Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Is this the stupidest cartoon in Scottish political history?

It’s certainly one of the most ill-considered, misguided, offensive, juvenile and plainly idiotic political stunts ever attempted by a mainstream political party.

As a Scottish Liberal Democrat member and activist I am frankly appalled that we have resorted to such shameful gutter politics that reflect badly on our leader, Willie Rennie, and the party as a whole – as well as Scottish politics more generally. This attempt at satirical humour at the expense of First Minister Alex Salmond is misjudged to say the very least. But it is also deeply offensive, irresponsibly indulging in scaremongering of the worst type and in shockingly poor taste.

The “cartoon” suggests that Alex Salmond, for whom I have enormous respect, has sinister designs for an independent Scotland which include virtual dictatorship, the death penalty and the suppression of LGBT rights. This is not funny – not even remotely. Neither does it say much for our supposed pluralism. It’s also seriously flawed – not only has Salmond been supportive of LGBT rights and is opposed to the death penalty, an independent Scotland (which I am currently minded to vote for in a referendum on the basis of increased freedoms for Scots) would not belong to the First Minister at all but the people of Scotland.

It’s useful to put this excuse for a political message into some kind of context. Alex Salmond is currently touring the Middle East, promoting business links and exploring possibilities for the future of low-carbon energy. Following a meeting with Qatari business leaders, he is reported as stating that there are “remarkable similarities” between Qatar and Scotland, which is what the cartoon seized on. However, what he actually said is far more interesting:

"As nations, we both have considerable expertise in oil and gas production, but as we look to the future and a low-carbon economy, we must increasingly develop new technologies. We discussed the remarkable similarities between our respective nations. Although both Scotland and Qatar have common strengths in the oil and gas sector, we are both seeking to develop our low carbon energy industries. This is where Qatar's focus on becoming a global knowledge hub links well with Scotland's considerable reputation as a world-leading education nation."

I see nothing in that worthy of ridicule. In fact, it is a positive vision for Scotland as a centre of a global move towards low-carbon economics and sounds more than a little similar to a statement issued by the Cabinet Office following a visit Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg made recently to Qatar:

“The Deputy Prime Minister and his counterpart discussed the deep cultural and economic partnership between the UK and Qatar, including our strategic relationship in the energy sector. This meeting signifies the importance the Government places on building close ties with Gulf partners."
And so what Salmond has been doing is playing up Scotland’s role in forging a global green energy economy. That sounds to be like something he should be praised, rather than derided, for. It certainly should not be an opportunity for any party to disingenuously misrepresent what he said in pursuit of political advantage.

I spoke about this with both SNP and Liberal Democrat friends on twitter last night. Most agreed that while it was Halloween this release was uncharacteristically horrific. However, I was surprised to find that one or two defended the cartoon, arguing that is was simply “humourous” and that “we might laugh at it if it was on the cover of Private Eye”. Well, I for one wouldn’t, because it isn’t funny. And I’m not going to defend something which is stupid and petty, not to mention embarrassing.

It’s concerning on other levels too. I’ve always been critical of Willie Rennie’s apparent obsession with the SNP and Alex Salmond in particular. That’s not to say that attacks can’t work, and good political satire (you know, the kind that actually makes you laugh) can be devastatingly effective. If you’re going to throw a few punches you really have to make sure they hit the target. To date, Rennie’s attacks on the SNP leadership have been weak and play directly into Salmond’s hands while making our party appear small-minded, tribal and idiotic. It’s not just this one misguided poster, it’s the whole tone of what the party leadership is saying: we’re so anti-SNP, so cynically negative and so focussed on targeting the First Minister personally that it’s no surprise the public aren’t attracted to our broader message. Where is the pluralism we supposedly embrace? The rational discussion? The positive vision? All this is lost in Rennie’s view that opposition leadership requires adopting an aggressive negativity towards the SNP government.

I refuse to defend the indefensible, especially when it demeans Scotland, her people and her politics. Liberal Democrats should be better than that. And the public need to see us being better than that.

What is also worrying is that the party thought it would be acceptable to release the cartoon. Willie Rennie, speaking today on Good Morning Scotland, explained that it had been published on one of his days off; however, he admitted that “"Although I did not approve its publication I accept responsibility for it. It has been interpreted in ways that were not intended. It has now been withdrawn. I apologise."

Which begs the question: how was it intended to be interpreted? The implications were more than obvious, as should have been the ramifications to any PR or advertising executive worth their salt. It should have been plain to see that this would lead to exactly the kind of reaction we have seen, with further self-inflicted damage caused to the party’s image in Scotland. I am genuinely concerned that what passes for a PR/Communications department at Clifton Terrace seems to find this insulting propaganda both funny and acceptable, while not foreseeing the potential damage it would cause.

I hope some serious questions will now be asked. Who thought this was a good idea? Why can’t the party consider the ramifications of an action before embarking on it? And why is it so determined to indulge in a campaign of negativity towards the SNP?

Mr Rennie admitted to being rightly “embarrassed” by the cartoon which had not been approved by him. “It wasn't right and it shouldn't have gone out", he explained. "It is actually not right to compare countries like that in the way that we did”. Quite. In a separate message to myself, he apologised and assured me that he is working on ensuring future approval of communications is more tightly controlled. This is welcome, but it amounts to putting the genie back into the bottle. The damage has been done, the party looks like an amateur campaigning outfit (to put it rather politely) and it is plain to see that the quality of some of our staff is not perhaps what it should be.

