Willie Rennie’s New Year message: The forces of openness and tolerance tolerance must win the argument in 2018

In recent years we have witnessed the forces of division making advances in the court of public opinion. It has made our country more introspective and insular instead of the outward looking, optimistic nation that it has traditionally been.

In 2018, it is my ambition to make sure the forces of openness and tolerance start winning the argument again.

We should begin with immigration. It is good for our social fabric, our culture and our economy. Bringing people from across the globe enriches us with talented and energetic people who want to give to their new home as well as enjoy the benefits of our society.

There should be no more to fear from people who have the drive to travel here for hundreds of miles than your neighbours who have lived here all their life.

We should also make the case for international aid. Of course some of it will be misspent but just because some NHS funding is misspent doesn’t mean that we should shut down the local hospital.

International aid is our global responsibility as one of the richest nations on the plant but it is also enlightened self-interest. Tackling poverty and improving health and education across the world creates a stable planet which is good for the UK.

And we should make the case for working in alliance with our neighbours, whether that is in Britain, in Europe or across the world.

Let’s hunt for what we have in common and make that work rather than always dwelling on our differences. Sticking together is always best when facing mighty global challenges on the environment, corruption and poverty.

So let’s set ourselves the challenge of making our country a better place to live in 2018.

* Willie Rennie MSP is leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

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  • Well done Willie !!
    I would like to see the Scottish Lib Dems make more of an impact in Scotland and rise up the polls.

  • I guess I’m going to be the bad guy again. Mass immigration into Britain is recent and has little electoral support. It is an ideological hobby horse. Every single survey virtually since there were surveys shows a clear majority (over 70% population) wanting to see the figures lowered. The idea of Britain as open and global in the beatific proselytizing way it is sometimes depicted has is basically the product of new Labour. Depressing has it may seem Britain is an island with a mostly small C conservative population which is why they keep dominating politics. To chip away at this you have to offer things that electorate wants rather keeping keep bopping them over the noggin with things they at best simply put up with.
    Improving things across the globe is very noble, but if you can’t eliminate homelessness and poverty here it looks like a pipe dream. Improve infrastructure and inequality in Britain and you stand more chance of extending progress. Telling people off and telling them that they are really privileged when they are in debt or struggling does not work. Charity begins at home and whilst it is true that it doesn’t end there, it’s still where it begins.

  • Glenn 31st Dec ’17 – 12:06pm………..I guess I’m going to be the bad guy again. Mass immigration into Britain is recent and has little electoral support…….

    It is almost exactly 50 years since the ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech…

    Have you forgotten the quote that ‘THEY’ would overrun ‘US’…?
    Have you forgotten how tens of thousands of ‘ordinary people’ marched in protest at Powell’s sacking for the speech…?

    This phenomenon seems to spike when the economic situation falters (1967/8 devaluation/economic problems 2008 crisis) but it is anything but recent…19th century Punch cartoons reflect ‘outrage’ at mass Irish immigration, etc

  • Lorenzo Cherin 31st Dec '17 - 2:03pm

    Willie is the leader of the Scottish party. The need for immigration there is greater than here. People leave Scotland, they come to Scotland too, but in far fewer numbers. The reasons for this message work in this context.

    The same should not be pushed dogmatically one way or opposite way, throughout this land or these islands.

    Northern Ireland could do with exactly the tendency Willie describes here, a very progressive notion of gaining from input and new people.

    Wales too, perhaps with regard to ageing demographic and boost to the economy, but less so, as it has needs to do with jobs and such that need local solutions.

    England varies. Devon and Cornwall has little in population of immigrant origins and is suffering in it’s economy.

    Some areas are unrecognisable due to depressed economy, some because of changed population, most there is no direct effect from one to the other.

    We cannot as a party succeed if we are the reverse of everything, without nuance.

    To show we are against bigotry does not mean we are for open borders.

    To sow we are more open, does not mean we have to be open to everyone.

    All things in moderation including moderation itself, is a liberal mantra, and should be a Liberal one too.

  • Glenn
    From outside the EU immigration is heavily restricted.
    Cutting immigration will not create a new economy Britain needs.

  • Expats and Manafarang
    Here’s the thing people on here keep arguing with me, but all I’m doing is pointing out that there are next to no votes in this stance. Personally, I see immigration as neither here nor there, neither adding nor detracting that much to or from the culture. I don’t get the fuss and so only really see is an unpopular vote losing hobby horse.

  • “We should begin with immigration. It is good for our social fabric, our culture and our economy.”

    Economic migration is bad for the country from whence they come, making that country poorer the more of its talent and those with get up and go who leave. Having an unlimited labour supply is bad for economic inequalities as it reduces the pressure to invest or increase wages and it stops governments providing full employment the best method to reduce economic inequalities. Immigration does change our culture and many see this as a good thing, but large scale immigration is bad for our social fabric, which can cope with small scale immigration. I dispute the idea that our economy benefits more if someone from outside the UK is employed rather than someone who is not currently employed.

    Liberal Democrat leaders should stop misrepresenting economic migration, which mainly benefits the person who migrated, if we want to gain wider popular support. As Glenn points out the vast majority of the public think immigration should be reduced and so should we if we want to reduce economic inequalities in the UK. When we were in the Coalition government we gave the impression we supported reducing some immigration (members were sent a booklet praising how we had made it harder for people outside the EU to migrate into the UK). When we are out of the EU we need to reject the idea that it is good for UK businesses to have access to an unlimited supply of labour, rather than making them invest to improve productivity and competing for UK workers including providing them with high quality training.

  • Glenn
    As I said immigration is already restricted to the point where some British citizens cannot bring a foreign spouse into the UK. Pandering to xenophobic sentiment will not help the Liberal Democrats.

  • Manafarang,
    I don’t see lowering immigration as as either xenophobic or as pandering. I think such arguments are the result of ideological dogma with the electoral appeal of a cilice.

  • Peter Hirst 1st Jan '18 - 1:34pm

    Though I am not certain which nation Willie is referring to and it might help if he articulated that and assuming he is speaking for Scotland it is good to hear someone still articulating the positives about immigration and international development aid. It is easy to forget that in our recent past we have been a welcoming country for many sorts of people. I like his utterances about our money not always being well spent though for worthy objectives; surely an argument for greater transparency and accountability.

  • Glenn
    Well it looks as if overseas students are going to be taken out of the immigration figures.
    So the true figures will see a lowering of immigration.
    Adopting an anti-immigrant stance by the Liberal Democrats will only be greeted with cynicism. People do have some kind of notion as to what liberalism is. I think with recent history people reject what they see as Liberal Democrats not sticking to liberal principles.

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