Willie Rennie MSP writes…You wouldn’t put UKIP in charge of Europe, so you wouldn’t put the SNP in charge of the UK

If you ask me about coalitions and the SNP, I will keep it simple.

Just as you wouldn’t put UKIP in charge of Europe, you would not put the SNP in charge of Britain. It’s not going to happen. Anyway, the SNP leader at Westminster told an interviewer from the New Statesman last week that he wasn’t interested. So, it’s definitely not going to happen.

I know from long years in politics that parlour style discussions about hypotheticals and coalitions don’t translate onto the doorsteps.

We’re in the Liberal Democrats because we want to build a stronger economy and a fairer society, enabling everyone to get on in life.

We want the maximum seats and votes so that we have the maximum opportunity to deliver that positive prospectus.

Liberal Democrat policies such as tax cuts, health investment, balancing the books, cradle to college support, a more powerful Scottish Parliament and strong environmental policies.

We’ll always be asked by the media about various scenarios and outcomes. But the reality is that all of us are campaigning hard for  Liberal Democrat votes. We want to win here.

And just as you would not put UKIP in charge of Europe, it’s right that we make clear you would not put the SNP in charge of Britain.

This doesn’t mean we won’t take a reasonable approach to politics as a party. We have formed coalitions with the SNP on councils and, in the Scottish Parliament, we have worked with them on their budget and on a range of other issues. So have other parties.

But just imagine for only one second what would happen if Alex Salmond became Deputy Prime Minister. The minute you turned your back he’d take the screwdriver out and try to break up the UK. I didn’t spend the past two years campaigning for Scotland to remain in Britain and in Europe for that to come undone.

* Willie Rennie is a Member of the Scottish Parliament and former Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

Read more by or more about , or .
This entry was posted in News.


  • Malcolm Todd 19th Feb '15 - 12:21pm

    If being a minor party in a coalition constitutes “being in charge”, then can we take it that the Lib Dems have in fact been “in charge” of the UK for the last five years? If that’s so, I have a lot more to apologise for than I thought…

  • jedibeeftrix 19th Feb '15 - 1:04pm

    Hmmm, didn’t the British electorate decide that they did want ukip in charge of (out place in) Europe?

  • Phil Rimmer 19th Feb '15 - 1:08pm

    “We’re in the Liberal Democrats because we want to build a stronger economy and a fairer society …..” Oh, dear Willie. I have the greatest respect for your work but please don’t tell me you have actually bought into this illiberal and idiotic choice of a campaign mantra. This is not what makes me a Liberal and it certainly isn’t why myself, or any one of my declining number of friends still in the Liberal Democrats, joined the party.

    Others have put this better than I but, as a campaign slogan it’s almost meaningless and as a supposed statement of Liberalism it is the wrong way round – stronger society, fairer economy.

  • I think that the SNP is one of the few parties that is sensibly opposed to Trident replacement and will insist on it as a precondition for any coalition. Far better we save our money by not buying weapons we do not need than ruining people’s lives with benefit cuts that make people destitute.
    This article has something in common with Labour’s critique of the SNP; there is no actual criticism of SNP policy. All Labour can think of saying is vote SNP get David Cameron!
    The SNP are completely different to UKIP. They are pro EU not anti, and they are not anti immigration. So why conflate the 2? I am all in favour of having a critique of the SNP and as someone who does not live in Scotland I can only guess what a sensible critique would be.
    But this critique strikes me as nothing more than a smear, I am sorry to say.

  • Well said, Willie.

    @Geoffrey Payne

    Whilst UKIP and the SNP occupy different parts of the political spectrum, if there is such a thing, I think there is a fundamental similarity that underlies their support – they blame everything under on either Westminster or the EU (both in the case of the UKIP).

    You can take swathes of a SNP or UKIP speech/tract and just interchange EU with Westminster and you have the same message. Is the old nationalist trick – everything is someone else’s fault, only we care about Scotland/Britain and everyone else is trying to hold us down.

    Nationalism is nationalism, no matter the colour of the rosette – they like to slice and dice humanity and society into groups they like or don’t like and don’t care a jot about those who have a different view.

  • Caron Lindsay Caron Lindsay 19th Feb '15 - 1:29pm

    Geoffrey Payne, Willie is not comparing the SNP to UKIP. They are very different kettles of fish. I could work with most people in the SNP as on many issues apart from independence we are there or thereabouts on the same page. I can’t think of one person in UKIP I’d want to give the time of day to, on the other hand, let alone share a government with.

    The SNP’s positioning on Trident is nothing more than positioning. The government they want to see is a Tory majority one which takes the UK out of the EU because that will mean independence for Scotland. It would most likely be my tipping point.

