What next for Scotland?

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Tavish Scott who resigned as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats on Saturday

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.

a black hole: who’s who in the liberal democrats…

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Just been entering my details on Who’s Who in the Liberal Democrats and come across a couple of minor problems.

Minor problem number 1

I am a member of the Northern Ireland local party – indeed I am currently chair. However, although I can put my constituency in (Belfast North), there is no region for me I have decided to put in “Devon & Cornwall” to show my Cornish heritage. This is, however, not very satisfactory. I believe that my fellow blogger, Stephen Glenn, may have put “Scotland”.

Minor problem number 2

Although this category does not apply to me, I saw that there was a subset of “MP” so clicked and found it was “Shadow Cabinet”. Surely this now needs to be changed to include “Cabinet” as well. After all the Liberal Democrats are in the Coalition Government since May 2010.

Party website problem

There is a slight problem on the main LibDem website on the in your area page too. This happens every time there is an update of the website. On this occasion it is even more annoying since the website designers are based in Belfast! There is no mention of the Northern Ireland local party. Formerly it gave details for our sister party the Alliance Party, but now it doesn’t even seem to do that. I must write and get this changed! Will let you all know what happens.

Of course our own blog Liberal Democrats in Northern Ireland seems to be assisting with the recognition of the LibDems here in the province.

Back to WWLD… perhaps there should be a category for bloggers, and another for twitter.

Update

I have just written to the Liberal Democrats website team (on the website contacts page) to seek rectification of the lack of NI local party, I’ll update you when I get their response. Also, here’s Stephen’s take on the subject.

It’s arrived, it’s official

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September is the month that my membership is renewed in the Liberal Democrats. Seeing as this blog also started with news of my impending move to the Northern Irish party I thought I’d share this image of what came in the post for me today.

Nick Clegg is speaking at 4pm at our conference in Liverpool, so if you agree with him and want to join us click on the tab above. The you too will get to be a card carrying member of a progressive party making a change at Westminster.

BLD – Pint the Second

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Pint the Second - 14 September 2010, from 7pm

Following the success of the inaugural Belfast Liberal Drinks, and with two birthdays (Stephen Glenn and Pam Tilson) falling on the same day at Federal Conference again, we thought we’d have some celebratory drinks on 14 September 2010 in The John Hewitt pub in Donegall Street, Belfast.

Anyone who wants to come, is welcome, you can sign up on flocktogether or on facebook.

Sir Cyril Smith 1928-2010

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Sir Cyril Smith former MP for Rochdale

Sir Cyril Smith 1928-2010

One of the earliest Liberal Party memories I have is not from the party leaders but from Cyril Smith. The ‘big man’ certainly had a way about him that made me even as a youngster look up and pay attention.

It wasn’t just the size of the man, although in recent years I did see him and hardly recognised the thinner version, but his independence of thought. What he said and the way he said it would often stand out, even from the Liberal party itself. He was the only Liberal to vote for the re-introduction of Capital Punishment for example.

Lib Dem Voice has a round-up of the tributes from around the Liberal Democrat Blogs including on from my good friend, and former agent, Caron about the Littleborough and Sadddleworth by-election. Northern Irish party secretary Pam Tilson has another memory of him from the same campaign.

She recalls that at a public rally he called Phil Woolas, who was the Labour candidate, ‘Woolyarse’ on a number of occasions through his speech, which had his audience in stitches. Considering some of the recent activity from Woolas who won the subsequent general election on the new boundary of Oldham East and Saddleworth, it appears to have been a keen observation of his Wooliness.

He was big man not just in size (though that was later reduced) but also in personality. He kept the light of Liberalism shining through some of the darkest hours. Many people remember him as being a character even if they never met the man in person.

Rest well Big Man.

top Scottish LibDem blogger returns to NI

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We welcome back to Northern Ireland one of the candidates that we supported financially during the 2010 General Election campaign.

Stephen Glenn, formerly LibDem candidate for Linlithgow and East Falkirk, is returning to Northern Ireland to work for at least six months. Stephen is a well-known LibDem blogger, so hopefully he will bring some life to this blog.

He also came third in the Scotblogs Awards in the Politician category and 2nd in the LibDem category.