This morning the Scottish Liberal Democrat leadership candidates were addressing the members in the central belt, Edinburgh in the morning and Glasgow this afternoon. I attended the Edinburgh event armed with pen and not book to take copious notes in order to blog how the three fared in what I hope is a balanced way. The order in which they spoke was drawn by lot and after their 15 minute presentations (which the other two were not present for) all three returned to face questions from the floor. The order of today's blog entries will follow that order with Tavish Scott, Mike Rumbles, then Ross Finnie followed by a summary of the questions and answers given.
Ross started by apologising by turning up at the last minute, causing a little concern. But used the pad in the room he was waiting with for his opening anecdote. "The Grosvenor Hilton accommodates witty observations, lively debate and the odd doddle." He noted it looked like the hotel had used his speech already. This drew the biggest belly laugh of the opening comments from all three.
He started with his early days as a Liberal, how he'd joined out out of activism. Then went on to become a career in accountancy before being a councillor, leading to an MSP meant that politics took over for any other career. He stated the fact that he was the only Liberal Democrat cabinet minister for the whole of the first 8 years of the reborn Scottish Parliament. Saying that he time in cabinet showed he had the skills to become leader; good judgement to handle crisises, make huge decision while keeping his sense of humour.
He admitted we had a 'disappointing' General Election last year, and held his hand up as part of the problem. He said our message fails to explain why voter should turn to the Lib Dems. We're lacking a political narrative, our vision has become blurred. Since the election we've been constantly responding to other rather than setting our agenda. An agenda of personal freedoms safeguarded, economic prosperity without effecting our environment.
He went on to say what he thought our narrative should be to revive the role of Liberal Democrats in Scotland.
- The party of individual freedoms: Not detention without trial, id cards or banning off sales to under 21s. But the party of enabling people by given them choice.
- The leaders in promoting sustainable communities: Empowering economic growth within our means by also encouraging greater responsibility.
- The champions of a fairer society: Making the tax burden etc. fairer to all.
He concluded by saying that he would also change the way we utilise the talents of our members in Westminster. If elected leader he would echo what was said at Westminster and make it relevant to the people of Scotland. He also promised that he would never take us into a campaign in the country without a distinctive, clear Lib Dem message about our policies.