It has not been an easy week being a Liberal Democrat.
For someone like myself who has spent the majority of the last decade working on getting our message across the voters and our record in Government in Scotland, for part of that time, there will always be a special pull.
Thus it was that last Thursday night I kept saying I’ll wait just to see ‘x’ result or ‘y’ candidates result, many of the Scottish candidates being personal friends. Even though I knew I had to be up early to get to the start of verification for the referendum votes, it was gribbing if very upsetting viewing.
I just couldn’t believe as seat after seat was lost, not just by a bit but to the extent that we were losing deposits, twenty five in total. We took great pride only last May in the fact that the Liberal Democrats were the only party standing UK-wide that didn’t lose a single deposit. Not one constituency on the mainland was won, only Orkney and Shetland and three regional lists returned Liberal Democrats.
Tavish Scott the leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats fell on his sword on Saturday. In his resignation statement he said:
“Thursday’s Scottish general election result was disastrous and I must and do take responsibility for the verdict of the electorate.
“The party needs a new direction, new thinking and new leadership to win back the trust of the Scottish people.”
From what I’ve been reading from Scottish colleagues blogs and what they have told me in messages or phone calls, they were getting punished not for their record in Holyrood or Scottish party policies but because of what was happening in Westminster. Some of them were things that we had delivered in Scotland and were promised in Westminster but haven’t been delivered.
Tavish the only former Scottish minister to still be in the Lib Dem team at Holyrood has however taken an honourable course. The party will have to pick itself off, dust itself off and re-establish a distinctive narrative in the Scottish realm. The fact that the electoral map hasn’t looked this bleak for Liberals in Scotland since the 1950s may be discouraging. But maybe a fresh voice, prepared to mark out the distinctions with Alex Salmond’s SNP and prepared to go toe to toe with the man who has secured a first outright majority at Holyrood is just the fillip the party needs.
It is sad that a great number of really good MSPs who had been working hard for a more Liberal Scotland since 1999 have now be thrown out of Holyrood by this tidal wave. Of course Tavish is not the only Scottish leader who has resigned, both Labour’s Iain Gray and Conservatives Annabel Goldie have said they will step down in the Autumn. He is however, the only one to have stepped down with immediate effect.
The constitution of the Scottish Party says that the leader must come from the rank of the MSPs, which means that there are only four possible replacements. Liam MacArthur the only other constituency MSP for Orkney, the re-election of Alison McInness in the North East and Jim Hume in South of Scotland, plus the election of former MP Willie Rennie in Mid-Scotland and Fife.
We wait top see which of these will take up the torch of Liberalism in Scotland and given the task of inspiring first the party to get back to it and then the people to vote for us once more.
In the meantime I’m sure that Kirsten and little Archie will be delighted to see more of the man of the house, as will the three children of his first marriage, now that he does not have the added responsibilty of being the focal point of the Lib Dems in Scotland.