Willie Rennie pulls Lib Dems out of Scottish budget negotiations

While all eyes are on a key vote on a proposal put forward by a minority government at Westminster this week, another political drama looms. On Wednesday  the Finance Minister of a minority government at Holyrood will present his budget.

Derek Mackay is going to have a hard time getting his proposals through. All Willie Rennie asked for as a preoondition to negotiaions for Lib Dem support was that they just drop the idea of an independence referendum in this Parliament, fulfilling a key part of our manifesto. It chimes with what we are hearing consistently on doorsteps – that people don’t want to go through 2014 again. They want to concentrate on getting rid of Brexit.

The arguments that all parties apart from the Conservatives, have united behind in the Scottish Parliament against Brexit apply equally to breaking up the UK. While you don’t expect the SNP ever to give up campaigning for independence, keeping it off the agenda for the time being is as sensible for them as it is good for the country.

The SNP lost 21 seats in the 2017 General Election as Scottish people reacted with horror to the prospect, floated by Nicola Sturgeon, of another poll. All tests of opinion so far suggest that they would lose another referendum, which is why they won’t call one. The problem is that if they explicitly say they’ll delay, their own people will kick off.

So they wouldn’t agree Willie’s pre-condition. And so Willie has withdrawn the Lib Dems from the negotiations.

From the BBC:

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said he had met Mr Mackay and Public Finance Minister Kate Forbes on two occasions “to explore what could be done” with the budget.

Mr Rennie said his party had been willing to “step in to help address the problems that have been mounting since the SNP came to power 11 years ago”.

This included investment in education and mental health services, an improved deal for councils and action to help tackle staffing shortages in hospitals and schools.

But he said the talks ended when the SNP politicians “could not agree to even a short cessation in their independence campaign”.

Mr Rennie added: “That was unacceptable to us. The SNP’s own Growth Commission admits that their plans will see us poorer after breaking up. Public services will be hit.

“Breaking up is hard to do. The lessons of Brexit are the lessons for independence, so it is disappointing that the Scottish government won’t learn and set aside their independence plans.”

He claimed the Scottish government was now “stuck with the Greens and are at their mercy”, which he predicted would “cause problems for important Scottish industries in north east Scotland and see big tax rises”.

The key votes on the Scottish Budget don’t take place until the New Year. We shall have to wait and see how this political drama unfolds.



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

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • Considering a majority of Scots believe Scottish independence would be better for the country than staying part of the United Kingdom after Brexit, I can’t see that one flying.


  • Poll after poll has shown that Scots would rather remain in the UK, preferably, but not necessarily, within the EU. And that’s considering that right now the debate is dominated by how bad leaving the EU will be, and the SNP get to pretend that independence is without problems.

    More to the point, the hard numbers show that the damage of Brexit would be dwarved by the damage of Scottish independence. Are you advocating the LibDems adopt a policy we know will be bad for the people of Scotland on the off-chance that it would gain us an extra couple of MSPs?

    Andrew, do you actually know what would be required for Scotland to meet the criteria to join the EU? Do you know what our current deficit is and do you have any thoughts on how we could bring it down to the levels required? Which currency do you think we’d use? How would we fund it? Unless you can provide answer to those, please refrain from glibly selling Scots down the river because Nicola Sturgeon’s good at social media.

  • Allan Heron 9th Dec '18 - 6:44pm

    I don’t think I’m being cynical in thinking Willie has gone in to set a pre-condition that he knew was never going to be accepted.

  • ………………. All Willie Rennie asked for as a preoondition to negotiaions for Lib Dem support was that they just drop the idea of an independence referendum in this Parliament, fulfilling a key part of our manifesto……

    Was that all? What next; ask the pope to stop being Catholic?

    BTW, Caron, still no sign of your article on ‘coming together’ of the the SNP, Labour, Greens and LibDems isolating the Scottish Tories .

  • David Raw 10th Dec ’18 – 11:58am………………@ expats You couldn’t make it up, could you ?……….
    I couldn’t, you couldn’t but , it seems, the party could.

    With every passing month my belief that this party is capable of being a serious political force (north or south of the border) diminishes.

  • Robin Bennett 10th Dec '18 - 3:21pm


    The points you make are old hat. They are spurious, irrelevant or insignificant to those who believe that after independence there would be a new spirit in a nation which long been – though many are blind to the fact – a backwater and a branch economy full of people who lack the motivation to do better. Scotland has every chance of doing as well as other small countries, of which those well-run Scandinavian ones are perhaps the best examples. And better than the present UK.

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