The Scottish Liberal Democrats Independence and Europe
I am bewildered and exasperated by the opposition party’s in Scotland. It is painful to watch once great party’s completing Hari-Kari in the arena of political challenge. Lagging hopelessly behind in last place in public support, seemingly oblivious to the danger of oblivion in Scotland.
The Labour party appears to be made up of “lemmings” happy to jump from a cliff drowning their sorrows in self pity for a millennium. And the Lib-Dem party lacks the courage to embrace the radical policies which brought it so much success in Scotland in past years.
Ruth Davidson and her Unionist Party (the toxic word “Conservative” no longer features in its vocabulary) have claimed the “Union”. The Unionist party is now in the driving seat
and there is no room on their stagecoach for any passengers. Tactically Labour and the Lib-Dems have been outflanked and sidelined for the foreseeable future.
It is still possible for the LIb-Dem party to accept that there has been a significant change in the political scene in Scotland and support calls from their members for an independence referendum.
Such a change would strengthen the case for independence and ensure the party’s future at the centre of Scottish politics. The founding principles of the party provide guidance on the matter stating:
“Setting aside national sovereignty when necessary, we will work with other countries towards an equitable and peaceful international order and a durable system of common security. Within the European Community we affirm the values of federalism and integration and work for unity based on these principles.”
Willie Rennie is adamant that the Lib-Dem party (under his stewardship) will do nothing that might run contrary to the policies of the Lib-Dem party in England/Wales and the perception in the party hierarchy south of the Scottish border is that support of an independence referendum would be depicted as an anti-Westminster vote further damaging any prospects of a revival of the party in England/Wales.
So Scot’s Lib-Dem’s are lumbered with a policy forced on them by their English “big brothers”.
This week, the Scottish Parliament will vote on whether to seek a Section 30 order, the device in the UK Parliament’s power that would give it the right to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence. The SNP Government is expected to win with the support of the Greens.
The Lib-Dem party are involving themselves in the affairs of another party mischievously claiming that the Greens do not have a mandate to call for a referendum given that three conditions in their manifesto have not been met.
They called Greens leader Patrick Harvie out for voting with the SNP, challenging him to justify his abandonment of the relevant parts of his party’s manifesto. The message from the Green Party was clear and unambiguous: “We believe that the best way to build a more prosperous and equal Scotland is to be a full independent member of the EU.”
The stupidity of the Lib-Dem attack on the Green party is also breathtakingly awesome since if the Green party simply abstained the motion would still be carried.
The Scottish Lib-Dem Party Response to the Outcome of the European Referendum
In the early hours of the morning of June 24th, everything we understood about the UK’s relationship with the rest of Europe changed. The European Union and our belief in its goals of peace and economic prosperity is an enormous part of what it is to be a Liberal Democrat. We are internationalist, co-operative, tolerant. And as that reality sank in we realised there was another consequence: What did this mean for our relationship with the rest of the UK?
And that is why Liberal Scotland in Europe has put forward a motion to this autumn’s Scottish Conference which aims to keep the party’s, and Scotland’s, options open.
Other parties may only be about unionism or nationalism, but the Liberal Democrats are about more than that. Our policies are decided by the membership, and as a membership we need to live up to our radical traditions and take on the challenge of finding a creative way forward for Scotland. We want to encourage our leadership to explore all possibilities, with all parties, to pursue the best possible outcome for Scotland.
This period of political history may prove to be the most significant for our constitution in 300 of years. It is for the Scottish Liberal Democrats membership to decide what role the party will play and what route we will choose. But if we are to secure the best future for Scotland and the strongest relationship with both the UK and EU, we will need to leave no possibility unexplored.
Scottish Lib-Dem Conference – Attended by Approximately 120 Delegates
A motion was placed before the conference by MSP for Edinburgh Western, Alex Cole-Hamilton encouraging the party to:
– seek to win support for a public vote across the whole UK on the final EU deal;
– persuade the rest of the EU to be pragmatic in response to such demands;
– work with colleagues across the UK to be the UK-wide rallying point for all those who are pro-EU;
– and campaign for re-entry in the event of EU withdrawal.
The motion was carried by conference and included in the Lib-Dem party manifesto.
Paddy’s had enough
But the inclusion of the policy was in direct contravention of party rules which require that policy is decided by all party members.
It was evident, at the meeting held not long after the EU referendum that a majority of the Lib-Dem membership favoured adoption of the SNP policy but this was deprecated by Rennie and his boss in England.
Hence the backdoor conference motion bypassing the party membership. So much for party democracy
Many years ago I used to travel by rail, on a Friday (late night train) between London and Scotland. I was allowed a first class ticket on the only such carriage on the train. One journey stands out.
Charles Kennedy and a minder shared a table with me. Initially he was very quiet taking up his time studying thick tomes of correspondence. After a hour or so he folded his paperwork and secured it in his briefcase.
I carried on reading my novel “Operation Barbarossa”. He leaned towards me and said, “Glasgow is it”? I put down my book and confirmed my nationality.
We shared a dram or two and a longish conversation covering just about all aspects of life on the planet earth, including Iraq. I was struck by his ability to explain complicated matters in very simple terms and was persuaded to give my vote to his party at the next election. Was I easily won over? Not at all. He believed in what he said and I believed in him.
Addressing the predicament the Lib-Dem party is in over the matter of another Independence referendum I would commend Charles Kennedy’s address to the party in 2013 ( view the video). I believe it was one of his best. Willie Rennie would be best guided guided by Charles Kennedy.
The Conference at which the manifesto was decided