressure on other parts of the service. This is how we build a healthier Scotland.

Only the Liberal Democrats consistently opposed SNP centralisation of the police force and once again, this year we have been central to scrutinising the actions of the single force.

We told the SNP that their politically motivated centralisation of the police would damage those services, but they did not listen.

Instead, the closure of police control rooms in Aberdeen and Inverness has caused havoc to the services in the North and North East, leading to a series of serious and potentially life-threatening blunders, like sending police to Glasgow instead of Aberdeen.

Every time the SNP attempts another power grab, mistakes are made and our communities suffer.

The Scottish Government must call an end to the one-size-fits-all agenda and find a way to give powers back to our communities.

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Willie Rennie’s programme for government: Better schools, mental health care, more democracy in police

Yesterday the Scottish Government unveiled its Programme for Government for the coming year. It wouldn’t have to go far to beat last year’s which saw precious little legislation. However, there is some stuff that we can welcome, so long as it delivers what it says on the tin. Lib Dems pardons for those convicted of consensual same sex activity, consultation on gender recognition and more inclusive sex education, presumption against prison sentences under 12 months, free personal care for people under 65 with seriously disabling conditions and raising the age of criminal responsibility from 8 to 12. This last measure is one which they shamefully and resolutely refused to do during the last Parliament despite pressure from the then Liberal Democrat Justice Spokesperson Alison McInnes.

There is still precious little investment in mental health. The warm words doesn’t match up to the facilities available on the ground. One real pinch point is the transition from child to adult mental health services. Young people have to wait up to a year and more to even be seen by the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Service. Once they have managed to be seen, the treatment is good – but when they hit 18, there is very little for them and the services are arranged in a very different way. A child can go from fairly intensive support to nothing.

Below is Willie Rennie’s full speech in response to the Government’s programme in which he sets out Lib Dem priorities of using the tax powers to invest in education and to provide more and better mental health services.

He also suggests that the Lib Dems are sceptical about Holyrood voting against the European Withdrawal Bill because he thinks that the SNP are using it to drive a wedge between Scotland and England. Certainly the issue is more complex – both Scotland’s governments are letting it down in this regard.

“On Saturday afternoon, together with Alex Cole Hamilton, I joined a group of breast cancer survivors called the Port Edgar Dragons.  We were on their magnificent dragon boat Isla May on the River Forth.  They are a wonderful group of women who show gutsy human spirit to improve their health.

We had an alternative view of the Queensferry Crossing whilst thousands of lucky people enjoyed a stroll over the magnificent new structure.  The engineers and workers should be proud of their achievement.

“Those who argued it was not necessary only need cast their mind back to the winter of 2015 when the old bridge was forced to close or a little further back when it was discovered that the main cables were corroding.

“As with any project of that scale it has not been without its problems but it was a necessary investment to guarantee one of the major arteries down the east of the country.

“The summer recess should have allowed us all to reflect on one of the most turbulent periods in politics for some time.  With nine sets of elections and referendums in the last six years people have had their fill.

“People want elected politicians to deliver real improvements to their lives. They are fed up with the endless focus on independence. To give credit to the First Minister she recognised that in June when she signalled that she was cooling on independence.  I was sceptical at the time and will always be suspicious but for now we have a chance to focus on real change.

“And today’s announcement on a presumption against prisons sentences of twelve months or less is a start.  We have been calling for this for some time.

“After opposing it twice I am pleased to see the SNP are now prepared to raise the age of criminal responsibility. These are real liberal measures which we will support. Yet the problems our country faces are significant.

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Willie Rennie – the “secret guilty pleasure” of singer and columnist Michelle McManus


MichelleMcManus2010
Michelle McManus

Winner of Pop Idol 2003, singer, broadcaster, actress and columnist, Michelle McManus must have brought blushes to the cheeks of Willie Rennie with this passage in her Glasgow Evening Times column:

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Rennie calls on Justice Secretary to end “chilling” Police whistleblower policy

Scotland’s Police force has been beset with difficulties since its 8 Police forces were merged into a single entity five years ago. Some of these difficulties have come to light because police officers have reported their concerns to politicians and the media. So what is the Police management plan to deal with this? Simples. Just make police officers register every single contact with politicians or journalists. If they don’t they could find themselves in big trouble.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has called for the intervention of the Justice Secretary and Scottish Police Authority to ensure that the police hierarchy are not free to silence internal critics after it was revealed that new guidance has been issued within Police Scotland that will crack down on whistle-blowers.

