Willie Rennie claims Lib Dems 'ready to win' in Scottish election
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The Lib Dems today unveiled their election pledges to enhance devolution through a federal strategy and thwart a second Scottish independence referendum. Leader Willie Rennie wrote to the new leader of Scottish Labour Anas Sarwar pledging to work with him to deliver a federal UK.
The Lib Dems are currently the smallest of the five political parties in the Scottish Parliament, with five MSPs.
Polls show the SNP could be on track to win an overall majority, but Mr Rennie this afternoon made a firm commitment to increasing the number of Lib Dem MSPs.
He said his party could “make the difference between a government that can do whatever it wants, however damaging, and a government that has to listen”.
He added: “We can make gains in every region. We can win new seats.”
Addressing the Scottish Liberal Democrat spring conference, Mr Rennie hit out at the SNP party, who he said had “no vision now”.
He said of the SNP: “It’s all about the factions and the internal fighting.
“It’s the sign of a party that has been in government for 14 years, that has run out of energy and run out of ideas.”
Economic recovery from coronavirus will also be the heart of the Scottish Lib Dems 2021 election campaign, Mr Rennie made clear.
Mr Rennie said the Lib Dems want “Scotland to have a bigger say in the UK through reform of our country” as part of the party’s plans for a more federal UK.
He contrasted this with the SNP’s proposals for another independence referendum – a vote which the party’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford has said could be held in late 2021.
Mr Rennie said: “The next independence referendum would be like two Tasmanian devils in a never-ending cage fight.”
The party’s Health spokesman Alex Cole-Hamilton also took aim at the SNP claiming there was a “rot that now seeps through every extremity of the party of government”.
The MSP is one of those on the committee investigating the Scottish Government’s botched handling of harassment allegations made against former first minister Alex Salmond – which saw the ex-SNP leader win more than £500,000 after taking his case to the Court of Session in Edinburgh.
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With Mr Salmond and his predecessor Ms Sturgeon having given evidence to the Committee on the Scottish Government Handling of Harassment Complaints, Mr Cole-Hamilton used his speech to the Liberal Democrat spring conference to speak about the “civil war” within Scotland’s governing party.
He added: “The titanic struggle between the seismic forces of Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon is beginning to tear at the stitching, the very fabric of Scottish democracy. That should worry us all.”
On wider policies, Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “My five years in Parliament have opened my eyes to just how fat and entitled the SNP have become in 14 years of government.
“There is a fire in the mountain of Scottish Politics right now, once-great institutions have been tainted by the rot that now seeps through every extremity of the party of government.”
He insisted the SNP administration had been “failing and in decline long before COVID-19 arrived on our shore”.
He went on to hit out at SNP plans for a second Scottish independence referendum – an issue which will be central in the run-up to May’s planned Holyrood vote.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said that “this coming election is a battle for the soul of our country”.
But he insisted: “Our nation is exhausted, we need a period of calm and stability, we need a government that will put the recovery first, not plunge us into the further division and uncertainty a referendum would surely bring.”
The Scottish Liberal Democrat spring conference also backed fresh proposals for the future of adult social care which include the setting of national care service standards and recognising unpaid carers with better support for respite.
A motion, passed unanimously by activists at the conference, also said an “urgent task for recovery from the pandemic” is to boost the mental health workforce, adding that “key” to this is more counsellors being taking on to complement the work of clinical psychologists and psychiatrists.
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