I was horrified when I saw the cartoon. It is unwise on so many levels. However, on reflection, I am more concerned with what this says about our party in Scotland – our strategy, attitudes, professionalism, public perception and direction – than I am about a misjudged joke. The party is surely in crisis when our media staff are resorting to this kind of tactic. It's not quite the "responsible" or "grown-up" politics we've been championing in the recent past.

Of course, this overshadows the Liberal Democrats’ far more newsworthy announcement of a "home rule" commission, as Rennie admitted this morning. He is right of course. But it also highlights the deficiencies at the heart of the Scottish Liberal Democrats’ campaigning mechanism. Lessons must be learned.

I will be utterly honest and confess that this, in combination with Willie Rennie’s acceptance of support from CARE, has caused me to reconsider my membership of the party. I am pleased that Mr Rennie took the time to respond to my concerns which has gone some way to reassuring me, although his explanation offers further reasons for concern. The only thing that has prevented me from returning my membership card is that none of the other parties are sufficiently attractive to me as a new political home.

On a positive note, the only way has to be upwards. Perhaps we could employ someone with a better grasp of campaigning strategy rather than the clown with a questionable sense of humour. In the meantime, can we cut out the unnecessary anti-SNP rhetoric, adopt more constructive and pluralistic relationships with other parties and forge a new positive, liberal message?


The Loch Ness Monster said...

Very good piece Andrew. I don't normally comment but I want to commend your bravery in speaking against your party's campaigning approach and negative strategy. Do you think anyone will listen though?

Councillor Alex Dingwall said...

Andrew, an excellent post and one that certainly sums up my own feelings. If HQ have so much spare time on their hands maybe they could actually consider a new positive narrative for our party which addresses the key question - Why should people choose to vote SLD.

KelvinKid said...

I agree with you. As a party member it worries me that someone at HQ thought this juvenilia was worth putting out. Beyond that, it worries me more that much of our campaigning has been relentlessly negative and personal without in any way offering an alternative vision for Scotland. We are in a bad place.

Jock in the Box said...

Its just a desperate piece of absolute nonsense from a terminal party who will be lucky to form a circle, never mind an administration .

The LiDs have by their own admission , no raison d'etre whatsoever.

TIME to DEFECT to the SNP!

You cant be in a more defective party than you are currently!

Macart said...

Well said Mr Page! I also would like to commend your stance on this issue.

Anonymous said...

Very well said Andrew. The Lib Dems are ill advised to pursue Willie Rennie's relentless negativity towards the SNP.

Anonymous said...

You party is full of turncoats working for the dark forces of an imperialist foreign nation, you along with your buddies in the Lib-Lab-Con Colonialist Coalition are working against the aspirations of your own countrymen/women.

You should all be ashamed!

Anonymous said...

Whatever happened to your party? I would expect this sort of 'tripe' from Labour but not the Lib Dems.

The constant negative line taken against the SNP be it in this or saying no to SNP polices for the sake of saying no makes you look opportunistic, petty and frankly more interested in yourselves than Scotland.

I find Willie Rennie, in combination with Michael Moore, to be an appalling advert for the Lib Dems in Scotland. Both come across as blinkered unionists devoid of ideas and integrity.

Lib Dems? Not for me and by evidence of the last Scottish Election not to may others taste either.


Andrew said...

Thanks for all your comments.

To the second anonymous poster:

I would like to leave deciding the aspirations of my own countrymen/women to a referendum, which I have always supported and in which I hope to be able to vote "Yes".

That is nothing to be ashamed of, and I will not apologise for it! I also will not apologise for being willing to work with people of all parties, especially when democracy dictates that we should.

I believe strongly we should look to adopt a more co-opertaive appraoch towards the SNP. But for that to happen, the SNP have to be willing to work with us!

Moridura said...

Andrew - you deserve the appellations liberal and democratic. You have my respect for a courageous and principled stand.

Peter Curran

Hazel said...

I saw yesterday evening on Twitter, etc. you were very angry by the whole affair.
I'm glad you saw fit to write this very eloquent, thoughtful and hard-hitting response to what was clearly a very irresponsible deed.

Sadly, however, I'm uncertain as to whether the Liberal Democrats in Scotland will ever recover from dire consequences of their own actions over the last two years. Coalitotion with the Tories began the rot, this event I believe will only continue to feed the decay.

I'm sorry you feel there is no political alternative for you. All I can say is the SNP is a broad church. People from all shades of the political rainbow come under their banner. However, their goal is one. Achieving what is best for our country, and from your blog, it is utterly clear you wish the same.

I wish you well for the future.

Andrew said...

To the third anonymous poster: I agree with a lot of your analysis. The problem is for many years we took the electorate for granted, assuming that a non-identification with the Conservatives was a valid substitute for a positive message. Now we've run out of ideas and are content to come across as negative or defensive - neither of which are very attractive.

Obviously this isn't the kind of party I wish to be a member of, but I will continue (for the immediate future at least) to press for the development of a new, positive liberalism and a less-adversarial approach to politics in Scotland. It's early days for Willie Rennie, I remain hopeful (if not overly-optimistic) he will leave the negativity behind and look towards the future.