From STV News:

Scotland’s justice secretary has been urged to ensure new Police Scotland guidelines do not have a “chilling effect” on internal critics within the force.

The new rules require officers to declare any associations they have with journalists and politicians, raising concerns they will be used to quash whistleblowing.

The guidance is compulsory for all police officers and special constables, with the prospect of misconduct proceedings for anyone who breaches it.

It is part of the force’s latest anti-corruption strategy and aims to “protect the information, assets and reputation of Police Scotland”.

The General Secretary of the Scottish Police Federation likened it to the sort of policy you would find in a banana republic.

Any policy that equates contact with elected parliamentarians and journalists with contact with criminals is deeply worrying.

It risks being seen as an attempt to silence dissent that would not be out of place in a banana republic.

Willie said:

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Willie, Christine and Jo celebrate Scottish Lib Dem wins

I could cheerfully have swung for Willie Rennie on Friday afternoon when he suggested an event on Sunday morning to celebrate our 4 Scottish Liberal Democrat MPs. I mean, it’s the first Sunday morning in 7 weeks most  of us could have had a lie-in. I thought nobody would want to go and it would be a disaster.

I was wrong. It was well-attended, there were broadcast and print journalists there and the atmosphere was great. There are, however,  two very important lessons to learn from the event, but more of that later. A huge crowd of people turned up at Jo Swinson’s campaign office in Milngavie. One person brought his two gorgeous and friendly  dogs, Caleb and Bella, who looked resplendent in their Jo Swinson rosettes.

Christine Jardine and Alex Cole-Hamilton came across from Edinburgh to join in the celebrations. Christine used to live in Bearsden and told how it was Jo who had inspired her to get involved in politics and stand for Parliament.

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Willie Rennie: SNP must hold parliamentary vote to cancel divisive independence referendum

I managed to get two hours’ sleep this morning. The dog woke me up by deciding to use my stomach as a trampoline after someone let her up the stairs. I checked my phone to see a message inviting lots of us to Party HQ in Edinburgh for an event with Willie.

Ten minutes later I was on a train ready to be a yellow diamond bearer in the background as he made a statement and gave interviews to the media

With Christine Jardine, Edinburgh West’s new MP by his side, he talked about the gains we had made, quadrupling our representation and how the election result across Scotland meant that independence was now off the agenda. He said the First Minister needed to make a big gesture to bring the country together:

The election result was a monumental event with the loss of colossal figures on the Scottish political scene.

The loss of 21 MPs including the former First Minister Alex Salmond and the SNP Deputy Leader Angus Robertson will leave a major hole in Scottish politics and the SNP.

The SNP lost 13 percentage points which is more than any other political party in the United Kingdom. Such major losses require a major political response.

The central issue of the election in Scotland was another independence referendum.  The Scottish people have rejected that proposal. Nicola Sturgeon must respond immediately to this major event.

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Willie Rennie’s final rallying call: Lib Dem MPs will put Scotland at heart of UK & UK at heart of Europe

Willie Rennie holds his last campaign rally in North East Fife where he hopes Elizabeth Riches will take the seat for the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

He will say

In place like East Dunbartonshire, Edinburgh West, North East Fife, the North East, Argyll and the Highlands people have a chance to have a MP that will stand strongly against independence and put the local community first.

In this election we have set out a clear and positive message that Scotland is best served when it is at the heart of the UK and the UK is at the heart of Europe. The

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Scottish Liberal Democrats to launch manifesto

Willie Rennie will launch the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ manifesto this morning at an Edinburgh mental health charity.

We will have the details later, but ahead of the launch he said:

Votes for the Liberal Democrats will stop another divisive independence referendum from the nationalists.

With the Scottish economy teetering on the edge of a recession, the performance of Scottish education dropping down the international rankings and mental health services failing to deliver, the last thing our country needs is another divisive and distracting independence referendum.

The Liberal Democrats are setting out a positive plan to invest in mental health and education. A modest penny on tax secures those.

We will protect jobs in Scotland by opposing an extreme Conservative Brexit and giving people the right to reject a bad deal.

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