Willie Rennie gets up too darned early

Willie Rennie has taken to running up a hill and recording a campaign video each morning. He’d be running up the hill anyway, but he’s decided to show off to us all that he can do that and still have the breath left to speak to us.

So, at a more civilised hour, here are this week’s offerings:

Monday: Trying to take the heat out of the poisonous atmosphere

Tuesday: Reflections on the pandemic one year on and the harassment complaints

And today contrasting the fact that the SNP is publishing an independence bill while the attainment gap in the education system it is responsible for grows.

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  • Brad Barrows 24th Mar '21 - 3:59pm

    Willie Rennie succeeded in holding onto 5 MSPs in 2016 based on seeking to be a ‘fun’ leader rather than a ‘serious’ leader – his campaign stunts for the cameras were legendary. He appears to be trying to repeat something similar this time. Whether it will manage to lift the Liberal Democrats out of 5th place is unlikely however as the Scottish Green Party looks set to make further gains.

  • I like and rate Willie, but I’m afraid he’s got another mountain to climb in May. Last week there were two Council by-elections in Glasgow, Scotland’s largest city, (not as yet reported on LDV).

    Labour narrowly regained Partick East from the SNP on the final re-distribution after being second through all previous stages, and the SNP comfortably held on to the seat in Baillieston.

    I’m afraid Lib Dems only got 1.9% and 3% respectively, well behind the Greens -19% in Partick and pushing the Conservatives into fourth place. It seems Ms Davidson’s popping off to the Lords is timely. I gather her successor (?) Douglas Ross MP has got himself in hot water today.

    It’s worth noting Scotland has a form of PR for local elections, and for the Scottish Parliament, but still First Past the post for Westminster – with no voting of any description for the unelected House of Lords unless it’s amongst the 92 hereditary peers.

  • The challenge for Willie and the party is getting noticed and it’s been extra hard over the last year with COVID and with both the Tories and SNP trying to turn our politics into an artificial and ultimately damaging battle between the two of them. The SNP say it’s a choice between them or the Tories, and the Tories say the inverse. Meanwhile, anyone who wants to talk seriously about education, health or the environment is ignored.

    Credit where it’s due, Anas Sarwar made an excellent speech yesterday where he called both of them out. The SNP for treating the enquiry into how their government mishandled a sexual assault investigation, letting down victims, as a recruitment drive. And the Tories for treating the events as an opportunity to claim scalps.

    Normally I’d say that the proper election campaign will allow more voices to be heard, but unfortunately this time it’s also going to include George Galloway who is playing into the SNP’s hands, and who will demand attention as he tries to keep things focused on the constitutional issues. He’s going to provide excellent cover for the SNP to hide from all of their failed election promises from 2015 and before.

  • Brad Barrows 24th Mar '21 - 6:32pm

    You make some good points. However you speak about George Galloway “as he tries to keep things focused on the constitutional issues”. I think the reality is that the main issue at this elections is the country’s constitutional future – policy discussion will also happen but most people will vote on whether they support or oppose independence. The danger for the Liberal Democrats is that they will be viewed as the minor Unionist Party in this debate and may be squeezed. The fact that the party supports Federalism will not cut through since Willie Rennie is talking so firmly against a second independence referendum. It will be interesting to see if they can hang on to their current 5 MSPs.

  • I agree a lot of people will see this election through the prism of the constitutional divide – and while that might be true, it is because the Tories and SNP know have done their best to keep it that way. George Galloway’s involvement will make it harder for those who want to keep it focused on the business of the Scottish Parliament.

    It’s our job to try to stop them from controlling the narrative and to stick to the issues that the Scottish Government of the day control that make huge differences to peoples’ lives. But easier said than done, but we should still try.

    I generally don’t like to use this environment for moaning at the party or any of our politicians, but we are paying the price of Ed’s reckless language on Marr. The SNP are absolutely using it to their advantage to press home the idea that they are the only pro-EU party, and the SNP candidate standing against Willie is using Ed’s quotes on his fundraising page. I don’t think there’s much that can be done to undo that damage at this stage. However, if Ed could try making more of an impression, now’s the time. Again, I know it’s easier said than done, especially with ongoing restrictions and when the Westminster news cycle is filled with pandemic chat, but it sometimes feels like he’s still doing his listening exercise.

  • @ Fiona ” George Galloway who is playing into the SNP’s hands, and who will demand attention as he tries to keep things focused on the constitutional issues”.

    George Galloway’s wants attention, on George Galloway. End of.

    You say, “However, if Ed could try making more of an impression, now’s the time”.

    Sorry, Fiona, I’ve come to the conclusion (to use a football analogy) that some players can play and have star quality, (viz. Paddy, Jo Grimond, and on a good day, Charlie) and some players can’t… especially outside the Home Counties, however hard they try.

    What to do about it ? I don’t really know. The ‘transfer window’ is closed for now but I suspect the issue will raise its head by the end of 2021.

  • If the LibDems in Scotland want to make electoral progress they probably need to adopt a pro-independence position (or, failing that, a pro-increased devolution one).

    There’s nothing remotely liberal about the current prospect of Scotland being a mere minor wheel on an out-of-control U.K. bicycle being pedalled furiously in the wrong direction by the lunatic wing of the Conservative party.

  • The last thing we need is a ‘more pro-independence’ stance. Why would anyone vote for us if we did that? They’ve got the SNP for that. All that would happen is that we’d lose our vote, which is virtually all pro-Union.

    It would be totally out of line with our values to support a cause that would make us poorer and increase divisions with our neighbours, and within Scotland itself.

