Willie Rennie’s Christmas Message

As we gather with friends and family this Christmas, it is important that we, both individually and collectively, look back, take stock and reflect on the last year.

There is no doubt it has been an extremely testing time for political leaders with falling budgets, economic turbulence, growing unemployment and social problems that threaten to rip the fabric of society.

Making decisions when there are no easy answers is difficult but those problems are nought compared with those who are unemployed, face the threat of unemployment or are struggling to make ends meet.

To be fair, this is the focus of all politicians I know and work with daily. We may disagree on the decisions but share the objective.

Robust debate, however, is required even in the most challenging of circumstances. To simply agree even if we have a different opinion would be wrong as people need politicians who test, debate and inquire so that ultimate decisions reflect the best possible option.

Over the last year Scottish Liberal Democrats have focussed on building strong communities across Scotland that offer opportunities for all; from people who want to set up their own business to young people who want to gain the skills and education needed to get up and get on.

While the Coalition Government works to get the economy back on track from the mess that Labour left behind, here in Scotland we have to make the right choices with the resources we have to support people through these tough times.

That is why, as Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, I have engaged in vigorous debate to ensure we get the best deal possible.

While the Nationalists play a game of political poker, bluffing their way from one missed opportunity to the next, I am determined to focus on what matters to the vast majority who just want a fair shake in life.

To those looking for a new job, a more secure job or to create more jobs, Scottish Liberal Democrats have pressed for the £500million of extra investment from Westminster to be spent on an economic boost through investing in improving train services and some of the most dangerous roads in Scotland.

To those looking for skills, training and education opportunities, Scottish Liberal Democrats have argued that college places under threat from SNP cuts must be protected. I have started a campaign to save the 9000 student places that could go in Scotland next year if the SNP continue to dither and delay.

And to the 150,000 Scots who are languishing on housing lists and the 2000 families with children who will be spending Christmas in temporary accommodation, Scottish Liberal Democrats have been forthright in our view that eradicating homelessness should be a top priority in Scotland.

I believe that on jobs, on skills, on housing, the SNP have made the wrong decisions as they are too focussed on splitting Scotland from the UK.

Scotland needs strong liberal voices to make the right calls that benefit communities in Scotland in the long term.

We must not fail in this task. With one eye on the future we say farewell to the challenges of the last year and look forward to the opportunities that the next could bring if the right choices are made.

Wherever you are, I wish all of you a very Merry Christmas.

* Willie Rennie MSP is leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

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