Liberal Democrats

Read Willie Rennie's Speech to #LDConf in full

Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie delivered his keynote speech to conference.

By Liberal Democrats, Sep 18, 2018 4:09

Turning education around in her area with a positive report from Education Scotland – Aileen Morton, Liberal Democrat Leader, Argyll and Bute.

Paying the proper living wage to council workers – Gerald Vernon Jackson, Liberal Democrat Leader, Portsmouth.

700,000 extra bus journeys - Adam Paynter our leader in Cornwall.

Thousands of fathers and mothers benefiting from shared parental leave - Jo Swinson.

New investment for mental health services in Scotland – Alex Cole Hamilton MSP.

300 extra charging points for electric vehicles – Dave Hodgson, Liberal Democrat Mayor, Bedford.

Hailed as a “fantastic advocate” for mental health by mental health charity Mind – Norman Lamb.

Kirsty Williams – our Education Secretary in Wales – taking the Pupil Premium to every school in the nation.

Embarrassing the government into legislating to ban upskirting - Wera Hobhouse.

Liberal Democrats - delivering across the country.

Watford Mayor - and Edinburgh University graduate - Peter Taylor – winning with 50% of the vote.

Councillor David Goode –up 20% - winning from the Conservatives in Knaresborough.

Councillor Denis Rixson – up 22% - winning from the SNP in the Highlands.

Councillor Martin Haswell – up 50% - winning from Labour in Wearside.

Liberal Democrats – winning across the country.

We’ve got more councillors, more MPs, more members.

We are punching above our weight, we are making a difference, we are winning.

And we are listening too.

A few weeks ago I ventured out to the North Sea from Pittenweem on the prawn boat, the Sanela.

Unfortunately, I left my sea legs at home.

I was told a couple of ginger biscuits would sort me out. I’m not a doctor, I didn’t know that was nonsense.

As the waves went up and down – so did my stomach – for 16 hours.

These fishermen are grafters. Force nine or flat calm.

The skipper and his two crew just want to make a living.

They don’t ask much.

They don’t expect government to do their job for them.

They just want rules and laws that make sense.

When government fails to listen is when they kick back.

So when they say the big energy companies might destroy their fishing grounds because they can’t get together to reduce the impact of the massive cables from offshore wind farms, they want government to listen.

When they say the harbour needs dredged because it’s adding four hours to their working day, they want government to listen.

And when they say they want a smooth path to market for their goods, they want government to listen.

The Sanela catch is the best quality.

The langoustine and prawns go straight to the plates of diners across the continent.

It’s a high value export.

But fresh seafood has no value if it’s stuck in a lorry park in Kent.

Picture the chaos of lorries arguing to get a place on a choked up motorways heading for the channel because a distant, foolish UK government has let it go this far.

So if we want to turn the tide.

Against the easy populist slogans from the extremes on the left and right.

We need to listen.

I’m listening.

The Sanela crew backed Brexit. They kicked back.

I disagreed with them on Brexit but I want to listen to them.

Because whatever happens on Brexit we won’t go back to the way the country was.

I am taking up their issues and I will work to get them sorted.

People who play their part in their community should have the opportunity to get a decent job, afford their own home and rely on good public services, with a government on their side.

That’s not the reality for millions of people in our country today.

We must listen.

We must act.

The fishermen deserve better.

People deserve better.

That’s why Liberal Democrats demand better.


Theresa May’s best option for Brexit will throw away the gains from cooperation with our neighbours that we have worked hard to deliver over forty years.

Economic growth.

Freedom to travel.

Security and peace.

All of that under threat.

And her Chequers plan will create a democratic vacuum too.

After forty years of setting the rules the common rule book will be written by European countries, not Britain.

And when they make a new rule that’s not in our economic interests we will just have to suck it up.

We’ll be a rule taker, not a rule maker.

Rules set by Europe and implemented by the UK Government.

Democracy ripped out of Britain.

Remember the big promise – “take back control”.

Remember the battle cry – Britain’s “independence day”.

But we won’t be independent, we won’t have control, we’ll need to do as we are told.

If we do not turn back this will be the biggest surrender of power this country has probably ever seen.

What a betrayal that would be.

The Chequers plan is so damaging to our country they have to threaten a no deal Brexit to make the British people like it.

Threatening food shortages to make chlorine chicken more appealing.

Last month the Foreign Secretary went to America.

He told them that Britain would probably survive Brexit.



We can’t trust a government that offers us a false choice between economic damage and economic damage.

So it must be the British people that signs off the deal.

This Brexit process started with democracy, it should not end in a stitch up.

Trust in democracy – give the people the final say.


We expect the Conservatives to be divided and hostile on Europe.

