Can’t stand the heat: “defending” unionism

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So the resignation of Martin McGuinness as Deputy First Minster this evening has sparked all sorts of accusations from the DUP.

Arlene Foster now totally unable to speak for her ministerial office has said:

“Let me make it clear the DUP will always defend unionism and stand up for what is best for Northern Ireland.

“It appears from the deputy first minister’s resignation letter that is what annoys Sinn Féin the most.”

Now let us look at just what Mr McGuinness said. Before even addressing the current Renewable Heat Initiative (RHI) crisis he says:

“The equality, mutual respect, and all-Ireland approaches enshrined in the Good Friday Agreement have never been fully embraced by the DUP. Apart from the negative attitude to nationalism and to the Irish identity and culture, there has been a shameful disrespect towards many other sections of our community. Women, the LGBT community and ethnic minorities have all felt this prejudice.”

This attack goes far beyond sectarianism, indeed it was only last week when Arlene Foster was mocking the attacks on her as being misogynistic, she also dug up the past. In his resignation letter while acknowledging the past say he has worked with those “diametrically opposed ideologically and politically” to work on a peaceful future.

The thing that has pushed him over the edge is the way the RHI has been handled by the Mrs Foster. He states that it is the public that are demanding “robust action and accountability” on this matter despite all the distracting and denial from the DUP. It is the DUP leader who has a conflict of interest as the scheme was drawn up on her watch at The Department of Enterprise Trade and Investment (DETI).

The way that Arlene and her DUP colleagues have dealt with this is in isolation, lacking humility and thinking the people who left the barn door wide open are the only people who should be allowed to sort out all the slurry that has escaped and put it back in the bottle. The are claiming they can keep the scheme at zero cost to the tax payer, something that the Finance Minster’s former economics professor has called  ridiculous.

The heat is on in Stormont. The public are tightening the noose. RHI could bring the DUPers down the public outrage on this and the other issues that Mr McGuinness has mentioned means that defending unionism as the DUP may not be as important as defending the public coffers.

RHI is certainly not doing the latter and that means that as Sinn Féin will not nominate a replacement within 7 days that we live in interesting times.

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.

Gracious, principled, and preparing to fight again – one candidate is missed

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Alex Cole-Hamilton's gracious tweet on election night 2011.

Alex Cole-Hamilton

Caron Lindsay has well and truly summed up the results for our friends in the Scottish Liberal Democrats. One of our contributors who has been somewhat busy with the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign here stood for the Party‘s nomination for Edinburgh Central last year. Stephen Glenn didn’t get the nomination, Alex Cole-Hamiltondid. Even though Alex didn’t get in, I completely agree with what Caron said about him on her blog.

Alex Cole-Hamilton didn’t win Edinburgh Central, despite running the most inspirational and energetic Liberal Democrat campaign in Scotland. He’s unlikely to get in on the list either because Margaret Smith will likely be the only Lib Dem elected, if there is one at all in Lothians. I will admit to a bit of a cry when I read this gracious  tweet from him.

If my defeat tonight is part payment so that no child will spend another night in a detention centre then I accept it, with all my heart.

Principles run deep with him, and his dedication to children shows. I’m gutted he won’t be there, this Parliament at least.

Party President: The Members Decide

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Following the decision of Ros Scott not to seek a second term the nominations to be the next Party President of the Liberal Democrats closed yesterday. It emerged that only two candidates have the required nominations to go before the all member ballot.

The two candidates and their respective websites are:

Tim Farron

Tim Farron

Susan Kramer

Susan Kramer

Susan Kramer and Tim Farron

Both candidates will in due course be mailing their manifestos to all party members, however both have intimated that they will be willing to answer specific questions from members. For those members who do not know both candidates that may be the way to help decide how to cast your vote.

This blog will remain impartial during the Presidential election, not endorsing either candidate. But will represent a balance reporting of both as and when it is available. I’m looking to compile a list of five questions to pose to both so any suggestions of what should be asked please add in the comments or email us directly.

Ros Scott Not Seeking Re-election as President

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Cross-posted at Stephen’s Liberal Journal

The last campaign to elect the Lib Dem President sticks with me for a number of things, firstly there was the number of ‘I’m for Ros’ badges that made their way to Scottish autumn conference and adorned the labels of many of the platform speakers. I didn’t manage to make it down to Federal conference where they had first appeared.

The other thing was on the supporters site there was a region for Northern Ireland, which can’t have pleased her opponent Bangor born Lembit Öpik, especially as most of them at the start were the office bearers. It was what got my attention as a Northern Irishman. Seeing as I’d spent most of my adult live involved in the party in England or Scotland, even I at the time wasn’t aware that the party had a presence back home. Thankfully my knowing from that time means I’ve made new friends within the party that has made my settling back in Northern Ireland an easy transition.

But Baroness Ros Scott knew and had their backing. She served the party well as President often making it to the regional conference and other events across the country, sometime accompanied by her husband, who many of us in Lib Dem circles know affectionately as the Hon. Lady Mark (since there are no honorific titles bestowed on the husbands of working peers).

It was her boundless enthusiasm, her dedication to the grass-roots in our party nationwide and her being a bridge between the Westminster party and the grass-roots that made us support her. But it is also these attributes that we will miss dearly following her decision not to stand for a second term.

However, I’m sure I speak on behalf of all who supported her two years ago in saying a big thank you. Ros is certainly leaving behind a big pair of shoes to be filled.