The leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie MSP has today spoken of his vision for Scotland over the next five years, contrasting the SNP’s poor performance in government with the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ ambition for a bright, liberal and green Scotland.
Speaking during a Scottish Parliament debate, Mr Rennie highlighted a selection of the achievements of the Scottish Liberal Democrats including championing mental health services, leading campaigns against unjustified stop and search, standing up for college places and providing the most effective challenge to the Scottish Government on Police Scotland.
He also called out the SNP on repeated broken promises, highlighting new figures from the annual school census in September showing only 7% of two-year-olds are receiving nursery education despite a promise from the First Minister this would rise to 27%.
During his speech Mr Rennie said: “My remarks today will focus on my vision for our country and my party’s plan for Scotland for the next five years. I will set out why four key liberal values should be at the heart of the next parliament.
“Every individual should be free to achieve their potential. We should stand with the weak against the strong. Power is safer when it is shared. And we are trustees of the world and must pass on a sustainable legacy.
“My challenge today is that the best way to deliver on those liberal values is to get behind Scotland’s liberal force.
“With just five MSPs in this parliament we have achieved much. Stood up for college places. Made and won the case for extending nursery education for two year olds. Led successful campaigns against unjustified stop and search and armed police. We have also championed mental health services – often the poor relation in the NHS. And provided the most effective challenge to this government on Police Scotland. We have provided strong liberal voices – with more MSPs that voice will be so much louder.
“I admire Nicola Sturgeon for what she has achieved - becoming First Minister and winning emphatically in May. She should be pleased. And from today’s contribution there is no doubt she is pleased with herself. I would suggest she is a little too pleased.
“The last five years in the Scottish Parliament have been dominated by independence. Fair enough. That was their explicitly stated manifesto commitment. But whilst independence was in the front seat there is little doubt the police, schools, the NHS and our environment were stuck in the boot. And even though some found the experience uplifting there is little doubt too that the referendum divided many communities, families and friendships.
“I have some advice for the SNP – for the sake of our public services and the unity of the country please move on from the constitutional debate. But that advice equally applies to the Conservatives who seem as eager to continue the damaging debate as the SNP. I remain a strong supporter of the United Kingdom but we all need to move on from the constitutional debate.
“Instead, the next five years should be dominated by a bright, liberal and green programme for Scotland. People deserve the best health care available so we need to reverse the decline in the NHS. That’s why we support a step change in mental health services, the recruitment of more GPs and deliver the social care that meets the needs of our growing elderly population.
“The planet must be protected so we need to end the habit of missing Scotland’s climate change targets. That’s why we support action on climate change including warmer homes, better public transport and an end to opencast coal.
“Our traditional Scottish freedoms must be protected whether it be on excessive use of stop and search, armed police or a super ID database. And we must bring an end to stripping power from local communities and hoarding it in Edinburgh. That’s why we support a reform programme that includes power transferred to local communities, protecting our civil liberties and empowering police, nurses, doctors and teachers to do their job.
“Our children and young people deserve the best education so we need to reverse the decline in our once world leading education system. That’s why we support proper investment, ambitious nursery education expansion and a pupil premium to give every child a chance of a good job and to realise their potential.
“The Annual Schools Census in September found that only 7.3% of 2 year olds were registered for early learning and childcare. It was supposed to be 27%. The government is failing on nursery education. How can the First Minister talk about a childcare revolution when she can’t even deliver on her timid and pathetic plans?
“Contrast that with the Liberal Democrat plan, the four key liberal values. Every individual should be free to achieve their potential. We should stand with the weak against the strong. Power is safer when it is shared. And we are trustees of the world and must pass on a sustainable legacy.
“With just five MSPs Liberal Democrats have punched above our weight. Just imagine what we can do with more. We need more strong liberal voices in parliament to advance that bright, liberal and green Scotland."