    The SNP does and always has opposed Trident, as have I – but they are just using it as a bargaining tool that Labour just won’t be able to meet. You can’t just make a radical shift in your party’s stance like that in the few days of a coalition negotiation. If our leaders did that, we’d go mad.

    Why not choose something that could actually help to resolve about a much greater and more immediate problem – poverty? But, as one of their councillors once said, every single thing the SNP does is about securing Scottish independence – a very good reason for them not to be in the UK government. I don’t think they would want to be anyway.

  • Malcolm Todd 19th Feb '15 - 1:48pm

    “Hmmm, didn’t the British electorate decide that they did want ukip in charge of (out place in) Europe?”

    No, Jedi, they didn’t.

  • Denis Mollison 19th Feb '15 - 1:48pm

    The nearest historical parallel is the years before WW1, when the last Liberal-led government relied on Irish nationalists for its majority. That was why we got a proper Scottish Home Rule bill in 1913/14, alongside the Irish Home Rule bill.

    If the SNP were similarly “in charge of the UK” after May their stated (admittedly short term) aim would most likely be a proper Home Rule bill, i.e. one ceding all except foreign affairs, defence and macroeconomic policy. That would be a good outcome, clear and having a chance of longterm viability that dogs-breakfasts like the Smith Commission proposals don’t hold.

  • Caron: Willie Rennie does make the parallel though “Just as you wouldn’t put UKIP in charge of Europe, you would not put the SNP in charge of Britain. As you sort of acknowledge, the parallel does not work. We can at least grant SNP a level of competence and responsibility that is not associated with UKIP.

    I suppose some in the Party is trying to work out what to do if the election yields a result where a majority can only be achieved with both SNP and LIb Dem support. I hope they are coming to the conclusion that a further coalition would be a mistake and are planning how to operate with a minority government. I further hope that Lib Dems and SNP are pursuing lines of communication in preparation for such a result. I could see that a Lib Dem style Devo Max for Scotland could be the eventual outcome.

  • Denis Mollison 19th Feb '15 - 2:19pm

    Martin – I agree with your approach. I’d like to think that “Lib Dem style Devo Max” was the same as “proper Home Rule”.
    However, our recent policy (e.g. Campbell Commission) has been for a somewhat watered-down version, which may be good in theory, but would be unlikely to last long in practice.

  • Eddie Sammon 19th Feb '15 - 2:48pm

    I’m disappointed with the SNP embracing the new anti-austerity movement. If they don’t want to pay their bills then who will?

    Greece is asking for free money, but according to GDP figures they have more income per person than 13 EU countries as of 2012. Their figures for 2013 are “not available”. Yes they do have the highest debt ratio, but still.

    My point is that anti-austerity for many seems to be as much about nationalism as equality and we should call it out for what it is.


    (EU official GDP per capita tables at exchange rates)

  • Tony Greaves 19th Feb '15 - 2:54pm

    The fact is that when the votes are in and something has to be done, all the silly slogans and the election rhetoric are put to one side and people get down to talking about what can be done. Which is why we have been suffering the torture of coalition with the appalling present-day Tory Party.

    If the numbers dictate that the SNP are needed for a government to be formed, and we are part of those necessary numbers, those talks will take place. Just as night follows day. So just calm down and get on with the election.


  • Tony Greaves: Your comment appears to imply if the numbers warrant it we have to be/ ought to be/ would preferably be (?) in a coalition rather than not. Could you clarify? I am concerned about the impact of a further coalition on the Party.

  • 13 year old 19th Feb '15 - 7:32pm

    I think that going into another coalition would do more damage than good.

  • If Willie wanted to prevent the SNP from being part of the UK government, he should have voted Yes to independence last September. Only a few weeks ago, he wanted them to put the referendum behind them and be a constructive part of the UK. He can hardly start complaining now about the possibility they could be in a position to do just that!

    Be more careful what you wish for Willie!

  • Phill Rimmer
    How about Peace, Economy, and Reform?

  • Any SNP involvement in any UK government spells disaster, whether or not the “numbers dictate” otherwise. For a government to be successful, there must be at least an agreement on the underlying objective(s) of that government.
    The current government’s primary objective has been to strengthen the economy (whether or not you think that has been successful is another matter) and both participating parties agreed to coalition in 2010 because both parties saw a stable government as key to meeting that objective.
    Any government involving the SNP could only be based on policy, not on an agreement on the government’s underlying objective. The SNP’s core objective is independence – no other party shares that. So any government including the SNP, or relying on the SNP for votes, would be inherently unstable. Any dispute over a particular policy would lead to crisis (something there has been very little of over the last almost 5 years) and would be much more difficult to resolve without the shared objective.
    Any party supporting proportional representation would be wise to steer clear of SNP involvement too – the interests of PR are best served by a succession of successful coalition governments. The SNP would encourage instabillity as a way to persuade Scots to support independence.

