Sunday, 8 May 2011

What Now For The Scottish Liberal Democrats?

Tavish Scott, the leader of the Scottish LibDems has resigned, with immediate effect, after conceding the election results were "disastrous" and that the party needs a "new direction with a new leader".

The LibDems lost 25 deposits in Thursday's election and the Scottish Parliament will now have just five LibDem MSPs, with no constituency seats on the mainland.  In the previous parliament they had 16 MSPs.

What now for the LibDems?  Only a few weeks ago it was rumoured that the LibDems were in secret talks with Labour leader Iain Gray about forming a coalition should Labour not receive a majority.  Then suddenly a Scottish LibDem grandee, John Farquhar Munro, intervened to anoint Alex Salmond as "best for the job" of governing Scotland.

There was no way back from such a slight and the LibDem campaign never recovered no matter how much effort activists put into efforts to persuade voters that the Scottish Libdems are quite different from their masters in London.  Therein lies one of their problems: they are tied to a national party and more and more Scots want their politicians to have Scotland's interests first, second and third and not be playing second fiddle to other parts of the UK.

The SNP capitalised on this on Thursday and rightly so.

Tavish Scott's biggest mistake was not to support an independence referendum.  He represents Some Shetlanders over the years have called for a breakaway from the UK;  even suggesting they had more in common with Norway and ought to be affiliated with the Scandinavian country.  Now the topic of home rule has again raised its head.

Why Tavish didn't support the right of the Scots to decide their own future is anyone's guess but I suspect he was influenced/ordered by London.  It's possible he may resign altogether from politics during the forthcoming 5 year term.  Watching him on Sky yesterday I felt an aura of defeat from his demeanor and not only political defeat.  A return to full-time farming may be of benefit to his health and family but it's rumoured he could be a popular choice for the job of presiding officer, although the same rumour mill suggest that Alex Salmond wants the job to go to an SNP MSP.

The only other constituency MSP, Liam McArthur who kept his Orkney seat with 37.5% of the vote, may have no alternative other than accept the poisoned chalice of LibDem leader, although the Shetland Times suggests the only new MSP, Willie Rennie could become leader, but will the LibDems survive as a party now they are on the periphery in Scotland?

Repeatedly I've said the Tories, in order to be a serious party in Scotland, need to cut the London apron strings and rename themselves.  The LibDems need to take similar action.  With Scotland now having three left of centre parties - the SNP, Labour and LibDems - the chance is there for the LibDems to reposition themselves to the centre.
It's certain though that Alex Salmond won't ignore the Shetlanders. An independent Scotland would have too much to lose.

The question that needs to be asked is does Scotland need three left-of-centre political parties?


Dubbieside said...


The only answer to your headline is,


Can I get an operation to get the smile off my face on the NHS?

Doug Daniel said...

Do we need three left-of-centre parties? Nope. Let's be honest about the role of the Lib Dems in British politics. In England, they present an outlet for people who are naturally Labour or Tory, but have fallen out of love with their chosen party, but refuse to switch to the opposite party. Very few people are really Lib Dem voters.

In Scotland, we have no such requirement, as the SNP provide a (genuine) alternative for those who don't want to vote Labour or Tory. There is no real place for the Lib Dems, other than to prop up Labour in Holyrood... but now that we've experienced minority government, even that isn't really required.

I actually think Scottish politics would be improved by the immediate dissolution of the Lib Dems in Scotland, unless they can give themselves a significant overhaul in ideology, to truly offer something different to the electorate. Problem is, I'm not sure there is anything that currently needs to be offered anyway, except perhaps a centre-right non-unionist party. They won't want to fill that gap, though.

I'm dismayed that the Greens didn't overtake the Lib Dems on Friday - I wanted either the Lib Dems to stop being invited to political programmes to illustrate that you can't be a major party in Scotland just because you are in England; or for it to be highlighted that invitation to political programmes depends on your status in England, rather than your status in Scotland. Either way, there is hypocrisy there that needs to have light thrown on it, and a complete wipeout of Lib Dems would have provided that light.

petem130 said...

Still feeling good this morning. Long may this continue!