    Our constitutional stance is already in favour of more decentralisation within Scotland, and to reverse the power grabs of the SNP away from councils to Holyrood, and the party once again reaffirmed our support for Federalisation within the UK. Though it’s our support of electoral reform which would be most effective in balancing up the apparent differences within regions and stopping a Tory government with minority support doing damage.

    I don’t know the latest stats, but for a considerable time polling showed that the general public were in favour of bringing back capital punishment. We didn’t consider changing our stance on that in the hope of gaining votes. If we don’t challenge what we consider to be dangerous and stand up for what we believe in, what’s the point in standing at all?

  • John Peters 25th Mar '21 - 8:52am

    Perhaps the Lib Dems should adopt a one more indy ref stance? Brexit certainly has made a material change and it seems right that Scotland should be able to rethink the Union in the light of that.

    I can’t see the indy issue being dropped before at least one more vote.

  • It will never be ‘just one more’ with nationalists. I’m guessing from your phrasing that you aren’t Scottish (please correct me if I’m wrong), but the last referendum was awful. It inflicted a great deal of damage within our communities from which we’ve never recovered. It’s the new sectarianism.

    It had been described by Salmond and Sturgeon on multiple occasions as both a once in a lifetime and once in a generation thing. That didn’t stop them from campaigning for another one as soon as the results were in and before the EU referendum.

    It’s worth noting that the SNP were pro-independence when it guaranteed Scotland would be out of the EU. While some voters might be able to get away with saying that the change in situation changed their minds, the actual SNP leadership cannot.

    Even if you think we should get to voice our opinions again, do you not think it would be better to wait until there’s a plan for which currency we’d use post-independence? Do you not think that a party that’s sole purpose is to break up the UK should have a plan for what happens afterwards?

    Even if we didn’t think that an independence referendum would be damaging for the people of Scotland, it’s very clear it would be damaging for our party to adopt that stance.

    You don’t need to spend long on social media to see there’s an obvious campaign by some nationalists to tell both Labour and ourselves that we could improve our electoral fortunes if only we agreed to do the thing they want. But the reality is they are at it.

    Nationalism goes against our values, so even if we were foolish enough to pander to it in the hope of votes, the electorate would see through it. You can’t expect our candidates to campaign for something they know will do so much harm. The public would know our heart wasn’t in it.

  • John Peters 25th Mar '21 - 1:17pm

    It’s correct to say I am not Scottish and would have no vote on Scottish independence.

    I did not realise the previous referendum had done so much damage. That said I’m afraid I believe the push for a new referendum because of Brexit will be Irresistible. I know the SNP’s newly professed love for the EU is a marriage of convenience.

    From the Unionist point of view though Brexit does show that those who desire independence need to make clear detailed plans of what independence will actually mean. I think Project Reality will be far more potent than Project Fear.

  • @John – it was pretty bad at times, but it was the lasting sectarianism of every aspect of public life that is most damaging. The thought of re-running it fills me with dread.

    One of the most interesting features of using Brexit as a reason for Scexit is that many of the slogans used by hardcore Brexiteers (and Trump fans) were previously used by the nationalists in 2014. Mainly being accused of hating our country, having no faith in our country, being laughed at for thinking trade would stop, or that we can ignore the rules because they’ll come around once we’re out. Project Fear was the stock answer to any vaguely challenging questions. And if the media didn’t sing their tune it’s because they were corrupt. Alex Salmond was banning mainstream journalists from press conferences long before Trump did it.

    It would be wrong to claim the nastiness was one way, and while I think the nationalists were overall more aggressive than the unionists, the point is that it brought out the worst in society as a whole. The young were encouraged to hate the old (worse than with Brexit) and I know people who straight up lied about how they’d vote to avoid abuse. Someone set fire to a campaign board in a field by my parents’ village, and that seemed normal for the time.

    At the election after the referendum a Labour councillor was chased down the street by a man with a running chainsaw. That man avoided a custodial sentence the day before Jo Cox was murdered.

    The Brexit referendum by comparison was very calm. The SNP did next to no campaigning for it – ensuring they didn’t upset their traditional anti-EU voters.

  • I must live in a different Scotland to @Fiona!

    The Indy ref campaign was generally good natured and actually energised a widespread community interest in politics. I seem to recall Sturgeon taking part in all the EU referendum televised debates etc and Scotland delivered thumping majority in favour of remaining outweighed of course by England’s vote to leave but that is what happens when one part of a union of countries has ten times the number of votes.

    I can’t see Lib Dem support of federalism cutting through as there are actually no practical proposals that I am aware of for people in Scotland to support and from what I see just a preoccupation with how to shoehorn England into some federal proposal.

    At the same time of course devolution is being constantly undermined by the UK Government. The latest development is the UK Government’s intention to challenge the Scottish Parliament’s unanimous cross party vote to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law.

    We have also just had a very clear indication of how the UK Government regards Scotland in its announcement about the union flag:

    “This will allow organisations to highlight their local identity alongside their national identities, for example by flying a Middlesex county flag alongside the Union flag in London, or the Saltire alongside the Union flag in Scotland. ”

    So for the UK Scotland is equivalent to a defunct English county and being Scottish is a local identity.

  • Brad Barrows 25th Mar '21 - 5:33pm

    @John, Fiona
    My experience of the referendum was very different from you both. As the vote grew nearer it was inspiring to witness so many people engaging in political discussions which, on the whole, were very civil. I was not aware of any nastiness other than after the vote when some unionists took to the treats in Glasgow to gloat and provoke some of those on the Yes side – it appeared to be the same crowd who turn up at Rangers football matches waving a Union flags and singing God Save the Queen and Rule Britannia. Apart from that, it was a an example of the democratic process at its best with no violence and over 90% voting.

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