Willie Rennie’s New Year Message

In May, we were nearly wiped off from the Scottish Parliamentary map. I got it. I understood why that happened.

But equally I am convinced that liberalism, not nationalism, will dominate Scottish political landscape in the years ahead.  Our values are embedded in a rich seem of Scottish history and endure despite political setbacks.

Our small team in the Scottish Parliament has shown over the last six months why we need strong liberal voices.

On centralising of the police, places for college students, housing for those in need, the Supreme Court, equal marriage, riots, prison reform, sectarianism and so many other issues we have struck a strong liberal note whilst others have been silent or ineffective.

Without these liberal voices Scotland would be a poorer place.

My liberal vision is a Scotland which politicians in Holyrood give power away to local communities rather than horde it for themselves; makes decisions for the long term interest, not quick fixes; is socially mobile where people from all backgrounds get a chance to get up and on in the world; and is outward looking, maintain strong alliances with the rest of the UK family, Europe and the world.

Nationalists believe that Scotland is not strong enough to stand tall in the UK. But I believe, and history has shown us, that Scots are confident, intelligent and able enough to prosper in the UK and beyond.

I find that most Scots share these strong liberal values.  Most are not narrow nationalists, only interested in what advances a parochial ideology, but open to dialogue and diction which serves the wider national interest.

I appreciate that the UK Coalition has been difficult for many to accept.  It’s counter intuitive that progressive Liberal Democrats can be partners with the right of centre Conservatives. But however uncomfortable it is for me, for Liberal Democrats and for many of our supporters and former supporters, I know it was the right thing to do.

We came together in the national interest to tackle the economy and our fiscal position would even more difficult if we had not taken that action.  We’re also acting as a moderating influence over the Conservatives and have had a number of significant achievements including tax cuts for those on low and middle incomes; the largest ever cash rise in the state pension; reforming the banks and ending child detention at Dungavel.  I know we have put country before self interest and party interest.

For generations, Liberals and Liberal Democrats have advocated Home Rule for Scotland with a Parliament that has the power to determine Scotland’s destiny on the home agenda whilst sharing risk and opportunity with the United Kingdom family.

We have worked constructively with others to deliver the Scottish Parliament and now a significant transfer of financial power to the Parliament through the Scotland Bill. Once we have built the case and drawn up the blueprint we want to go further so that the Parliament is responsible for raising broadly what it spends. When we finally come to debate and determine Scotland’s future in the UK, Liberal Democrats will advocate our Home Rule goal.

One of my great predecessors Russell Johnston once said: “You can stand at the bottom of a mountain, look up and say: ‘This is so high and precipitous, so rugged and intimidating that I can never dare to challenge it.’ Or, you can begin to climb. And, if you do, one day you may see the summit.”

The party started to climb in May and we’re now able to look back to where we started.  I am determined to keep on climbing in 2012 because Scotland needs strong liberal voices.

I wish you all a very happy New Year.

* Willie Rennie MSP is leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

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3 Comments

  • ” give power away to local communities rather than horde it for themselves; makes decisions for the long term interest, not quick fixes; ”

    You mean like the UK?

    “We came together in the national interest to tackle the economy and our fiscal position would even more difficult if we had not taken that action”

    I agree but then again that wouldn’t needed to have happened if we had been independent.

    “For generations, Liberals and Liberal Democrats have advocated Home Rule for Scotland”

    What happened?

    “the Parliament is responsible for raising broadly what it spends”

    And what about the rest of the money that is taken out of Scotland and given to the Westminster treasury?

    “and former supporters”

    You mean the ones that stopped voting for your party and voted for the SNP instead?

  • David Pollard 31st Dec '11 - 6:56pm

    1. The Home Rule Commission will give the LibDems a very strong and distinct position in the up-coming debate on independence for Scotland.
    2. It is good that the LibDems in the Scottish Parliament have moved away from opposition for opposition’s sake. Each policy proposal should be considered on its merits.
    3. It is vital that the LibDems don’t get on to the wrong side of the EU debate. Euro-sceptics have just about taken over the Tory party in England. If there is a referendum in 2013 say, and England votes NO, then there is a case for reviewing Scottish independence. As a Liberal Democrat, I would rather, on balance, live in an independent Scotland within the EU, rather than a continuing UK outside of the EU.

  • Andrew Duffield 1st Jan '12 - 9:57am

    Switching tax from earned income to unearned wealth is arguably more achievable in Scotland now than ever. That’s where your Liberal votes are Willie – not to mention sustainable economic growth.
    Lang may yer lum reek!

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