I should fess up and admit I'm in a red bit. None of my doing. Who voted for red? The labotomy scars will give them away I feel.

Tavish, Tavish, Tavish. I was never a fan but perhaps we need people like Tavish. We needs some sort of check on Wee Eck and Deputy Nippy and Tavish could at least provide a part, although small, in this.

There's a wider issue of opposition to ponder. Who will be the opposition? Not the Tories. Not Labour and certainly not the LibDem.

Another party? Yes please. A new party maybe similar to or a Scottish franchise of UKIP? I'm looking forward to election leaflets asking me to vote for SIC (Scottish Independence Coalition) or SCIP (Scottish Coalition Independence Party) or CIS Coalition Independence Scotland.

We don't have to have the best policies in the world we just need to have the best policies for the Scottish people. A modern Scottish Enlightenment please?

Jo G said...

I feel sorry for Tavish. I think the Lib-Dems were punished for the Coalition and the cuts still to come. On the independence question I don't think he was told to say no: it is absolutely their policy to oppose it because the Lib-Dems believe in the Union as do Labour. That's their right. What isn't their right is to say the Scottish people as a body don't have the right to make the decision. That's a different thing altogether. But I don't think Tavish personally was responsible for his own Party's results on Thursday.

I disagree with Doug that they "aren't needed" and I'm sure they did have their own core voters in England.

Jo G said...

Pete, I'm in a wee red bit too :(

subrosa said...

No Dubbie, keep it there as long as possible. There's a long road ahead. :)

Joe Public said...

"It's certain though that Alex Salmond won't ignore the Shetlanders. An independent Scotland would have too much to lose."

Oh the irony if the Scots get independence, then the Shetlanders & their oil defect to Norway.

Jo G said...

And Clegg has just announced the Lib-Dems intend to block parts of the NHS proposals being made by the Tories.

That is a direct result to what happened to his Party here and in England in their local elections on Thursday. I think what happened to the Lib-Dems here will have shocked Clegg to the core. This was a total wipeout almost.

subrosa said...

Doug, you mirror my thoughts about the LibDems.They didn't even have a candidate here in John Swinney's seat.

We do need a centre right party though which supports independence but I think the LibDems wouldn't really fit that bill.

There's nowhere for centrists/right leaning folk to go other than the SNP if they support independence. That's the reason the SNP has such a large membership and support now. I can't believe the unionists when they say only 25% of folk want independence. My feeling is that it's at least 35%.

I was disappointed about the Greens too even though I don't support many of their policies. Patrick Harvie deserved a space on the TV podium.

subrosa said...

I have to admit, Tavish was more effective at PMQs than Iain Gray patem. He at least had some good points.

Well we should start our own party petem. Now's the ideal time to do so with the main purpose of explaining independence, and the EU of course which I consider needs a rethink.

subrosa said...

But Jo, as Doug says, just because they're a party in England doesn't mean to say they're necessary to Scotland. England has no equivalent to the SNP but the LibDems and of course independence for England doesn't feature in any of the main English parties.

subrosa said...

Well petem and Jo, I'm in the pink. :)

Anon said...

The Liberal Democrats look doomed. They support the war in Afghanistan, nuclear energy and the Union. Paddy Ashdown was MI6 and I suspect he is not the only one.

- Aangirfan

Jo G said...

I just heard Liz Smith (and she is???) of the Tories use the "bring it on" phrase re a referendum. Can't they even write their own scripts?

She accuses Salmond of being afraid. What did these people not understand about the timetable to a referendum. Or is the problem that they don't want to leave time for a meaningful debate? What a punch of devious, dishonest toerags who less than 72 hours ago were adamant that Scotland should not have a referendum at all!

JRB said...

”What Now For The Scottish Liberal Democrats?”
Ignominy, eternal ignominy. They didn’t get it before the elections, and listening to Clegg, they still haven’t got it.

”Does Scotland need three left-of-centre political parties?”
No – but much as I relish the SNP’s success I do believe that what is needed is a robust opposition, which, sadly, we do not have.

ally said...

Tavish and the Lib Dems are no loss to Scottish politics - spare your tears. They stood against anything that was not their idea in Holyrood yet are unable to do so in Westmnster - what's that about? Negativity in common with Labour and the Tories.