I am fundamentally a liberal. Nothing changes that, even if my party needs to redefine its campaigning direction and the tone of its public communications.
And Peter - thank you so much for your generous compliment.

Caron said...

It's certainly not the finest piece of political propaganda that's ever been produced, that's for sure.

Good people make mistakes sometimes and I am absolutely certain that lessons have been learned and there will be no future occurrences.

On one hand, Willie is criticised for being relentlessly negative towards the SNP. They've given us enough cause in the last few months and nobody else is holding them to account. They do need to be challenged.

However, when he does try to work with the SNP, for example on Minimum Alcohol Pricing, he gets criticised for that as well.

And he is trying to set out a positive vision of what we as a party are about. For six months he's talked about the three values he wants to underpin what we say - community - trusting local people, sustainability, no quick fixes, looking for long term solutions to the challenges facing us and opportunity - helping people to get up and get on in life. There is more flesh to be put on those bones and it'll come.

I think his genuine contrition and apology for this is to his credit.

However, I think that some elements of the SNP are being well out of order in their mockrage. They could learn from the dignified and gracious response on Twitter of Humza Yousaf!/HumzaYousaf/status/131254756407640064 and also from Cllr Andrew Miller in West Lothian who's been similarly gracious in comments on my Facebook page.

While I can see the obvious errors involved in the publication of this cartoon, I'm not going to condemn colleagues for one mistake when I've seen them work hard and long hours, putting in excellent effort in the past. Nobody would ever have wanted to put the leader in this position and I'm absolutely certain that they will learn from this for the future.

Anonymous said...

Andrew- I wonder what the old style real Liberals would think of this not a lot I imagine.We have had Stephen and his smell of sleaze Tavish coming out with some things as well but this is really scrapping the barrel may I suggest you do tare your membership card up as I don't think your party will be doing the things you suggest.

Anonymous said...

"It is not for glory, riches or honour we fight, but for freedom alone, that which no man of worth yields up, save with his life."

What are you doing quoting parts of the declaration of Arbroath on an English Colonialist website; what a complete parody!

Perhaps you should have a slightly wider look at the declaration?

JohnB said...

Excellent article.

As a member of the S.N.P. I was more bewildered/dumbstruck than anything else, particularly the hugely racist "blackening up" the First Minister.

Since you are a committed member of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, I'd advise you to stay in and deal with this issue. It's your party - leaving it will do no good. You can only question/argue/debate/berate with any prowess from within.

I hope the fool who dreamt up the ridiculous "cartoon" reads your article and apologises for the damage it has done on so many levels.


Andrew said...

"What are you doing quoting parts of the declaration of Arbroath on an English Colonialist website; what a complete parody!"

Not at all. As a history graduate I know the Declaration of Arbroath quite well. I can also say that while it can understandably be held up by nationalists, it was fundamentally about freedom. I'm not a nationalist, I'm a liberal - freedom is of huge importance to me. Believe me, the SNP don't have a monopoly as far as identification with the Declaration of Arbroath is concerned!

Also, I am neither English nor a colonialist, and actually find that latter assumption both judgemental and offensive. It's attitudes such as this that convince me that much as I am happy to work with the SNP, it would be unwise to join them. Also - have you bothered to read anything I've written? Because if you had, you would see that I've expressed support for an independence referendum...and for independence itself. But I don't suppose that matters - you just see the party affiliation and make personal value judgements?

Anonymous said...

"I would like to leave deciding the aspirations of my own countrymen/women to a referendum, which I have always supported and in which I hope to be able to vote "Yes"."

A referendum in which the party to which you belong will campaign for a "No" vote?

It's good to hear you hope to be able to vote "yes", however in which referendum did any Scot ever vote "yes" to be in this twisted UK union in the first place?

Anonymous said...

If you fly with the crows...

Anonymous said...

Actually Caron it's not mockrage it's genuine rage.

How typical of you to try and turn it into an attack on the SNP and how dare you talk about dignity and graciousness after this scandalous poster.

Read Andrew's post again. No actually read it.You might learn something.

Andrew said...

Hazel and John - thank you both for your comments. Certainly at the moment, I'm feeling similarly to John - I hope to help facilitate a revival of Scottish liberalism. No-one will be helped by me jumping ship. There are positive things I can say about other parties but I'm not convinced leaving the Lib Dems would be a good decision.

Caron - thanks for your post. Leaders are always criticised. Mr Salmond included. It's not the criticism directed at Willie that's the problem. It's the relentless negativity, the tone of our media message, the lack of a positive campaigning strategy or the absence of a vision of the future that Scots would want to identify with.

I agree opposition parties (especially those in government) need to be challenged. However, challenges must be made both responsibly and effectively. This was neither.

This incident does speak volumes about our current predicament. While I have been assured that there will be no recurrence, there are questions to be asked about the THINKING behind this. I am sufficiently concerned that anyone within our party would even THINK this was a good idea.

I know people put in a lot of time and effort and work very hard. That really isn't the point though. We need to work clever, not hard. besides, I'm sure it's extremely hard work editing the Sunday Sport or producing yet another series of Sex in the City, but they're still rubbish. I'm not belittling the work or the effort our staff make, but this serious misjudgement was the product of a strategic mindset that should have no place in the Scottish Lib Dems.

