Willie Rennie

After a mere two and a half years, despite promises of the Referendum being a ‘once-in-generation’ event, the SNP and Greens are backing another divisive Independence Referendum. Willie Rennie and the Scottish Liberal Democrats are opposing this and instead is arguing in favour of a Federal solution.

During the debate in the Scottish Parliament today, Willie Rennie had argued the following:

I want to address the issue of this cast iron mandate. For the SNP their mandate for another referendum is based on the European Union. But now the SNP tell us they will not seek or guarantee membership of the European Union with their referendum.

They will use the EU to get a referendum even though their referendum won’t get the EU. And we know the reason why. They are cynically courting the one in three independence supporters who backed Brexit. So they will use pro Europeans to get a referendum but sell them out to win independence. It is low politics for narrow gain.

And then we have the Greens. It seems like from a different time but we recall their budget triumph where they secured funds that were going to be spent anyway and not a penny for the environment. Far from being a bold green budget it was a bland shade of beige. That was the first broken promise this year.

Now we have the verbal gymnastics of Patrick Harvie arguing that manifesto commitments don’t count anymore. What happened to this participative democracy? What happened to the million names of a petition? Where is the role of the people in deciding whether to have another referendum? Patrick Harvie’s idea of participative democracy is a few green members gathering on a wet Saturday afternoon in Perth to airbrush a manifesto commitment.

In just three months two manifesto commitments blown out of the water. The Scottish people will remember Patrick Harvie and his excuses.

Alex Salmond said the referendum in 2014 was a once in a lifetime opportunity. At the weekend he denied he ever said it. Despite it being on the record. We have it on YouTube. Then he denied he denied it despite that being on YouTube too. Then he dismissed the whole this as nonsense anyway. It was the fastest denial about a denial about a broken promise ever known.

‘How long is forever?’ said Alice. ‘Sometimes, just one second,’ said the White Rabbit. ‘Time is a relative concept, especially in Wonderland.’ Or, indeed, in Scotland.

The Liberal Democrats stated clearly in our manifesto that we would oppose another divisive independence referendum and that is exactly what we will do.

We have made great progress on reforming our United Kingdom. In just 20 years, we have created this Parliament, which is based on proportional representation and has been built on the foundations of human rights. It has gained more powers, including—most recently—powers over tax. We should be proud of what we have achieved together, through everybody in the Parliament working together.

I want to create a federal United Kingdom with power that is shared across the country, a written constitution, fair votes and an elected second chamber. Such reforms are on the way to making our United Kingdom even stronger. The campaign for independence undermines that chance and that momentum.

There is a positive case for the United Kingdom. The economic case for the UK is even stronger than it was in 2014, but it is not just about numbers on a spreadsheet; it is about the values that we share. It is about the compassion that has built some of the best charities in the world, such as Oxfam and Save the Children—British charities that are spreading compassion around the world. It is about the compassion that has built the second-biggest aid budget in the world—SNP members do not like that. It is about the compassion that has built one of the best health services in the world.

James wants to see more public bins

James Calder has spoken to concerned residents in Dunfermline South about littering in the area. Despite some community initiatives to help clean up the area, too many people are making a mess and James is determined to do something about it.

James has said, “Just earlier today a resident showed me a nice natural area just south of Pitcorthie near the Golf Course that has had litter left all over it. While I call on the Council to clear it up, we shouldn’t have to solve it that way.”

“Instead I want to see a carrot and stick approach to deal with this. More public bins will encourage people to deal with litter themselves, and better policing including through litter wardens will discourage people by using the threat of fines.”

James Calder and Willie Rennie want public services, not independence, put first

This morning Nicola Sturgeon announced she will seek a Section 30 order to grant her yet another independence referendum after the Scottish public decisively rejected this less than 3 years ago. The Scottish Liberal Democrats are opposed to this and want to see the SNP get on with the day job of governing.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie has said,

No independence referendum, either at Westminster or in the Scottish Parliament – that’s the view of the Liberal Democrats. You’re asking me to go against what I believe. I believe that we shouldn’t have another one because it’s divisive. I would vote against the Conservatives at every possible opportunity just like I’d vote against another independence referendum.