Don't you think the terms "left" and "right" may be defunct?

subrosa said...

I suspect he isn't either Anon.

They would be better of concentrating their energies in Westminster, but I think they'll struggle on sitting on the sidelines. After all who's going to reject an MSP's salary.

subrosa said...

Aye Jo, I've just finished watching that. They can bleat all they want. I doubt if many will be listening because they've heard too much of it.

subrosa said...

That's the pity JRB. A good opposition is valuable to any government, especially when we don't have 'another house'.

I can't see anything better than what we've had in the past four years.

subrosa said...

Ally, I'm not tearful - not in the least. I just feel perhaps the LibDems as they are are of no use to Scotland now.

How do you define a political party then ally?

ally said...

What about by their actions? Policies, legislation, manifestos (OK maybe not always manifestos) what they do and their aspirations?

Pigeon-holing a party is convenient but pointless - it only suits gang-membership tribal tendencies in all of us and is usually wrong.

For example New Labour was pretty right wing in a traditional sense particularly after giving up their constitutional commitments to Clause 4. Our UK parties relative to European left or right wing can appear to swing either side of the left/right divide. The SNP has a mixture of left and right wing individuals, perhaps that's the only route. If you cannot get census within a multi-party system then perhaps real representative consensus can only be found within a single party? Just a thought...

Nice blog Subrosa, glad to be back on the blogging scene, and glad to see you still here...

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

The chattering from pundits we're hearing now are the last stages of mortis created by hyper-thermia{sic}.

Of course long term Scotland needs effective opposition politics, but for now, the only effective opposition that has to be faced and conquered is the hegemony of Westminster and its establishment.

To create diversity in the meantime would merely allow Scotland to create the divisions that benefit Westminster.

Woman on a Raft said...

Tavish Scott's biggest mistake was not to support an independence referendum.

Quite. I'm embroidering this on a T-shirt for Mr Cameron.

Apogee said...

Hi SR. The LIb/Dems seem to have been an irrelevance since 2007, largely by their own decision. Thursdays result was looking almost inevitable considering the press they were getting,although I did not expect an almost complete wipe out. Their only hope of governing is second string in a coalition somewhere,and that is not here.So what is their purpose,in Scotland I don't think they have one any more!
Too often in the UK coalition it looked as if they were getting all they wanted ,yet an AV referendum was the least they could be given, and even that looked like the tail wagging the dog. They seem to have, in retrospect made a lot of bad decisions, not good when you are trying to look like a possible government.I like the map, pity about the red and blue blotches on it.

English Pensioner said...

Lib Dem Lord Tony Greaves is reported to have said ‘A lot of people in our party never liked Cameron,He is seen as a toffee-nosed slimebag, which is what he is. That is being polite to the man.’.
This man has chosen to use the language of the gutter which is clearly where he belongs, and if Vince Cable and the rest of the party joins him there I would be very happy.
They were the ones who coined the phrase "Nasty Tories". Whatever the Tories may have done, I can't recall them ever using such language. The LibDems have shown their true colours and people don't like what they have seen.

cynicalHighlander said...

Labour left wing no way hos-ay.

Tavish is far more a democrat than liberal and like his predecessor ermine is his goal which is why it wouldn't suprise me if he goes for the PO job.

wv:fleas apt dont you think.

Jo G said...

"To create diversity in the meantime would merely allow Scotland to create the divisions that benefit Westminster."

But we've had the same divisions here for years too John. What happened on Thursday wasn't meant to be possible. Which, for me, means the SNP need to continue their previous habit of encouraging, indeed, embracing diversity in debate as well as many other areas. That it actually embraced debate all along is what set them apart rather than making wild claims on behalf of "the Scottish people" as the others have.

This business will get dirtier John and we know it, sadly. The Unionist Parties will attempt to turn the independence debate into one where they can exploit all sorts of divisions in Scotland. They will say independence will be bad for the rich/the poor/the middle class/the working class/catholics/protestants/asians/africans/english people living here........not all at once, but they will select the group "under threat" according to who they happen to be speaking to at the time. Salmond has appealed to all of those groups across Scotland and more. He should go on to build on that and in doing so he makes it clear that he will also consult with other Parties.