I know it's early in Willie's leadership; maybe it's good this has happened early as it gives him the opportunity to fix things quickly. The important thing is that we are able to "put some flesh on the bones" and communicate a vision that Scottish people both relate and warm to.

oldnat said...

I joined the old Liberal Party at the age of 15 in 1960, having heard John Bannerman describe how Home Rule was necessary because of the dysfunctional Westminster system.

That was 51 years ago. That the LDs need to set up yet another Commission to work out what you* (and your leaders have pretended to) have been talking about for all that time, explains why I left the Liberals many years ago.

I applaud your criticism of the current direction of your party.

* OK maybe you are too young to have been talking about Home Rule for 51 years, but you get the drift!

Andrew said...

Hi oldnat,

The Liberal Party were for many years the party of Home Rule. In my view they still should be. I'm not a nationalist - but I'm also definitely NOT a unionist. I'm a believer that Home Rule is vital to our liberty and it sits well with the localism we preach with such gusto. The Lib Dems should use this opportunity to revitalise this historic position.

And yes, I am a bit young but I'm more than aware of our history!

Andrew said...

"If you fly with the crows..." I understand that. I'm a Lib Dem. You assume I take a party line unless I state otherwise. But when I've actually just written something expressing a different view, it's nice for people to actually read it before making their judgements.

To be honest though, I'm not sure if there is a firm party line. I know other independence-leaning Lib Dems. We're in the minority obviously, but I've never felt under presure to conform to a different view.

"in which referendum did any Scot ever vote "yes" to be in this twisted UK union in the first place?" Well, you know the answer to that one! It's one reason why the referendum is needed now.

Gaavster said...

Andrew, you are to be applauded for your honesty and your integrity in posting this critique of the situation.

Serious debate in the run up the referendum is required from all corners of our political spectrum.

There is no place for the yah-boo politics of this flyer and thanks for condemning it

Dubbieside said...

What I find really strange about the whole affair is the fact that a party leader apparently has no control over the content of his social media pages.

Is it really feasible that some Lib Dem staffers would post on Rennies Facebook without clearing it with him first?

george said...

Did Willie Rennie mock Nick Clegg on his twitter and facebook page when he visited Qatar last year ? I doubt it. For one of Scotland's 'leading' politicians to undermine our First Minister when he is trying to help Scotland to find investment is disgraceful. And if he's going to mock Qatar over the death penalty then why not the USA ?
Willie wasn't even elected to Holyrood yet he feels free to undermine it. His first speech was nasty and rude and he's gone rapidly downhill since then. It's not hard to see why the Lib Dems will be decimated at the next election. Especially with people like Caron saying it's all an SNP overreaction. She put the boot in to Alex Salmond when he apologised last week. Yet fails to see any problem when her hero makes an error as well. Preferring to divert the blame elsewhere. Shame on her indeed.

Gordon G said...

I've also considered my membership. There is nothing or little positive coming from the top. No inspiring message or vision. It's like Willie is under direct instructions by Clegg/Alexander/Moore to go hard against Salmond nonstop just to win brownie points from the press. There is a difference between holding government to account and tasteless propaganda. I hope people at SLD HQ have this read this eloquent blogpost.

Andrew said...

"Is it really feasible that some Lib Dem staffers would post on Rennies Facebook without clearing it with him first?" A lot of parliamentarians allow their staff to update their facebook pages with questions they ask, surgery times and so on. That's pretty normal practice. But for a party leader to allow this, and allow it to extend to the kind of updates that have been posted, is surely a mistake. He didn't know what was going out in his name - it hardly inspires confidence, does it?

That said, I hope everyone involved has learned a very painful lesson and that we can move on from this.

Dubbieside said...


I know that all political staffers will update the media pages with the everyday stuff like surgery times etc, however this is in a different league from that. This is a deliberate smear on the elected First Minister of Scotland.

It beggars belief that no one would clear something like this with Rennie himself first.

Will lessons be learned? only time will tell, but I would not hold my breath if I was you.

James Taylor said...

Thank you for posting your thoughts on this Andrew. As a longtime member of the party and former candidate for in Scotland and Westminster I was pretty appalled at the poster. It hints at some of the worst aspects of US political campaigning and is not in keeping with either the tradition or the spirit of the Lib Dems. Regarding your comments about the constant attacking of the SNP I think it is valid for Willie to engage in robust debate and point out where, as liberals, we disagree with nationalists. I would hope that nationalists would also challenge us on our policies so that the Scottish electorate have the information from which to make informed decisions on how they vote. It is Willie's job to set the tone and strategic direction of this party and I truly hope that this latest error can be learned from.

Andrew said...

Hello again Dubbieside,

"This is a deliberate smear on the elected First Minister of Scotland." And of course that's the difference - it seems Willie's staffers have taken extraordinary liberties. Surely it wouldn't have been hard to have e-mailed Willie a picture, asking for his approval first. The whole thing seems to ridiculously unprofessional - I run a small business and wouldn't allow any staff to make anything public in my name without scrutinising it first.

This of course hasn't damaged Alex Salmond at all (another reason why it was seriosuly misguided). But if it had, there could have been potential legal ramifications. Now, who then would have been accountable?

Anonymous said...

