It can’t be easy being Ruth Davidson at the moment. Her party at Westminster, unrestrained by the Liberal Democrats who held them back from doing their worst for five years, is slashing the incomes of the poorest working people, wreaking havoc on our country’s standing in the world and riding roughshod over our civil liberties in ways that the illiberal SNP can only dream of.
You can’t blame her, I suppose, for clutching at straws to try to keep her party’s support in the run-up to the Holyrood election. The problem is that when Tories clutch at straws and, let’s face it, tell lies, they usually have a massively disproportionate amount of money behind them to help them do it. Here’s their latest attack stuff:
— ScotConservatives (@ScotTories) September 25, 2015
Last week, both Willie Rennie and Kezia Dugdale said that they wouldn’t throw anyone out of their parties who supported independence. I think they were right to do so. The Liberal Democrats have always been a party which believes in a federal UK. We’re some way off achieving that, but we still see it as our goal. As a party, we have never come close to supporting independence. A small proportion, maybe 1 in 5 at most, of our members are sympathetic to separation. Why on earth should we throw them out?
It is surely extremely unhealthy for anyone in any political party to agree with all of its policies. I certainly don’t agree with all Lib Dem policy – especially with regards to taxation and wealth redistribution. I want to see us be much more radical on both. So why on earth would I want to see good liberals drummed out of the party just because they support independence? They aren’t getting their way. The party’s views are unambiguously against separation and will stay that way.
Many good liberals voted Yes and we do ourselves no favours if we don’t give them a way back to us. Willie was right to say last week;
We’re liberals – if we can’t be tolerant about people taking different views on the constitution, what can we be tolerant about?” Mr Rennie told BBC Radio Scotland’s Good Morning Scotland yesterday.
“We’ve always adopted that approach – if members want to speak up for independence in our party, they’ve always been perfectly entitled to do so.
“In fact many of them do and I congratulate them for sticking to their principles on that.”
The deceitful Tory tweets smack of the stuff during the election where the Tories came out with a new scare story every day about the havoc Ed Miliband and the SNP could wreak together. We had great fun trying to predict the next one – whether it would be Ed ‘n Eck doing a deal with the Loch Ness Monster to crash the stock exchange, or relocating Trident to a lake in David Cameron’s Witney constituency.
In April, the Tories’ attacks were based on a lie and it’s no different now. The Liberal Democrats will not back independence. End of.
We should have stood up to the Tories in April. By failing to challenge their ridiculous attacks, we allowed them to permeate the national consciousness. We need to learn that lesson up here and stamp on this now.
We cannot let Davidson away with spreading a lie that the Tories are the only party who will support Scotland staying in the UK, especially when it’s her party who have done more to damage that union than the SNP have. My flesh crawled when David Cameron emerged from No 10 the day after the referendum to pick a fight over English Votes for English Laws and their contemptuous and divisive behaviour during the General Election was pretty shameful. There seems to be no limit to the depths they will plumb.
By threatening to purge any independence sympathisers in her ranks (of which there won’t be that many anyway),Ruth seems to be taking a line out of the SNP Playbook. Nationalist MPs and MSPs have to sign up to a draconian code of conduct in which they are not allowed to criticise the party line. It’s not a pretty sight.
Again we see a similar approach from the Tories and the SNP. This attack by the Tories, along with the SNP’s continual babbling about a second referendum is purely a distraction technique. If they can keep this election about independence, then, maybe, nobody will scratch beneath the surface of their own governments’ records.
Frankly, you don’t need to scratch too far before all the awfulness of those records hits you in the face: an NHS in crisis, with people having to travel hundreds of miles to receive treatment; attainment in schools falling; college opportunities for young people evaporating; a failing Police force which is getting the basics wrong too often. Then you have the Tories doing their damnedest to take away the safety net of social security in front of our eyes. The poorest working people stand to lose four figure sums that they cannot afford to lose due to tax credit cuts. Young people stand to lose any help with housing and if they happen to be ill and unable to work or study, they stand to get no help at all. The Snoopers’ Charter is back with knobs on and Cameron’s appalling reaction to the Refugee Crisis has been at odds with that of the public. They are playing fast and loose with our EU membership and paring back the state much more than necessary.
Willie Rennie, in a blog today, appealed to supporters of independence to back the Liberal Democrat stance on public services:
My commitment to the United Kingdom remains as strong as ever. No-one should ever doubt that. But the next election should not be about independence. We have spent so much time debating our constitution over the last few years. Surely our schools, NHS, police and other public services deserve our time and attention now.
I want to make a direct plea to supporters of independence: If you want to fix the problems facing your local GP surgery, if you want to end industrial stop and search on our streets, if you want to put the treatment of mental ill health on an equal footing with physical health, there is a home for you in the Liberal Democrats.
With just five MSPs, Willie and the Scottish Liberal Democrats have changed government policy on issues like college places, childcare, free school meals
stop and search and armed police. We have provided the most effective opposition to the illiberal, centralising instincts of the SNP. We have shown our worth.
On the other hand, Ruth Davidson has a poor record at Holyrood and the spectre of her party unleashed in government at Westminster. Her latest fig leaf cannot disguise her monumental embarrassment.