Some types of division in Scotland will be exploited more than others. Its the only part of the debate that worries me to be honest because when those types of division enter into any debate in Scotland the debate tends to die a swift death.

Jo G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jo G said...

Ally, I disagree totally with you using Clause 4 as an example of New Labour becoming "right-wing". If anything the move recognised just how undemocratic Clause 4 was. And the man who finally sold it was'nt Blair, it was Prescott, a Union man himself and he was right.

Clause 4 represented all that was UNdemocratic about the Union block vote system where 1 man could attend Labour conferences with, literally, millions of votes in his pocket, and some of those Union members he could claim to "speak for" hadn't even been asked their views nor were they even Labour Party Members. As a former Union official myself I saw how many Union officials abused their positions and those votes. Yes there were meaningful links between Labour and the Unions but that did not give the Unions the right to control the Party in the manner they eventually attempted to. So I for one applauded the death of Clause 4 because if it was one thing it did not represent it was the principle of democracy.

ally said...

Hi Jo,

it may be true that some Union officials abused their positions and there is no doubt that they should have been dealt with by their organisation - however abuse of power exists in all strata of politics it does not necessarily negate the positive contribution of the trade unions in the Labour movement and to society at large over the years.

If anything clause 4 can have only improved the accountability of the party (in my opinion), but that debate is irrelevant now. Irrespective it symbolically marked the end of traditional Labour and a sea change in internal power structures. This was manifest in the adoption of a more capitalist less Labour-centric agenda, and led to the right-wing government of Blair. You are correct of course in your assertion that Prescott helped carry this change, my point was simply that left and right are fluid, relative and subjective - and in the main are unhelpful points of reference when trying to assess a parties intent/politics.

The analogy of gang membership stands, blind faith also springs to mind - you just can't count on 'em...

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Jo - true, debate in Scotland usually develops to argument then fecht.

Which is precisely why now isn't the time to weaken ourselves and strengthen a bankrupt argument proposed by opponents.

At present UK wise we have a juxtaposition between what we are lead to believe is a democracy Westminster style and what we know in our heads and hearts a true functioning and competent democracy should feel like to live in.

There are all sorts of fancy mantra's paraded in order to confuse, obscure their true purpose and hide behind a web of bewilderment.

But one fact say's it all, it's an anathema for any democratic process to tell people how and what to think and when they can think it.

By itself, that's bad enough but when it camouflaged with lies,damned lies and manipulated statistics it becomes criminally subversive and results in the irresponsible rich gaining from the penury of the poor.

If Scotland and Salmond can expose that, it will expose Westminster and that's what it really fears.

A democratic Scotland could lead to democracy throughout these Islands and then where would all the carpet baggers, naysayers and political jobsworth - the ones who rely on the 40-50% turnouts - go then?

Crinkly & Ragged Arsed Philosophers said...

Jo -I did leave thanks on the earlier post, but in case its gone thanks for the FoI info.

Jo G said...

"If anything clause 4 can have only improved the accountability of the party (in my opinion), but that debate is irrelevant now.

Sorry Ally, that's absolute nonsense. Clause 4 represented all that was rotten and stinking about Trade Unions at that time who eventually made Labour unelectable. One man one vote wasn't for them because they wanted to call all the shots.

You're right its irrelevant now but long before Blair many LP people throughout the country were unhappy about clause 4 and the power of Unions to abuse the system by using literally millions of votes from people, who weren't even Labour Party Members, to dictate Labour Party policy. That is certainly not democratic and it certainly wasn't about making Labour "accountable": for the big unions it was about one thing only: power. And for them that was what their obscene "block votes" represented.

Jo G said...

Hi John, no problem

Jo G said...

"A democratic Scotland could lead to democracy throughout these Islands and then where would all the carpet baggers, naysayers and political jobsworth - the ones who rely on the 40-50% turnouts - go then?"

I think that comment says it all about the possibilities.

Jo G said...

I just had an email from Alex Neil thanking me for mailing to say congrats.