  • One positive of a strong SNP showing would be pressure to explore some sort of constitutional convention, rather than have a strange asymmetry where a subset of the westminster parliament is also acting as the English Parliament. If we got the devolution arrangement right it might also greatly ease the pressure for Scots independence.

  • Frank Bowles 20th Feb '15 - 5:13pm

    However well they do I would be really surprised if the SNP joined any coalition with the Labour Party. The visceral hatred and tribalism between the two is probably the worst between any two parties outside Northern Ireland. The big beasts of the Labour Party put paid to any arrangement between themselves and the Lib Dems in 2010 and they hate us far less. Add to that the fact that with coalition comes responsibility and the consequent electoral backlash. As Caron says the SNP would most like a Tory Government to rail against and to create division over Europe for them to exploit. Of course they won’t officially do a deal with the Tories but they’ll facilitate them getting into power and staying there.

    Trident is of course just something at which to vent moral outrage; at the referendum they had no qualms about it leaving the Gareloch for Cumbria or North Wales…

  • Denis Mollison 21st Feb '15 - 9:24am

    “Any SNP involvement in any UK government spells disaster” – why do people think this? As I said earlier, the obvious historical parallel is the pre-WW1 Liberal government supported by the Irish Nationalists.

    And as to the SNP’s suggestion for a modest 1/2 per cent increase in spending, reducing the deficit more slowly, that only looks disastrous to those who still believe the austerity con – I wish it were our party’s policy.

  • Hello, Mr Rennie, please don’t talk such nonsense. Point A, English voters HAVE put UKIP in charge of Europe, as far as the UK is concerned. Happened in May last year; maybe you were busy with other things. Point B, what utter poppycock to compare UKIP, an assortment of people who can barely read and count, with the SNP, a party who have nearly eight successful years in government under their belt and are almost certain to be re-elected next year. Point C, there is absolutely no danger whatsoever that the SNP will form the next UK government. Point D, whether you’ve wasted two years of your life campaigning against it or not, Scottish Independence is going to happen sooner or later anyway. The UK’s political system is broken beyond repair and most people, both north and south of the border, know this by now. You can keep it going for a few more years, but it’s not going to be pretty. A YES vote last year would have been the more merciful death for a political entity that has outlived its relevance. Point E, I’ve seen your “positive prospectus” on Vote For Politics and I was not impressed. Greenies all the way for me – and more people prefer the policies of the Greens than of any other party.

  • Having been a lib dem voter for 20 years, a party member for some of those, an active door knocker and leaflet hander outer. Since the coalition. We’ve turned into a party that argues about party and not about policy and belief. Above is a classic example, not a mention of policy dispute, just” your not us therefore bad”. I live in Scotland and the SNP are riding high on left of center policy and more importantly actually doing what they said in their manifesto even in their pervious minority administration. Voters are finding that an intoxicating mix. My work office has gone from all labour voters to SNP. Who am I? I’m someone who stood in the booth for 15mins and ended up spoiling his last ballot paper, as I could not ticket LD as I feel we’ve sold our sole. Come May my vote is so important, as the vote is so split, that almost anyone could win in my constituency. Who will get my vote?

Post a Comment

Lib Dem Voice welcomes comments from everyone but we ask you to be polite, to be on topic and to be who you say you are. You can read our comments policy in full here. Please respect it and all readers of the site.

To have your photo next to your comment please signup your email address with Gravatar.

Your email is never published. Required fields are marked *

Please complete the name of this site, Liberal Democrat ...?


Recent Comments

  • Graham Jeffs
    A truly excellent article. I do hope that we all do indeed cherish our candidates before and after the GE. Afterwards is so important. Meantime I also hop...
  • Andrew Tampion
    Christopher Haigh. "I always got the impression that freedom of movement would work better if people from the more economically active EU countries should retir...
  • John Waller
    I only did 3 not 5. Thank you from crazy USA. What sense....
  • Alex Macfie
    This "non-aggression" pact between us and Labour is presumably supposed to apply only to each other's Tory-facing battlegrounds (I don't think we're holding bac...
  • Robert SAYER
    Totally right. Having experienced the same stresses as described it can be lonely and you can believe that the most unwinnable seat can be won. But to those fig...