Local Liberal Democrat prospective Council Candidate for Dunfermline South James Calder has added,

Nicola Sturgeon continues to ignore the wishes of the Scottish people here. Not only this, but the SNP have spent their time fixated on the damaging spectre of independence just like the Tories obsess about a damaging hard Brexit. The Scottish Liberal Democrats not only will fight this but put our public services first. I can categorically say now that a vote for myself and my Liberal Democrat colleagues locally first will be a vote for a Councillor who will make local communities the priority, rather than being another SNP cheerleader for independence.

By James Calder

Day 1

Nick Clegg addressing the Conference

The Scottish Liberal Democrat Spring Conference took place on the 10th and 11th of March this year over an action packed two days at the Dewar’s Centre in Perth. A number of motions and debates took place with a good number of the Dunfermline Liberal Democrats participating throughout. For the first time in as long as I remember one of our number also won one of the Party awards!

The Conference was opened on Friday by Perth and Kinross Councillor and good friend to Dunfermline Liberal Democrats Peter Barrett. Quickly afterwards we went into full flow in the morning session, with a motion on Protecting independent consumer advocacy and also one to Keep Highlands and Islands Enterprise Local.  These motions were followed soon by an impassioned speech by Alistair Carmichael, setting out the importance of us working to keep Scotland in the UK and the EU but also placing special importance in guaranteeing the rights of EU expatriates living in Britain. His speech was warmly greeted by the Conference.

We then came to lunch and the fringe meetings. My own choice was an (unsurprisingly) very well attended fringe meeting led by former Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg on The global threat to liberalism from populism and nationalism. Nick provided a thoughtful analysis on the worrying upsurge in populist movements not only in the UK but also with Trump, Putin, Le Pen in France and Wilders in the Netherlands. His view were there are both long terms trends such as the end of the traditional right versus left dichotomy  as well as the significant impact of the global financial crisis of the last decade.

The afternoon began with a debate on Preventing drug-related deaths, which included moving away from criminalising possession for personal use to more attempts to help drug users. Interestingly two of our members, myself and Tom Leatherland, participated in this debate, both on opposing viewpoints, but of course in the normal good-natured Lib Dem spirit. Tom even made a television appearance for his speech on BBC. Afterwards the debates moved to updating the speed limits for HGVs over 7.5 tonnes.  After this one of the Conference highlights took place, with a speech from Nick Clegg following on from his very interesting fringe meeting earlier. Nick carried on with his theme calling on Liberals to fight right-wing populism at home and provide the opposition to the Tories over their hard-Brexit plans which Labour is failing to provide.

The final two motions of the afternoon included a motion on Frank’s Law and dementia in football, aimed and giving support for footballers suffering dementia as well as the wider and significant group in society suffering from this. The final motion, Education, had Conference agreeing that the SNP had failed in Scotish education and called for the Government to invest in education, stop school league tables and reduce teachers’ workloads.

Bryn Jones, Alistair Carmichael and Myself enjoying a dram

In the evening some of the Dunfermline Liberal Democrats attended a fringe meeting on Enterprise and Skills led by Universities Scotland. However I, alongside Dunfermline North candidate Bryn Jones decided to attend a very entertaining whisky tasting led by Alistair Carmichael and the Lib Dem Friends of Whisky. Afterwards we went to the Liberal Youth Scotland quiz where a team including myself, Aude Boubaker-Calder, Bryn Jones and Lauren Jones unfortunately failed to excel (or even register a score in double figures!)

Day 2

Saturday began with the Party AGM, with the most significant development being the agreement on where the all-female shortlists will be for the next Scottish Election. Afterwards we were treated to a speech from Baroness Sal Brinton, the President of the Liberal Democrats. This acted as a call to arms for us to go out and win our local elections this May.

We then went onto the first motion of the day, Fighting for our place in the UK and Europe. The mover was one of the Party’s rising stars, Alex Cole-Hamilton, MSP for Edinburgh West. However the undoubted high point of the debate was a speech by our own Aude Boubaker-Calder putting the case for her amendment to the motion calling for the UK to guarantee the rights of EU expats like herself. I also spoke in support of the amendment and the motion, and there was huge support for both across the Conference. Aude was delighted at her amendment passing!

We then moved onto a motion condemning the recent Tory UK budget as unfair, before settling down the fringe meetings at lunchtime. I went to a very interesting fringe led by the EIS for Standing up for Scottish Education. This led to much interesting discussion, and I also put forward a question on how we can better help teacher’s deal with ever-increasing workloads.