"I am genuinely concerned that what passes for a PR/Communications department at Clifton Terrace..."

That's because the Party doesn't employ professional communications staff - instead they employ people who have come up through the party. While that can be good, it does lead to incidents such as this. Perhaps time for them to engage a PR firm - money well spent.

Andrew said...

James - thanks for your intelligent post. Of course it is perfectly "valid for Willie to engage in robust debate and point out where, as liberals, we disagree with nationalists." I would defend that right. What I won't defend is anyone deliberately misrepresenting what someone else says for their own cynical reasons. And I also don't support opposition for opposition's sake. But when there are serious differences of perspective (e.g. in respect to Salmond and the judiciary) I would expect Willie to be critical.

There is the world of difference between principled criticism and the fostering of a culture of negative oppositionalism.

As for the nationalists challenging us - well, they do. Generally without resorting to the negative rhetoric we've indulged in in recent months. And it isn't usually personal - nor does it centre around making jokes about LGBT rights or the death penalty (which I personally find very hard to stomach).

I believe Willie can and will learn from this. I desperately want him to set a positive tone and take a new strategic direction based on a revival of liberal values. But first there are some cultural changes that need to happen...

The quine's Da' said...

I have always believed that when Independence was achieved I would align with the Liberals.

That is not going to happen now. a variety of reasons, the main one being "Is there going to be a Liberal party anymore ?"

Andrew said...

Better Nation's take on this:

And Caron's:

I should add I made a mistake in the above post (which I am fully responsible for). Nick Clegg did NOT visit Qatar - Clegg met the Emir of Qatar while he was on a state visit to Britain.

Andrew said...

The quine's Da' -

There will be a liberal party for many years to come, if only because political liberalism itself is actually quite popular and none of the other main parties, while having some liberal policies, are themselves explicitly liberal. The real question is this: what kind of liberal party will exist in the future? One which is energised, dynamic, inspiring, confident, forward-looking and positive? Or one which is lost, wallowing in nostalgia, resentful, backward-facing, consumed with negativity and unappealing?

Anonymous said...

Allow me to condense your article for people who are short of time:

Is this the stupidest cartoon in Scottish political history?


Dubbieside said...


"The real question is this: what kind of liberal party will exist in the future? One which is energised, dynamic, inspiring, confident, forward-looking and positive? Or one which is lost, wallowing in nostalgia, resentful, backward-facing, consumed with negativity and unappealing?

I would suggest the later if you stick with Rennie at Holyrood. Do the Liberals have a chance to be dynamic etc, yes, send Tavish to
the Lords, get Charlie to stand for his Holyrood seat and you could start to rebuild a proper Scottish identity. If you continue as you are at present the five MSPs will be remembered fondly as the good old times.

Peter Thomson said...

Andrew - I was a Liberal activist in the SW of England, my inspiration being Jo Grimmond and a geography teacher at school who was a dyed in the wool 'home ruler'. At home I was brought by both my Grandfather's on the tales of 1919 and listening to Maxton, Hardy and MacLean on home rule for Scotland.

On my return to Scotland in 2002 I watched, Wallace, Stevens and Nicol make a complete load of tosh and nonsense of their opportunity to develop devolution. A cartoon, right at the start of the Holyrood first coalition stuck in my mind, I think it was in the Scotsman, Wallace was on his back in bed wearing skimpy lingerie, suspenders, stockings and Dewar was dropping his kecks saying, 'Remind me Jim just how much is this going to cost me?'

The history of Liberals and 'home rule' is a long and inglorious furrow of blight and failure. The last real attempt was in 1912 to create home rule in Ireland and Scotland. The bill was lost during the Great War and the Irish section hastily revived in 1920 to fend off a civil war in Ireland. We know how this ended up.

If Menzies Campbell and his MP pals do not know what they mean by 'home rule' by now, they never will and the recently announced revisit of a policy that has been revisited at least once every decade since 1912 by the Liberal Party will not cut it and is pure obfuscation and delay.

Last night's disaster proved to me the Liberal Dems in Scotland have lost the plot. Rennie is out of his depth as are Moore and Alexander - they care more for themselves and their own future than they do for the people of Scotland.

Last night I joined the SNP because they are the only party with a realistic view of Scotland's potential and future and as long as Moore and Alexander continue to sell the Scotland Bill Amendment Act as 'good for Scotland' while Wallace of Tankerdness works with Forsyth and Foulkes to pervert the independence of Scots Law with facetious proposed amendments then the Liberals in Scotland are only heading one way and that is for the political exit.

oldnat said...

Peter Thomson

I'm reminded of the report of the SLD Executive meeting in 2007, where Wallace was said to be on his feet shouting that he wouldn't talk to the SNP about anything at any time.

While there are clearly lots of individuals in the SLDs who are true to their Home Rule roots - particularly those who come from the Crofters Party strand, their leadership has been too cosy for too long with their British, as opposed to their Scottish, loyalties.

Anonymous said...

From a commenter on Newsnet Scotland:- "A rational and measured response. Well done Andrew, your party does not deserve you." I have to agree.

john grant said...

hello andrew
i am not an intelectual like some of the guys on here i am just an ordinary guy snp man though personally i am sick of all the negativity spewing out of the unionist parties i just wish they could throw away narrow party concerns and for once think of the people they purport to represent .o

Fourfolksache said...

