2016 election is not about independence

I have always taken the view that party members who support independence are perfectly entitled to campaign for it if they wish. This is not a new position and is one that I have taken ever since becoming Leader. I think it speaks volumes that so few, and no parliamentarians, take the option to do so. Yet, I will always defend the right of those who support independence to campaign for it.

I also want to attract liberals back to the party even if they support independence. Many feel compelled to back the SNP even if they are unhappy abut the performance of the SNP in government. I want them to know they have other options.

The 2016 election is an opportunity to fix the problems facing our public services.

The question in this election is not whether we should be independent or not. The question is how do we want to run our public services.

The problems are mounting for people in Scotland who rely on anything the Scottish Government is supposed to be doing.

Children entering primary schools in Scotland today will most likely be in a bigger class size than those who have just left. Hundreds of children are facing waits of over six months for mental health treatment. The single police force is on its knees because of the mess created by centralisation. The Royal College of GPs says Scotland will be 700 short in just four years’ time.

My commitment to the United Kingdom remains as strong as ever. No-one should ever doubt that. But the next election should not be about independence. We have spent so much time debating our constitution over the last few years. Surely our schools, NHS, police and other public services deserve our time and attention now.

I want to make a direct plea to supporters of independence: If you want to fix the problems facing your local GP surgery, if you want to end industrial stop and search on our streets, if you want to put the treatment of mental ill health on an equal footing with physical health, there is a home for you in the Liberal Democrats.

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