LibLink: Willie Rennie: Scottish Tories are a referendum themed tribute act, draped in union flag, singing Rule Britannia

Willie Rennie has written a scathing attack on the Scottish Conservatives for the Scotsman newspaper. He accused Ruth Davidson’s party of being nothing but a “referendum themed tribute act.”

In contrast, he set out a strong statement of the values the Liberal Democrats stood for:

I want liberal-minded Yes voters to know they can vote for the Liberal Democrats because Scotland needs strong liberal voices in parliament to stand up for investment in opportunity through education and good health, to guarantee our civil liberties and to protect our environment. We need a strong outward-looking, internationalist, altruistic, tolerant, reformist, pro civil liberties, pro-Europe, pro-environment, pro-business party in Scotland. You don’t get that with anyone else and Yes voters as well as No voters should back us if they want that platform.

The Tories are trying to portray themselves as the true guardians of the union, trying to characterise Labour and Liberal Democrats as flimsy at best because we won’t chuck independence supporters out of our parties.

Willie says that the Tories and the SNP are feeding off each other and trying to continue the independence debate when Scotland’s focus needs to be on its own public services:

If the dividing line in Scottish politics continues to be independence then we are playing into the hands of those who want to continue the independence debate. That is why the SNP are now talking up the chances of the Conservatives. The First Minister did it in parliament and her former advisers are doing it in the press. They want the Tories to talk about independence so that they can talk about independence too. They are feeding off each other.

What Willie doesn’t say is that and is worth pointing out is that both the SNP and the Tories are exceptionally well funded which gives them a considerable advantage in spreading their own messages. Those of us who don’t have that advantage are going to have to work very hard to be heard.

Willie also highlighted the things that the Tories had done to damage the union, starting with Cameron’s disgraceful speech on the steps of No 10 the day after the referendum:

At one of the most significant constitutional moments since the formation of the United Kingdom, the Prime Minister put his party before his country. The Prime Minister put his party before his country right up through the general election too. He sought to scare middle England with the prospect of the rise of the Scots. The publication of a poster of a Scotsman, on this occasion Alex Salmond, pick-pocketing an English taxpayer was a reckless act that promoted an inaccurate characteristic of Scots. How on earth does that help keep the country together?

The Conservatives were only interested in election victory, and never mind the damage done to the relationship between Scotland and England. These were not the actions of a party that was putting the long-term stability of the United Kingdom first.

You can read his whole article here.

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  • “liberal-minded Yes voters to know they can vote for the Liberal Democrats” after independence but until then they are going to vote SNP. Yes voters want independence then they can decide what sort of government they want.

  • “The publication of a poster of a Scotsman, on this occasion Alex Salmond, pick-pocketing an English taxpayer was a reckless act that promoted an inaccurate characteristic of Scots. How on earth does that help keep the country together?”

    A welcome and forthright condemnation but it is a pity that we know from another thread that Lid Dem campaigners in England were playing on that fear locally.

  • Andy Allan: “we know that LibDem campaigners were playing on that thread”?! I don’t know who is saying that but my observation is that it was that poster which cost us Mike Thornton’s seat in Eastleigh and a lot of votes from all of those who used Southampton Airport in the weeks before the election. It was devastatingly effective and has generated significant anti- Scottish sentiment. There is no doubt in my mind that Cameron has decided that it is an acceptable political risk to play on fears of Scottish nationalism in an attempt to try and preserve the Union. If we lose the referendum, we will lose the Union and the Conservative party will split. The political unknown beckons. Willie is right – we need to be shouting our values from the roof tops. It is time we left the potholes and good causes to focus on the only issue that matters this year.

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