Willie Rennie tells Liberal Democrats: Liberal values need to be at forefront of independence debate

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie gave his keynote address to the Brighton Liberal Democrat Conference this morning. Seeing him speak after  MIke Moore, you can see how their vastly different styles complement each other. 

Mike is statesmanlike and reasonable,Willie will get in there and say things  that  are uncomfortable for our opponents to hear.  I know that  there will be many SNP supporters who weep into their beer when they think of Alex Salmond cosying up to  Murdoch,  or pandering to the Chinese  over the Dalai Lama’s visit, or see their  MPs cosying  up to the English Democrats.

Willie’s speech was a call for liberal values, not exhibited by the First Minister and some of Salmond’s colleagues, to come to the fore  in the run up to the independence referendum.

While he had harsh words for  those who associated with the likes of the English Democrats, who similarly want to break up the UK and espouse some pretty unpleasant policies to boot, he was also quick to point  out the benefits of working constructively together to deliver things lke equal marriage and mminimum pricing for alcohol. I was frankly surprised  to see his call for minimum pricing across the UK was applauded as the murmurings I’ve heard from English Lib Dems on  the subject have not  been universally suppotive. 

I thought  his speech was very good – and he wasn’t at all phased by the lectern suddenly sinking  a few inches in mid sentence as it adjusted to his height. 

You’ll have to forgive the formatiting. The technology isn’t playing  ball  with me. However, you have the whle thing here and I’ll pretty it up later. 

Last year people were writing us off. Perhaps even some people here, supporters, wondered how a group of five MSPs, cut by two thirds in the elections, could make any impact on the Scottish political scene. 
Although our opponents will always deride us they are privately fizzing that the Liberal Democrats will just not disappear. 

Well I am not at all sorry to disappoint them.  

As history shows, we have a bit more staying power than that.

Scotland is a tolerant and liberal, understanding and compassionate country. People are generous and value fairness.

Those popular values have given us the strength to argue the liberal case with confidence.

And that is the case I will continue to lead.

Well make the liberal case.

Unlike Alex Salmond who does not.

He likes to court the rich and the powerful.
The cosy relationship that he has fostered with those with vested interests runs counter to the values that Scotland holds dear.

He was asked to write a guest column for the first edition of the Sun on Sunday. In it he said that News International was not the only company involved in phone hacking. 

He used the argument that many mothers will use when defending their errant son he wasnt the only one, others did it too.  

Alex Salmonds defence of Rupert Murdochs empire revealed a politician prepared to do anything to get the support of the media – even if it meant betraying the phone hacking victims. 

Dozens of innocent lives made a living hell. It was wrong, wrong,wrong

We saw the same in the summer. The Dalai Lama came to Scotland. 

We learnt that the Chinese Government was going round telling everybody not to meet him. 

People in Scotland didnt listen to them or bow to their pressure. 

Except for one man. 

The First Minister.

He submitted to pressure from the Chinese in a way that I am so proud that our Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg did not.  

It seems that whether youve got a billion pounds or a billion people, the First Minister will do whatever you want. No questions asked. 

That isn’t liberal government. 

If you live outside Scotland you may not have a vote in the referendum but you do have a voice.

As we approach the referendum, the danger is that the voices on the extreme will dominate the debate.  
Weve already heard from some English nationalists that they want Scotland out.  They dont value our United Kingdom.  

These are the allies of Alex Salmonds SNP in their fight to break up Britain. 
They are working together, attending each others conferences and sharing ideas.
But despite what you may have heard most people in Scotland dont want to leave. 
We want to stay  but its not guaranteed.

So I want to hear your voice in the debate about the future of the UK.  
I want you to show that the rest of the UK values Scotland and our partnership together.  
I want the moderate, reasonable, open and welcoming voices from outside Scotland to be heard.  
You can speak up for what the UK means for you. 

