Liberal Democrats

Catch up on the highlights from Willie Rennie's speech to Autumn Conference 2017

Did you miss Willie Rennie's speech to #LDConf? Get the highlights, or watch it in full today:

By Lib Dem Conference, Sep 18, 2017 4:09

Willie Rennie speaks at Lib Dem conference.

Willie opened with a prediction about the SNP...

They used to boast about team, record, vision. It is what they say won them the 2011 election.

The vision – that was independence and it has gone – at least for now. The team – it’s now widely recognised they have the weakest team of cabinet ministers since devolution.

And record. Scottish education used to be the pride of the nation. It was seen across the world as the gold standard. Now it has slipped down those international rankings.

Scottish policing used to operate with public consent. Local forces connected to their communities. Crime levels at a record low.

Now it’s in complete turmoil. It’s been through two chairmen, a chief executive, a chief constable and its second chief has stepped aside. And that’s just in four years.

The NHS is something Scots cherish. It’s part of our very being. But now people wait for weeks to see a GP, consultant vacancies are growing, we’re short of nurses. And waits for young people needing mental health support are up to two years.

They have no vision, a weak team and a poor record. By the SNPs’ very own test they are failing.

They spend more time obsessing about power and control than delivering on health, on crime and on education.

People are fed up waiting on the SNP to deliver on their promises. And they will tell the SNP loud and clear – your time is up. After 14 years the SNP will lose next time.

...and then continued onto our stand on Brexit...

Our party’s unique stand on Brexit meets the liberal need in this age of isolation and divisiveness.

This is an exciting time to have the opportunity to lead on liberal values. And I can announce today that we will open talks with the Scottish Government this week to ask them to back our campaign to give the people across the UK the chance of an exit from Brexit.

...and took on the SNP's relentless attempts to centralise power...

The voters will never forgive the Conservatives for a mindless and incompetent pursuit of a damaging Brexit.

Yet whilst the SNP rightly berate the Conservatives for hoarding power in London the SNP reciprocate by hoarding power in Edinburgh.

The SNP have taken control of powers from councils. They’ve taken control of the fire service. They’ve taken control of the police Of social care. Of enterprise and economic development. We hear that highways could be taken too. And now they are planning to take control of education.

So that leaves all of the big services out of the democratic hands of local government. So I want to give a warning about what that means when you take all that together.

Councils came together in the 1980s to help form the Constitutional Convention, to challenge the Thatcher Government and draw up plans for devolution.

The SNP Scottish Government is on a path to strip out of public life the challenging voice of Scottish local government.

Just like the Conservatives they are opposed to challenge. So that is a threat to the existence of local councils.

We will lose local accountability, local services and the combined clout to challenge government. The SNP are dismantling local government. And Liberal Democrats will stand up to them.

...and Willie closed with a note of hope of what's possible when Liberal Democrats are in Government.

Our eight years in government in Scotland set out what can be done with the Parliament.

And the response to the challenges of today must be a liberal response.

When nationalism threatens with Brexit and Trump, the response must be an open, tolerant and generous one. 

When climate change threatens with hurricanes and floods, the response must be to protect our planet for tomorrow rather than plunder it for today.

When the economic growth of China sometimes threatens people’s human rights, our response must be to stand with the oppressed not surrender for a few jobs.

When some companies offer poor working conditions and pay, our response must be to insist on higher standards and better pay.

When people struggle to cope with poor mental health, we must be there for them

When people are hungry for knowledge and training, we must invest in their talent through education. 

When the arrogance of government seeks to hoard power in the centre, we must hand it back to the people.  

We will build a platform that delivers an open, liberal, environmentally friendly, economically sustainable and fair society. 

Where people have the chance to be all they can be, to live as they wish.

It is about generosity of spirit.

It is about sharing.

It’s a fresh, bright approach to make Scotland the best again.

Change is coming in 2021. 

With policies like this.

With ambitions this great.

With determination to change.

We are winning again.

Winning at Holyrood, Westminster and in councils.

Liberal Democrats have a big role to play in the future of our country.

We made the Scottish Parliament 20 years ago.

We forged the first government and delivered radical change.

We crafted the new powers the parliament now has.

We now have a responsibility and an opportunity to craft the new platform for change.

Moving on from the divisions of independence.

Moving up for our country.

That is the liberal response to the challenges of today and we should shout it from the rooftops.

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