Alex Neil was a list MSP for Lanarkshire before and he now has his own constituency which he WON through hard work and commitment to the electorate there.

I had emailed him throughout the previous Parliamentary session as an SNP Lanarkshire list MSP and he always replied. That's the difference between SNP representatives and others: they treat the electorate with respect.

Alex Neil didn't need to respond to my email saying congrats yet he did anyway. I think that's the difference between the SNP and the others.

wisnaeme said...

Agreed, Joe G. Alex has always found the time to return my messages. I have never met the man, but with my ear to the ground over the years, I knew Airdrie and Shotts will be the better by his representation of their aspirations and concerns. Much better by far than to have the considerations from the performing flea and monkeys with the red rosette circus.
PS. ....and I do hope I was of some use to the man on my very frequent, recent trips to Airdrie to talk to relations, friends and their friends. :-)

Key bored warrior. said...

The most satisfactory outcome of this Scottish election was for me the snooty tones of Tavish as he patronised us with his shrill haughty tones at every opportunity. "If you want independence then vote for the SNP."

Guess what Tavish we did, bye bye.

He owes Alex Salmond an apology for his braying on the leaders debate, that Alex Salmond had probably fixed the result of the referendum.

That is why you are gone Tavish. you cannot behave like a hysterical teenager and expect people to like your or the tarts who haunt your party. You have been duplicitous, patronising and downright dishonest bye bye.

DougtheDug said...

"Repeatedly I've said the Tories, in order to be a serious party in Scotland, need to cut the London apron strings and rename themselves. The LibDems need to take similar action."

And the problem in both cases is that neither is a separate party and the only way to cut the apron strings is for every member to resign and to form a new party which might still be in competition with a rump of the original Tory or Lib-Dem parties in Scotland.

The fact that the Scottish Lib-Dem leader has to be an MSP is actually a pointer to how unimportant the Scottish Lib-Dem leader is in the scheme of things in the Lib-Dem Party.

The Lib-Dem party in Scotland has councillors, MSP's and MP's. The restriction of the position of leader to the MSP ranks is evidence that his influence is probably not much more than Iain Gray's was as Labour MSP group leader. It's not that the Lib-Dem MP's have an MSP leader it's that the MP's are simply not considered as part of the Scottish party which has effectively been defined as a Holyrood only organisation.

Another pointer to the powerlessness of Scottish Leader within the Lib-Dems was the negotiation for the coalition agreement with the Tories. One would have expected the Scottish, Welsh and English Lib-Dem leaders to have been negotiating alongside the UK federal Lib-Dem leader but Tavish and Kirsty Williams were nowhere to be seen and the UK and English leaders are a merged postion in any case. In fact Nick Clegg's main negotiating help came from Danny Alexander MP, not Tavish and not Williams.

Tavish has condemned the coalition agreement negotiated by Nick Clegg as a major factor in the loss of his fellow Lib-Dem MSP's in Scotland but you have to remember that Tavish was happy to work in a subsidary role in a unified Lib-Dem party not as a genuine separate party leader so it's a bit rich for him to now complain that decisions made elsewhere affected the elections in Scotland.

I have the sad feeling that the lesson learned here by Tavish that remote leadership which concentrates on English matters is not good for Scottish affairs will not translate into any recognition of the similar plight facing the Scottish parliament.

Jo G said...

Doug, you are so out of order. Where it matters Scottish Councils are controlled by Labour! Why don't you have a go at them? You have commmitted an awful lot of words to attacking the Lib-Dems. Have you none for Labour? Or is there a reason why you aren't attacking them? Just asking. .

Jo G said...

Wisnae.........thank you for that response. I am sure you boosted Alex Neil in his list MSP days. I am sure what you did then will make him a solid constituency MSP.

subrosa said...

I ally, I see where your coming from but somehow parties need a 'sound bite identity' do you not think? At present we have a structure which the unionists prefer but that too could be up for discussion in a new Scotland. How about Switzerland's system being examined, or Sweden, Norway etc.

Good to see you ally and thanks for the compliment. I'll pop over to your place asap.

subrosa said...