Well done Andrew. You have actually restored some of my faith in the Liberal Party. I'm an SNP member but had always respected your Party and hoped for a day when PR would give you a fair place in politics. But your party's attitude to coalition with an SNP minority government and the subsequent behaviour like Wallace's over the North Sea territorial line andin coalition of people like Moore and Alexander have damaged you almost beyond redemption. I hope there are more like you and you can take your party back?
Good luck

Anonymous said...

Actually, I thought it was a wee bit funny (not a lot, just a wee bit). It was stupid, though, but it is even more amusing to see some wishy washy liberals beat themselves up over such trivia, and some pious nationalists pretend to have a moral high ground.

Anonymous said...

Andrew, I've voted Liberal in the past, tactically I admit, but a vote is a vote. After your coalition with the (cough, spit) Tories I doubt I shall ever again, and such is the view of many of my colleagues and friends.

Come over from the Dark Side Andrew, join the SNP!

Andrew said...

"it is even more amusing to see some wishy washy liberals beat themselves up over such trivia, and some pious nationalists pretend to have a moral high ground."

My main point is not that this silly cartoon is something more than mere trivia. In itself it isn't - it will be forgotten about in a few days. My concern is with the unprofessionalism at the heart of our party - as well as the unnecessarily adversarial attitudes towards the SNP that it evidences. It's the thinking behind it that I struggle with; that as a party we are becoming so obsessed with trying to get one over Alex Salmond we fail to see when we overstep the mark. On the one hand, this is a badly conceived attempt at satire - highly stupid but nothing more. On the other, it shows the depth of negativity and the dangerously unhelpful pre-occupation with the SNP.

Andrew said...

Fourfolksache - I'm pleased I've gone some way to restoring confidence in the Lib Dems. I was never convinced of the wisdom of Tavish Scott's unwillingness to work more closely with the SNP; with hindsight his tactics played right into Alex Salmond's very capable hands.

I think you're right about the ATTITUDE of some of the Lib Dems in 2007 towards coalition with the SNP. But I was even opposed to it - not for the same reason that Wallace et al were, but because the arithmetic didn't support it. It would still have been a minority adminsitration, albeit an SNP-Lib Dem one. I would have welcomed the chance to work with the SNP, especially after the Jack McConnell era, but the electoral arithmetic had to add up and provide a majority for me to consider it a viable option. However, as you say, there were many blatantly hostile attitudes towards the concept, and these had seriously damaging repercussions.

I still hope that PR can give us (and other parties) a fairer representation in politics - this is not going to happpen in Westminster any time soon but might feasibly be a by-product of Scottish independence. Think of that - independence delivering what the Lib Dems have been fighting for for decades!

rog_rocks said...

"Think of that - independence delivering what the Lib Dems have been fighting for for decades!"

Or.. think of it another way;

Think of that - SNP delivering what the Lib Dems have been fighting for for decades!

Your in the wrong party Sir!

rog_rocks said...

Perhaps you should remember that the Declaration of Arbroath was fundamentally about freedom from "English rule". This is because it will never be fair, they even knew this in 1320!

You support fund and stand for a group of people who impose English Rule!

From the Declaration of Arbroath you forgot this obvious part;

"for, as long as but a hundred of us remain alive, never will we on any conditions be brought under English rule."

Crumbs from the master's table? So what is it that makes you think support like this aiding a foreign power to strip us of our citizenship, wealth and natural resources and to undermine our culture and confidence and lie to us about our prospects as an independent nation is Ok?

Andrew said...

There is a world of difference between the historical situation of 1320 and the current predicament we have in 2011.

And British Rule under a democracy, even if centred in England and however imperfect, is not English rule.

The Declaration of Arbroath was about freedom from oppression, which at that point in time took the form of English rule - agreed. But its message was fundamentally about the achievement of freedom and could fundamentally be applied to any power that attempted to undermine the freedoms of Scots.

The Declaration was also a religious document, being written by a bishop and addressed to the Pope, but that dimension is often not talked about. For obvious reasons. It doesn't make the document irrelevant though.

Freeedom is about far more than Scottish independence. I agree that independence can and should be a means of freeing our nation and releasing Scotland's potential. But there are other fundamental freedoms that require addressing, and which independence itself will neither address nor achieve. So while I support independence, I am far more motivated by the need to promote freedom, and maximise the freedoms Scottish people can enjoy.

As for me lying to you about the prospects of Scotland as an independent nation - in fairness I don't think I've done any of that. I do think that people on both sides of the nationalist-unionist argument have indulged in pettiness and lies from time to time, and I utterly condemn it. We need a mature coversation about the future of Scotland - and a referendum giving Scots the right to make their own minds about self-determination.

rog_rocks said...

"There is a world of difference between the historical situation of 1320 and the current predicament we have in 2011."

No there isn't. They were trying to rule us then and they are still trying to rule us now!

"The Declaration of Arbroath was about freedom from oppression"

Freedom from English rule! And because of it, we are oppressed now; evidence exists in the form of a stagnated population growth for the last 100 years, alcohol abuse and the fact that I and all fellow Scots have to carry an imposed British passport.

"Freeedom is about far more than Scottish independence."

Perhaps it is but none of the others will be achieved here until independence is and you have already admitted you know that.

