Rennie: Our task is now to build a better Scotland

Opening speech from leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, Willie Rennie MSP during the Scottish Government Debate on the First Minister’s Statement

"This has been the democratic experience of my lifetime.  Never in my thirty years in politics have I ever seen anything quite like this.

"When was the last time voters marched up to demand copies of a twenty page policy booklet?  

"And the most inspiring – the 16 year old voting for the first time with confidence, pride and knowledge. 

"The people of Scotland deserve the highest praise for rising to the occasion.  They made Scotland shine.

 "So we must treat that pride with care.  

"We have a responsibility to respect the decision backed up by over 2 million votes.  The highest ever endorsement for a political decision in Scotland. 

"The First Minister is fond of expressing great confidence in the ability of the Scottish people. But to my great disappointment that confidence evaporated over the weekend.

"The First Minister should not question the judgement of the people just because they didn’t agree with him.

"Within hours of the result and agreeing to participate in the more powers process on Friday the First Minister was actively seeking to undermine it with a range of bogus distractions, claims and allegations.  It was one of the most destructive resignation statements I’ve seen.

"But with new leadership the SNP have a chance to change.


"This morning I was pleased to meet Robert Smith to take him through my party’s proposals for a more powerful Scottish Parliament inside the United Kingdom.  Members will know he has been tasked to lead the effort to reach an agreement in short order.

"It’s a tight timetable but I am confident that agreement can be reached.

"Liberal Democrats published our proposals two years ago.  We propose this Scottish Parliament raises the majority of the money it spends.

"It would give us control of the purse strings and therefore control of our destiny on the domestic agenda.

"If we wanted to do something different from Westminster, we could.

"If we want tax cuts for those on low and middle incomes we could choose to do that.

"If we want to invest in more childcare we could raise the extra funds to pay for it.

"And that can be done within a federal structure where the big risks and rewards in an uncertain world can be shared across the whole United Kingdom.

"We say that the whole of Income Tax – including the rates and bands – should be decided here. Add in inheritance tax and capital gains tax and we give the powers to tackle inequality and address wealth to this Parliament.

"And we propose to assign the revenues from Corporation Tax so that we can accrue the benefits of decisions to grow the economy here. 

"We argue for prudential borrowing powers so we can invest to save for the long term future of the country.

"And we think more can be done to integrate services for people looking for work if the power over the Work Programme resided here.

"And a federal settlement will make this institution permanent.

 "What Liberal Democrat plans will do is to equip every party of the United Kingdom, first - and certainly not least - Scotland, with a nimble government able to respond effectively to issues in Scotland, with the financial resources and clout to make that happen.

"It is a positive agenda.

"And I hope the SNP engage constructively and positively too.  Not with back door attempts to re-run the referendum but proposals for change that reflect biggest ever democratic endorsement this country has ever seen.

"In conclusion, the result on Friday was clear, legal and decisive.  I am sure no-one in the chamber will dispute that.

"Two million people decided we were better together.

"As the First Minister the question of independence has been concluded for at least a generation and possibly a lifetime.  It has been laid to rest.

"Our task is now to build a better Scotland that meets the hopes and ambitions of people in Scotland.  They have high hopes and we have got our work cut out to meet them."

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