Whether its the National Health Service designed by an Englishman, delivered by a Welshman.
Or its the BBC founded by a Scotsman for the whole of the UK not just Scotland.
Or the state pension introduced by Lloyd George; a Liberal Mancunian with a Welsh accent. 
Speak up for what Scotland means to you.
It could be intellectual, with the Scottish Enlightenment giving us great thinkers like James Hutton, David Hume and Adam Smith.
Or it could be as simple as having loved ones from Scotland and caring about the country our children will grow up in. 
Whatever you value I want you to make your voice heard.  
Promise me you won’t leave the debate to the extreme views of nationalists. 
We dont want Scotland to break from the rest of the UK but we do want to change it;
To deliver home rule with more powers so that Scotland can determine its own destiny on the domestic agenda whilst sharing the risks and rewards with the rest of the UK.
Thats why Sir Ming Campbell will be reporting back next month from his Home Rule Commission.  
It wont be fiscal autonomy or devo-max.
It will be Fiscal Federalism as set out in the Steel Commission.
Mings report will open the dialogue on more powers with the voters and between the parties.
We can expect it to recommend powerful tools for Scotland within the UK for fairness, for business and to tackle inequality.
I encourage Labour and the Conservatives to start their discussions to develop a new accord to put to the country in the 2015 general election.
And if Scotland decides to stay in the UK theres a role for the SNP.  
They can work with others to deliver the new accord.  
No matter what the result in the referendum, parties of all stripes will need to work together to deliver more powers, more decisions, more responsibility at home.
If we are able to build a consensus endorsed at the general election we can promptly move to deliverHome Rule for Scotland inside a strong United Kingdom. 
And we wont need a referendum to deliver it either.  
We didnt need a referendum for the Calman proposals and we wont need a referendum now. 
Even though independence dominates Scottish politics, there is still an enormous amount of other work going on.
And a lot of it shows the great strength and value we all get from different governments working and sharing across the United Kingdom.
Different governments will set the pace on different policy areas. We all benefit. 
For example, how to tackle Scotlands unhealthy relationship with alcohol. 
Our ground breaking Scottish legislation on minimum pricing on alcohol is something we worked with the SNP to deliver.  
There is a close link between price and consumption and consumption and harm.  
I am pleased the UK Government is consulting on this and I hope they take the bold steps to deliver this change.
We are also pleased to be able to work with the SNP on giving churches and others the freedom to conduct same sex marriages if they wish to do so.  
Equal marriage is a mark of a modern, tolerant nation  a nation that values all no matter what their sexual orientation
I am so proud that it is the Liberal Democrats that are moving to deliver equal marriage across the UKtoo.
And Scotland can learn from the rest of the United Kingdom.
Listening to the nationalists you would think that problems across the UK can only be solved ifeveryone just does what they say
But it’s not just one-way traffic. 
The Coalition Government is moving to give 40 per cent of 2-year-olds access to early learning. In Scotland it is just a tiny number.
I have shown the Scottish Government how they can find the money to increase early intervention work.
Those children in Scotland are not getting any younger. If they miss out on early education this year, they miss out forever.
The Scottish Government can learn from the United Kingdom right now. 
Everyone in the UK benefits. 
The United Kingdom is stronger as a result of different governments setting the pace on different policies. 
What we can do in Scotland and what we can do in the United Kingdom make Scotland a more liberal place to live and work.

About caronlindsay

Scottish Lib Dem internationalist, mum, LGBT+ ally, Doctor Who, Strictly, F1 and trashy tv addict and blogger. Servant to two spaniels. She/her.
This entry was posted in Liberal Democrat Conference, michael moore mp, Wilie Rennie. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Willie Rennie tells Liberal Democrats: Liberal values need to be at forefront of independence debate

  1. You havent responded to my tweet caron, if “opposing mass immigration” makes a party unpleasant by association, then what of the conservative views on this?


  2. Munguin says:

    Caron; you have outdone yourself in the usual self-congratulatory gush! Michael Moore statesman like? That’s not at all the word that comes to mind when I hear his dull clunking tones on the TV (which thankfully isn’t all that often, for a so called statesman they sure keep him in the background), buffoon is more the word I would use and that is being generous. But hey don’t take my word for how statesman like he has been let’s look at Liberal Democrat Voice’s recent satisfaction poll of Lib Dem members where Mike got an overall score of 40%. Okay? Till we discover that Caroline Pidgeon (Lib Dem leader on London Assembly) got 43%, while Kirsty Williams (leader of Welsh Lib Dems got 45%) Willie Rennie got 45%. In terms of your three SoS he trailed in a very poor third as Vince Cable got 87% and Ed Davey got 62%. For the record poor old Nick trailed in with 21%. And you call that a statesman do you? Well you might but the rest of your Lib Dem colleagues is seems don’t!


  3. Galen10 says:

    I can see that it suits your political and polemical purposes to make the intellectually lazy “nationalist=extemist” equivalence, but that (and indeed the stangely desperate tone of the rest of your post) simply exposes the fundamental flaw in the strategy of the Unionist parties and establishment in responsing to the referendum debate over the next 24 months.

    You can hardly harp on about the shortcomings of the SNP (which is in any case in no position to guarantee what will happen), when the LD's and others are so divided on what form of further devolution is on offer.

    If the result in 2014 is “Yes”, it will be as much an indictment of your parties as it is a success for the SNP and other independistas.

    The best way to ensure liberal values and policies are enacted in Scotland is, as far as many of us are concerned, via independence. They aren't going to be promoted by either the Tory or Labour parties, whether in a UK or Scottish context.

    Johann Lamont just effectively signed the suicide note of Scottish Labour by calling for free tuition, free prescriptions etc to be axed.

    As someone else pointed out to you on your previous post on Michael Moore's speech, faced with a stark choice between the status quo and unspecified promises of jam tomorrow, and independence, more and more undecided voters, or people who support FFA/devo-max etc will opt for independence.

    Your party and the others who support remaining in the UK have had plenty of time an opportunity to sketch out what that means, how you will deliver it, and when. You have signally failed to do so. Indeed, it is vanishingly unlikely you could push such plans thru Westminster even if you could agree amongst yourselves which you patenetly can't.

    Menzies Campbell may be a well meaning old buffer, but his report whilst potentially interesting is years out of date. It could be the best possible solution…. but you have zero chance of seeing it enacted.

    So the ultimate choice is clear: stay in the UK and endure more of the same, greater cuts, more attacks on the disadvantaged, and more unfulfilled promises of further devolution, or declare independence and take control of your own destiny.

    In the end it's a trivial choice.


  4. Julie says:

    What does Willie Rennie think of the UK Government having good relations with Gulf and other questionable regimes, selling weapons to them and training their militaries?




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