"As for me lying to you about the prospects of Scotland as an independent nation - in fairness I don't think I've done any of that"

I didn't say you did, but the colonialist group you represent does... and you support them.

"I do think that people on both sides of the nationalist-unionist argument have indulged in pettiness and lies from time to time"

Only problem with that is the unionist lies aren't petty, they are very serious for example, lets take the biggest whopper;
"Scottish Oil could never support Scotland and it will run out in ten years."
Since 1974, the year that Gavin McCrones secret Oil report showing them all that Scotland would be one the richest nations in Europe, they knew the truth and used this to rob us of £300billion.
Or how about the latest with your cohort Cameron advising renewable energy companies not to invest in Scotland.

"We need a mature coversation about the future of Scotland - and a referendum giving Scots the right to make their own minds about self-determination."

Again something your party is doing its best to pervert.

I see none of your answers as suitable excuses for your position, well who am I, it's your choice.

Andrew said...

Rog rocks - thanks for your reply.

Some interesting points, which i'll do my best to cover.

As for the Declaration of Arbroath, from a historical point of view it was a product of a specific time and place. That it contains vital encouragement for our current time is undeniable, but it was written about 14th century problems and for a 14th century audience. Many things have changed in 700 years and if the struggle continues, at least the nature of the opporession is different. I'm sure we can agree though that the Declaration retains its relevance and has inspired people of all political persuasions from Scotland and beyond for generations.

There are lots of freedoms I continue to campaign for. I know what you're saying about the British passport, but for me this trifles into (relative) insignificance compared to women's rights, LGBT rights, social and health equality, the right of Scots to have the educational and employment opportunities they deserve, and so on. I think independence is a pre-cursor to some key freedoms, and will certainly give Scotland the political freedom to build for itself the future we deserve and need. But my emphasis will always be on freedom, which is why I am personally inspired by the pioneers of 1320. I would prefer the argument for independence to be framed by the desire for maximum freedom for Scots rather than the traditional nationalist and unionist perspectives.

Agreed - that one lie was particularly misleading. I don't endorse it.

I support my party on most issues. In fact, I would think that many SNP members support a lot of what the Liberal Democrats are aiming for. The problem I have, as with members of all parties, is that I have some disagreement with where our aprty stands on one or two issues - in this case, the independence referendum and the attitude towards the SNP. So yes, I broadly support the party, but I don't support everything it says and does. And when I feel the need, I speak out as I have done this week.

I have had a conversation with Willie Rennie tonight, who wanted to discuss what I have written. I'm not going to make our conversation public, but I can assure you that I made it very clear my own views on what our party's position should be in relation to the mature conversation I mentioned earlier. I don't want the Lib Dems perverting this. We should be supporting a referendum, and always should have done.

You might think I should leave the party, but I'd prefer to stay put and advocate my vision for a liberal Scotland in which Scots are empowered to take greater control over their own destinies. My "position" is that I'd rather attempt to change attitudes from the inside, but of course you're more than welcome to challenge me to change my mind. That is democracy after all!

Alloa Ally said...

Andrew you have shown more political vision and leadership in this article than Willie Rennie has in 6 months. I'm another of those Lib Dem supporters now a member of the SNP, why don't you come join us? You'd have a real political future then.

Donald said...

As a natural Liberal but a supporter of the SNP I am heartened to hear that there is still a small candle of true liberalism at the heart of the party in Scotland as demostrated by Andrews article and many of the responses to it.

That candle is in real danger of being extinguished by the boorishness or the current leadership (Moore and Rennie in particular). I truely hope that the party does survive the referendum and that it flourishes in a new and confident independent Scotland.

rog_rocks said...

Indeed I do think you should leave "the party", not the way I see them, to me they are an anti-Scottish Lib-Lab-Con colonialist coalition, they are one & I think you'll find it a struggle to make any of them see sense, too many crumbs. I feel I am struggling to make you see sense, and you have spoken out against them so what hope do you think you would have of convincing die-hard "British" wee men like Mr Rennie to see any sense. In my view given his poster of the 1st Minister dressed up as a "darkened" man stealing a camel and with all the dictatorship insinuations a psychiatrists might be a better option for Mr Rennie, or was he being paid a lot to do it? You don't have to answer that ;-)

I guess you are trying and I guess maybe your not so bad for one of them, maybe you'll help me out if they put me in jail for something I didn't do, cheers.

Peter Thomson said...


The Declaration of Arbroath is more than just history it is entrenched in Scots Law and the whole reason the parliament of the three estates came about. The freedom of the Scottish people is enshrined in the declaration that the people of Scotland are sovereign. In modern political terms Scotland became a representative democracy in 1328.

The 1689 'Claim of Right' restated in statute the sovereignty of the people of Scotland and the 1707 Union Treaty preserved this condition for all time. The 1689 'Claim of Right' is still in effect to this day.

It is legitimate to claim that the reconvening of the session of the Scottish Parliament suspended in March 1707 in July 1999 means that under Scots Law and constitutional practice (not withstanding the provisions of the 1999 Scotland Act) the Scottish Parliament is now the representation of the people of Scotland's sovereignty in accordance with Lord Cooper's judgement in 1953, conceded by the then Lord Advocate on behalf of the UK Government and alluded to by Lord Forsyth in his warning in 1997 that a reconvened Scottish Parliament could unilaterally vote for independence and Westminster could do nothing to stop this under the 1707 Treaty of Union, let alone the UN Human Rights Charter and numerous other international and European treaties.