Aude Boubaker-Calder receiving her award

During the afternoon another Dunfermline Lib Dem, Lauren Jones, candidate for Dunfermline Central, spoke from her experience as a new mother in the debate on Maternal Mental Health. Willie Rennie then made his speech where he promised to speak for the majority in Scotland who want to stay in both the UK and the EU. After a Consultation session on Housing, the Party awards took place. I was incredibly proud to see my wife and our member Aude Boubaker-Calder win the prestigious best speech award, and in my opinion (not biased of course!) her speech was the highlight of the Conference it was well-deserved!

At that the Conference ended. A great couple of days, but both myself and Bryn Jones had to wait a little bit longer as we looked after his baby while Aude and Lauren attended a Scottish Lib Dem women’s event! I think I can speak for the entire local Party that it was a thoroughly enjoyable Conference and I think we have got a lot to look forward to over the coming months.

 

Aude with her trophy and Willie Rennie

Dunfermline Liberal Democrats are delighted to say that our membership secretary and prospective candidate for West Fife and Coastal Villages, Aude Boubaker-Calder, has won the Scottish Liberal Democrat award for the best speech at Conference yesterday, the Russell Johnston Trophy.

Aude’s speech was presenting her amendment to the motion Fighting for our place in the UK and Europe. Aude’s amendment called for the UK Government to give an unconditional guarantee to EU citizens living in Britain the right to remain, and her amendment was passed with almost unanimous approval.

Aude has said,

I was suprised and honoured to have not only win this award but also proud that my fellow Party members joined me in my battle to a provide a voice to the voiceless EU expatriates in the Brexit debate. It feels wonderful and inspiring to have my name amongst presitigious figures such as former Deputy First Minister Jim Wallace and Alistair Carmichael MP. I now call upon the British Government to take heed of the recent House of Lords amendment backing the right to stay for EU expatriates like myself.

You can read Aude’s speech below:

For the ones who weren’t there at the Autumn Conference I will present myself briefly: My name is Aude, I am from Belgium. I have been in Scotland for 4 years and a member of the Lib Dems for around 2 years. Since the 23rd June, I am like most of you. I an concerned about the unity of our country, our economy, our position in the EU and in the world but not only. In addition, I am worried about my place amongst you like the other 3 million EU expatriates.

Brexit causes distress for everyone in the UK. British families are unable to predict what their future will look like: professional and economical.

Myself, I am unable to plan my future and the one of my husband with this Damoclean sword hanging above me.

Not only did I not get a voice during the Referendum, but now the Tory Government has the audacity to use me and my fellow EU Expats a bargain ship in their hard Brexit negotiations.

EU Expats are threatened to lose the jobs, the houses and the lives they have built up here Some of them have applied in a hurry for a highly complex 85 page form to get permanent residency.

Lib Dem research has shown 28%, including those with British spouses and children, have been rejected, sometimes for an unticked box, and were told to prepare to leave the country.

Some of us have to face blatant racism. Someone told me when campaigning this week in Dunfermline to go back to my country. What I answered with a big smile is that my country is the UK and I will fight for it!

We all know uncertainty is bad for any economy. See the chaos that Brexit has already caused and what the future ahead is for the UK and Scotland. Some businesses are run by EU citizens as well as doctors, nurses, teachers and academics. We are already facing a shortage in our public services such Education and the NHS, who is going to replace them?

Some claim that EU Expats are scroungers or even beggars. Well, let set things straight: I have never received a penny in benefits in the UK. In fact, Government research showed in 2013-2014 that recent EU expats paid £2.54 billion more in tax than they received in benefits and as a whole they paid £20 billion more in tax than they received in public services. British citizens, on the other hand, received more in public services than paid in taxes.So the question is: can you afford to lose us? I don’t think so.

Britain was one of the first countries to introduce a parliamentary democracy giving a voice to the people. I have the feeling that the pride of this advanced nation has been tarnished by the Tories definition of democracy: the tyranny of the majority over the minority. David Cameron shut the fundamental right to be represented for the those of us who were the most affected by the Referendum. Theresa May followed his steps. A few weeks ago, we saw Mrs May and President Trumps walking hand in hand in The White House just like their policies. He attacks the Mexicans and the Muslims, she attacks the most vulnerable and the EU expats. What a brilliant couple who want to build walls against diversity!

However, in all darkness there is a sparkle of light. Last week, the Lib Dems accomplished a major achievement in the House of Lords. We ensured that the amendment guaranteeing the rights of EU citizens to remain in the UK passed. It made me proud to be a Lib Dem!

