The day Alistair Carmichael made me cry

Carmichael at Lib Dem No RallyOn Thursday night an all-star cast of Liberal Democrat giants addressed a rally of party members and supporters in Edinburgh. We had 2 Cabinet Ministers, 2 former and a current Scottish leader, 3nformer federal leaders and one of my political heroes, Shirley Williams.

I had had a quick read of Alistair Carmichael’s speech before the event, so I really have no excuse for the fact that it made me cry when he delivered it. The way he talked about taking his 5 week old baby to the polling station to vote for change in 1997 and how the family is going together to vote for a liberal vision of the future on Thursday made me fill up.

There was also a powerful “I’m not a nationalist but…” segment where he says that if you think our problems can be solved by maps or only in Scotland then, actually, you are.

Please excuse the photo. I arrived in plenty of time but spent so long blethering to folk, which isn’t like me at all, that the only seat left was right up at the back.

I was a bit sceptical about holding the rally in the first place and to be honest, I still am. I reckon that several hundred people out on the streets talking to voters would have been a much better use of our time. However, it has given us a rich variety of good quality speeches, including videos from Mike Moore and Charles Kennedy, who was filmed from the top of Aonach Mor on a wonderful sunny day. It was a fantastic sight.

Here’s his speech in full:

How are you all doing?
A bit tired? Sore feet?
This has been a long gruelling campaign.
In the last few weeks and months I have been all over Scotland.  From Shetland to the Borders and Dumfries.  From Rum and Eigg in the West to Aberdeenshire in the East.
I have travelled by plane, train, car, ferry, bus, tram, inflatable rib and a golf buggy (I kid you not).
I have spoken in Town Halls, Village Halls, Church Halls and Theatres.
I have taken part in debates, public meetings and q and a’s.
I have been on television, radio and web chats.
I have written leaflets, delivered leaflets.  I have knocked on doors and stood on street stalls.
But, you know what?
There are still Seven days, one hour and 54 minutes to go and I will work for every single one of them if that is what it takes to keep this country of ours together.
Good.  I’m glad you applauded that because there’s more.  Because if I am doing it then you are all doing it too.
This campaign matters,like no other campaign we have ever been part of before.
If Scotland votes yes next week then we will have turned our back on three hundred years of shared endeavour and achievement and there will be no going back.
There is no dress rehearsal for separation.
It is not a sale or return deal.
We can’t give it a go and change our mind if it doesn’t work.
Think for a second what we would be giving up.
The United Kingdom is not some terrible country from which we need to escape.
It is a strong and growing economy that offers us opportunities for business and for jobs.  It allows us to share the risks and the rewards.
Together we have built the NHS – rated as the best health service anywhere in the world.
Together we have built the BBC – a public service broadcaster to which people turn for reliable impartial information wherever there is trouble in the world
Together we have been a force for good on the world stage.  We have now got the second largest aid budget in the world.  One of the first major economies to meet the UN target of 0.7%
And, this year, we became one of the first countries in the world to allow marriage between couples of the same sex.
That is what we are being asked to walk away from.
And for what?
You will have heard the line many times in the last few weeks, “I am not a nationalist but…..” Followed by some concern about poverty or equality of nuclear disarmament.
I bow to no one in my determination to build a fairer, more equal society or to make the world a safer place.  But I do not limit my ambitions in these things  simply to Scotland.
I care as much about poverty and inequality in Newcastle Liverpool and Cardiff as I do about it in Glasgow Aberdeen or Dundee.
Like many on the Yes side I want to see nuclear missiles out of Scotland because nuclear missiles make our world a more dangerous place.  Shifting them a couple of hundred miles down the road will not make the world any safer than it is today.
So, to those who say, “I am not a nationalist but…”   I say, “If you think that these complex and difficult problems can be solved by drawing a line on the map, or that they are only worth solving in Scotland then, I am afraid, you are a nationalist.”
And you are wrong.
By saying No Thanks to independence next Thursday you are saying yes please to finishing the job of devolution.
To give our parliament the powers that Ming Campbell identified as being necessary.
The powers to raise most of its own budget by controlling income tax, inheritance tax and capital gains tax.
The powers we need to rebalance the political debate in Scotland so that we discuss not just how to spend money but how to raise it.
And the opportunity goes beyond that. By finishing the job of devolution in Scotland we open the door to what we in this party have always wanted – reform all round and a federal United Kingdom.
That is the prize that is within our grasp.
Seventeen years ago when I went to vote in the general election of 1997 I went to my local polling station in Fyvie to vote for Malcolm Bruce.
I took my then five week old son, Sandy, with me.
I did it because in that election there was a tangible mood for change.   And because I wanted some day to be able to tell him that, he may not have realised it at the time,  but he was there and he was part of that mood for change.
We maybe did not get everything that we wanted out of that parliament but we did get a Scottish Parliament.  A parliament that for nearly his entire life has provided for his health, his education and much more besides.
He, like me, has many identities.
He is  an Orcadian (a west mainlander, no less), a Scot, a British citizen, a European.  He carries his identities proudly but, as a liberal, he wears them lightly.
So next Thursday he and I shall go, along with his English-born mother,   to local our polling station to cast our votes.
Just as I did  in 1997,  we shall again be voting for change and for a liberal vision.
A positive vote to remain part of this family of nations that has achieved so much and in which so much more is possible
As a liberal family in a family of nations we shall politely but proudly say, “No Thanks”