Oh Crinkly, you've taken the very words out of my mouth. :)

Yes opposition is very important and that's where we fail right now.

subrosa said...

Ha ha WoaR, I doubt if Cameron would wear it. He may just pass it to Clegg to use as a life jacket though. :)

subrosa said...

Hi Apogee, yes they have been I agree.

The problem appears to be now that they are no longer the party of 'I dinnae ken so I voted libdem'. That is now the SNP's privilege.

I can't stress enough how people are getting fed up of London parties coming here to tell us what to do.

subrosa said...

Hi Apogee, yes they have been I agree.

The problem appears to be now that they are no longer the party of 'I dinnae ken so I voted libdem'. That is now the SNP's privilege.

I can't stress enough how people are getting fed up of London parties coming here to tell us what to do.

subrosa said...

Hi Apogee, yes they have been I agree.

The problem appears to be now that they are no longer the party of 'I dinnae ken so I voted libdem'. That is now the SNP's privilege.

I can't stress enough how people are getting fed up of London parties coming here to tell us what to do.

subrosa said...

Thanks for the link CH. I've been keeping an eye on that blog since you gave the link on the LiveChat on Thursday.

Apt indeed. :)

subrosa said...

I've yet to send my congrats emails to the few Jo, but it doesn't surprise me Alex Neil replied. Some call him left wing. I call him an extremely pleasant man who had a difficult time in the SNP some years ago. I admired him for his courage.

subrosa said...

He is a good man wisnaeme. I must ask him sometime the name of his smiley pills because he's always cheery, even although I'm sure he could see many far enough.

subrosa said...

Hi KBW, aye that narked me and I wondered what he was playing at. Smacked of desperation didn't it?

Jo G said...

Subrosa, Alex Neil is a complete gent. He has had to put up with me for a number of years as a list MSP. For that alone I salute him! ; )

Jo G said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jo G said...

The biggies in Lanarkshire are Neil, McKelvie, Fabiani and just over the boundary Christine Grahame. In Salmond's place they're the ones I'd have had with me in the helicopeter the other day. They have worked tirelessly in the last four years as list people to take those seats in their own right. They deserve every accolade going.

subrosa said...

That's true Doug. They need to completely reassemble.

You've mentioned a very strong point there about leaderships. Of course the rules were set by the labour party mainly because they didn't want the Scottish Parliament to be anything other than a type of community council.

I have that feeling too but I think Tavish has had enough and sees the writing on the wall.

Anonymous said...

To my mind, if there is one important thing that comes out of these results, it is that the Lib Dems have no real 'raison d'etre'. This thought applies just as much in England as it does in Scotland.

What are the Libdems for? As far as I can see, judging from Clegg's enormous error, when he equated the Smoking Ban with Capital Punishment, the Libdems are actually for persecuting minorities. That seems to be their 'raison d'etre'. Sure - they 'would like' to do away with education fees and, sure, they would like to raise the minimum level of income for tax to £10000, but who can possibly trust them? I would not trust any Libdem MP as far as.........

Is there a function for the Libdems? Well, there could be, if they actually thought about what they want. ARE THEY FOR 'LIB'? THAT IS, ARE THEY FOR 'LIBERTY'? If 'LIBERAL' does not equate with 'Liberty', what does it equate with?

One wonders whether or not 'Liberals' have any real philosophy. It would be interesting to know what that might be, if it exists. Certainly, in my opinion, they have to rid themselves of the Oxbridge political establishment. Whether they can do or not, or whether or not they have the gumption at grass root levels remains to be seen.

Hard, innit?

subrosa said...

Their reason d'etre for me was always as the 'don't know who to vote for but I want to vote' party Junican.

I've never understood that either. There are Libertarians and Liberals. The liberals I've always thought were very left wing and wanted society to be tightly controlled with rules. As I understand it Libertarians want the opposite.

Scotland could do without the liberals because another party would consume them - as has just happened.

Jo G said...

Goldie steps down now too. I'd been wondering about her today and why she'd thought it was appropriate for her to stay put. Any bets on Murdo Fraser as the new leader?

subrosa said...

Hi Jo, I've just done a post for morning about it.

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