Where the likes of Moore, Alexander and Rennie are way off the mark and beyond the pale is their illogical opposition to a key principle of Liberalism - subsidiarity; ensuring that decision making is transferred downward to the most appropriate level and shared upwards for maximum effect, that is inclusive and not exclusive. Watching the highly stage managed annual conference indicated just how far the Libdems have moved from this core competency of Liberalism. The new fixation on aping the Tories and Labour at every turn shows the lack of confidence the Libdems have in their own brand.

Bobelix said...

Andrew, the SNP is a pretty broad church who have near-miraculously buried their differences in order to achieve the one aim that they all subscribe to: Independence. If you were to join the SNP, you would find many liberals, social democrats, conservatives even, who are working together because an Independent Scotland would give them an even chance of pursuing their ideals without having them perverted by the weight of Westminster, still lost in its Imperial dreams.

It is arguable that Westminster has compromised the integrity of all the union-based political philosophies noted here and that the UK parties are all tarred with the brush of opportunism, corruption, and the drive to be elected at all costs. These parties have no future that entails the intended benefit of the electorate.

That is not to say that they do not contain many principled and well-intentioned members, just that said members have little or no say in the behaviour or motivations of their political "representatives".

The coming together of the many disparate sections of the SNP has had the unexpected benefit of allowing the best parts of each political philosophy to flourish. The traditional agrarian and fishing interests of the Scottish Liberals are being fiercely defended - but by the SNP. The SNP shares your commitment to proportional representation at all levels. The Scottish Conservative and Liberals' concern for our native entrepreneurs and our international trade is reflected in the Small Business Bonus and Alex Salmond's tireless efforts to procure foreign investment. Traditional Labour concerns for freedom from poverty and equal access are addressed by the greater support North of the Border for the NHS, the council tax freeze, free university education, and abolition of prescription charges. Liberal efforts for closer, more controllable elected government is addressed directly by Independence. And Conservative law and order issues are manifest in the decision to place 1,000 more police on the beat and a concomitant drop in recorded crime.

Bobelix said...

When Independence is achieved, this unanimity will doubtless undergo some fragmentation as people pursue agendas uncluttered by the unifying effect of the Independence argument. Perhaps the post-Independence Liberal Party will become a party of government. Perhaps the Conservatives will experience a revival once free of the toxic Westminster associations. The Green vote will certainly increase as many see the SNP as the best bet presently for carrying out some major Green initiatives.

Alas, I fear Labour will die. The Social Democrat core of the SNP will simply render them unnecessary - and, frankly, the endemic corruption, London a**e-licking, and ermine-chasing of present and past "Scottish" Labour representatives doesn't entitle their departure to a single tear from me. Keir Hardies and Jimmy Maxtons they are NOT and have not been for a very long time.

The point I am making is that most people holding most mainstream political views in Scotland would see a greater chance of at least some of those views achieving realisation through the SNP than through their own parties - most of whom (the Greens are the main honourable exception) are in the thrall of their UK partners who show NO concern for Scotland other than as a piggy-bank of cash or docile voters.

The Independence issue, yes, holds many back. That is not, however, applicable in your case. Willie Rennie is a union dogmatist. He faithfully reflects the London line. He is not Jo Grimond - probably one of the best constituency MPs ever. He's not even David Steele. He's certainly not poor Charlie - who, despite his wee problems, always commanded my intellectual respect. He has advanced not a single positive policy since becoming leader. He has not argued for Scotland. He has shown, in my opinion, neither the intelligence nor the imagination to entertain arguments other than those he is wedded to. My impression is of a dogged dullard. Scotland will NEVER vote for him. Give up on him, laddie. He's a lost cause. You'll do more to advance REAL Liberal ideals within the SNP, and you'll find lots of ex-Liberal supporters here to feel at home with. Having spent most of my maturer political years swithering between Labour and Liberal, I finally realised that the best possibility of getting a progressive society lay with the SNP. After much internal debate, I finally joined two weeks ago. I'm totally convinced you should do the same. Just think, after Independence, you could be the first Liberal Prime Minister of Scotland! But first, let's get Independence and a fairer, better society. Come aboard!

Gedguy said...

This is the first time that I've posted on your site; I came over from NNS to read your blog and I was pleasantly surprised. I did not expect honesty from what I consider your party to be a Unionist party. For the sake of independence I implore you to stop being honest and continue with the rabid lies that originate from the Unionist parties because your summing up of the situation is spot on. I look forward to the time when all politicians follow the will of the constituency rather than their party line.
I humbly suggest that you stick in where you are as you may be able to do more good for the Scottish LibDems post independence than leaving the party. I suspect that a certain section of the Scottish people, being who we are, will carry a grudge against all the parties that tried to halt a referendum. I believe it was PG Wodehouse who said: "It isn't difficult to distinguish between Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunlight." Sadly, he was not far from the truth. What we don't want in Scotland is one political party post-independence. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. It is imperative that there is a political party to keep the SNP under control. Aunty Bella used to be able to do that but she has done the decent thing and resigned.