Today, I would like this Conference to send a powerful message to Teresa May: not in our name! I ask Conference to give a voice to the voiceless and to pass this motion as well as this amendment and let EU expats and their families know they have a friend in the Liberal Democrats and especially the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

You can watch part of her speech this week on BBC iPlayer.

Willie Rennie and Bryn Jones are campaigning for better education

The SNP have come under fire as Scotland’s schools have recorded their worst ever performance in an international survey of pupils.

Scotland’s scores for maths, reading and science have all declined in the latest PISA figures. Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said, “After 10 years of SNP rule, we are not even as good as England anymore.”

The Liberal Democrats propose a ‘Penny for Education’ to support a Pupil Premium, an expansion in nursery education, reversal of college cuts and stopping school cuts.

Mr Rennie said: “Liberal Democrats have an ambitious plan to get Scotland back on track by making the biggest investment in education since devolution.”

Prospective Council Candidate Bryn Jones brings the campaign to Dunfermline North. Bryn says, “Scottish parents expect world leading schools. As a father and a council candidate, it is my ambition to see Scotland rise up the rankings and be the best in the world.”

Dunfermline South bad state streets

James Calder observing the bad state of the streets of the Dunfermline South ward

Dunfermline South’s prospective candidate, James Calder has hit out at the lack of action by Fife Council in dealing with uneven pavement and road surfaces. Much of Dunfermline, including in the Dunfermline South ward, has significant problems in this regard.

Mr Calder stated, “I have lost count of the number of times that I have tripped up over damaged pavements in Dunfermline, and there are areas where this presents a serious risk. However this presents an even greater danger to the elderly and disabled. Recently I have had close family in a wheelchair, and this opened my eyes into how bad the situation is in some areas.

Councillor Tony Martin has made great progress in pushing Fife Council towards improving road surfaces, included in some parts of Pitcorthie. However Fife Council need to do more to ensure these are safe for the public, and I will continue to push for this to be resolved.

Bryn will champion Mental Health

One in four Scots will suffer from a mental health issue in their lifetime.

Bryn Jones writes: “Key targets in Fife are being missed: at least 90% of Psychological Therapy patients are meant to start treatment within 18 weeks of referral, but in Fife only 71% get seen that quickly, compared with 97% in the Highlands. It’s just not acceptable that those with mental health problems in Fife are having to wait longer than elsewhere.”

“My priority as a council candidate is to fight for better services.”

The time for action is now.

Scottish Liberal Democrats are committed to improving mental health. We want to double the funding for Child and Adolescent Mental Health services. And we want an expansion in mental health provision within primary care.

Mental health services have been neglected for too long. The time for action is now.

The Reporters from the Scottish Government’s Planning and Environment Appeals Division (DPEA) agreed with local residents that Middlebank should not be included in housing allocation land.

James Calder and Cllr. Tony Martin

Dunfermline South’s prospective candidate James Calder and current Cllr. Tony Martin

Liberal Democrat’s Councillor Tony Martin had supported the campaign and was naturally delighted at the decision of the DPEA’s Reporters.

Mr Martin said, “This is an excellent result for residents not only living in Middlebank Holdings whose lives would have been enormously affected by this but also for the wider community in Dunfermline South.

I always felt that local residents in Middlebank Holdings deserved to keep their community in a rural setting. Moreover, local schools such as Pitreavie Primary School would have faced severe capacity issues and we would have seen it have effects on roads locally.

James Calder, prospective candidate for the Dunfermline South ward,  added, “This is a great result for ensuring that the views of people locally are taken seriously. It was clear that this development was completely inappropriate, would have led to dreadful changes to people’s lives and would have further overstretched our local public services.

Woodmill High School

James Calder will make sure that schools such as Woodmill High School are not overcrowded for a better education.

Over the next few years projected figures have shown that Woodmill High School will be operating considerably over-capacity, as Dunfermline faces a schools crisis. Over the next decade it will find itself under current trends with 500 more pupils than it is currently designed for.

James Calder has commented, “The Fife Council administration has been sitting on their hands too long when it comes to schools in Dunfermline. We are facing the prospect of severe overcrowding in our schools and this will badly affect our children’s education.

We need to see action now from Fife Council to make sure Woodmill High School is not overcrowded. This would be helped if the SNP Government matched the Scottish Liberal Democrat commitment to increase our funding of education to the tune of £500 million a year which they have so far refused to do.