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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10 Comments

  • Hannah Bettsworth 13th Sep '14 - 12:39pm

    OMG Caron I almost cried too!

  • Ian MacFadyen 13th Sep '14 - 12:53pm

    Me too.

  • I’m sorry, but however emotionally engaging the speech might have been, I can’t agree with it.

    A vote for No won’t send the message that the devolution job needs to be completed, it will send the message that everything’s fine, thanks, no change needed here.

    A No vote won’t usher in federalism or decentralisation or anything really.

    In short, a No vote will be read as the people declaring their unequivocal support for the status quo, and rather than empowering and driving forward a conversation about where we take our union from here, will simply help in ending that conversation. Ending it before its even begun, in parts of the UK anyway.

    Even though No will probably win anyway, and even though I am not a nationalist, I will be voting Yes. Partly because I believe that its the only way to amplify the message calling for change. But also because there are in fact two nationalisms competing on Thursday, one represented by the Yes campaign, RIC and that lot, with all their flaws and problems, and the other represented by the Orange Order, UKIP and the three main parties, ours included, with all their flaws and problems. Its a difficult place for me to be, but voting on the party line would put me on the side of the greater of two evils, and I simply won’t vote for that.

  • Alistair Campbell made Caron cry.

    How many LIberal Democrats has Nick Clegg reduced to tears? Tears of frustration, tears of rage, tears of despair at what he has done to our party.

    Concentrating too much on the referendum and forgetting the dire state of the party in the run up to the general electiom has resulted in Liberal Democrat resources being used which would have been better employed in the 30 or so consttiuencies where we have a chance next May.

    I have not seen one person present a case for using party resources in his way to mprove our position in the general Election.
    If the NO side win, how many Liberal Democrat seats will be saved next May as a result?

  • I meant to add that I very much agree with Caron when she says — “…several hundred people out on the streets talking to voters would have been a much better use of our time.”
    A party rally simply results in back-slapping and preaching to the converted.

  • Denis Mollison 13th Sep '14 - 6:46pm

    I agree with all T-J says – will try to amplify the key point that More Powers Guaranteed is a delusion if I get time.

  • John Tilley wrote:

    “I have not seen one person present a case for using party resources in his way to mprove our position in the general Election.”

    Let’s have a go. What matters more? Keeping Scotland in the United Kingdom or the Liberal Democrats holding 30 seats?

    Surely, at times of national emergency, such as the Second World War and a referendum that could result in the destruction of the United Kingdom, politicians should set aside their differences (for a few days at least) and stand together in the defense of our country.

    If Nick Clegg had spent the last week touring marginal seats rather than standing shoulder to shoulder with David Cameron and Ed Miliband in Scotland, what would the electorate think of him and his party?

    We can attend to those 30 seats (some of which are in Scotland, please note) once the referendum is out of the way.

  • Calm down, Sesenco, it’s only a referendum not World War 2.

    You may feel strongly about the issue but to compare the large number of people in Scotland (possibly a large minority) with the Nazis in 1940 sweeping across Europe and threatening our very existence is over the top.

    The sort of over- reaction that one might expect at this event yesterday —

    http://www.channel4.com/news/orange-order-marches-through-edinburgh?msg_id=DM1818&nl_bid=140940716

  • This is the man who voted for Tuition fees despite signing a promise not to, who supported the semi privatisation of the health service, who voted for the bedroom tax whilst cynically excluding the pensioners (who vote), who went along with welfare cuts which hit the disabled and the vulnerable, who voted for each and every Tory budget, supported free schools, council house sales and unqualified teachers for our unsuspecting kids. Some people find his speech inspiring? For goodness sake!

  • Nick Collins 14th Sep '14 - 4:58pm

    “Liberal Democrat giants”! Are there any?

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