What we don’t expect is a Labour Party that is so cynical and calculating that it is failing to stand up for the long term interests of our country.

Jeremy Corbyn claims to be a man of principle.

A man of deep political beliefs.

A man who will stick up for what he believes no matter how unpopular.

But on Europe he is so calculating and so cynical that it would make Peter Mandelson blush.

For goodness sake, Jeremy.

If you are an internationalist.

If you believe in peace and progress.

If you support driving up conditions for the workers.

You need to stand up and be counted before the Conservatives destroy all the wins in Europe over the last forty years.

Jeremy Corbyn - History will look down on you with disgust and disdain if you fail to be counted.

Jeremy Corbyn – stand up for a people’s vote before it’s too late.


And what is the Labour Party doing when it should be standing up on Europe?

It’s indulging in a factional, divisive battle with moderates, the Jewish community and anyone else who doesn’t pledge themselves to their narrow, left wing cult.

I feel for those who believe their party has been stolen from them.

They are grieving. They are lost. They fear for their party. Many do not know what to do.

Let me tell them this. I am always prepared to work with you. We agree on so much.

I know it’s a risk.

I know you will be uncertain.

But you know, in all honesty, that you cannot stay where you are.

And at this supreme moment of danger for our country you must act.

From something dark we can create something bright.

Let’s make that change.

Change before it’s too late.

Come on.

We can make the change.


You’ll remember that Liam Fox said this would be the easiest negotiations in human history. Such a wise man.

But after forty years:

The ties that bind us are strong;

The economic relationship is deep;

The laws are common;

Breaking up is hard to do.

There is a lesson for Nicola Sturgeon.

Rather than rubbing her hands with glee that Brexit could help her win independence, Nicola Sturgeon must surely see the obvious?

After three hundred years:

The ties that bind us are strong;

The economic relationship is deep;

The laws are common;

Breaking up is hard to do.

The lessons of Brexit are the lessons for Independence.

Everyone can see it.

Except Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP.

The rest of the world can see the lesson of the destruction of a single economic market.

They can see the harm of making it harder for business to get goods and services to market, harder for individuals to get the benefits and opportunities that brings.

But the SNP response to the break-up of the EU single market is to break up the UK single market.

The SNP response to the break-up of the EU customs union is to break up the UK customs union.

I cannot for the life of me see how the SNP can conclude from all this that the response to the break up from Europe should be the break-up of Britain.

Breaking up is hard to do.

For those who say that we need independence to escape Brexit I tell you quite frankly that the SNP will not put automatic EU membership on their independence ballot paper.

That’s because they care first and foremost about independence.

After all they supported independence even when they opposed Europe in the 1970s.

Thousands of their supporters voted for Brexit.

Independence always comes first.

And now they won’t even help the rest of us get the chance to have a final say on the deal.

Scotland deserves better than this.

I say to the SNP.

Get off the fence.

Stand up for Britain’s place in Europe.

Put your voice behind a public vote on the deal.


I started today celebrating our delivery and our success.

But I have had to devote the majority of my remarks to the constitutional upheaval foisted upon us by the Conservatives and the SNP.

I wanted so much to talk about our plans to drive up the quality of education in our country because that is the route to personal and economic success.

To set out our plans to improve mental health services so that people can be all they can be.

To explain about our plans to spread the wealth across our country so that every nation and region can share the fruits of economic growth.

To talk about our plans to keep communities safe by reforming our prisons and supporting our police.

Yet here we are month after month, year after year forced to stop the Conservatives and Nationalists dividing and damaging our country.

These truly are the wasted years.

There are so many positive things we could do, change we could make, so many people we could help instead.

This is why we need change and we need it now.


The country is on the wrong track.

You know people deserve better, and Liberal Democrats demand better.

People who play their part often get left behind.

The rules are stacked in favour of big corporations and the most powerful.

Liberal Democrats stand up to power and privilege to bring fairness and opportunity for everyone.

It’s why Jo stood up on parental leave, Wera on upskirting and Norman on mental health.

It’s why I stood up to Amazon and demanded they paid fair wages and paid fair taxes too.

It’s why we stood up for human rights and integrity when the SNP put a grubby Chinese deal first

It’s why we stood for early education, put mental health at the top of the agenda, and got funding for our colleges.

It’s why we are standing for Scotland in the UK, and the UK in Europe.

This is what we do.

Once a small team, now a growing team, we have achieved all this.

With more of us we can do so much more.

This is why I joined the party.

And why more people should join our party.

Vince Cable is opening the door to new people.

People who share our values should join our movement.

To challenge.

To stand for the weak against the strong.

Against big government and huge corporations.

For better mental health, better education so that everyone can be all they can be.

That’s why Liberal Democrats Demand Better.

To change the world in which we live.

To stand for fairness, for justice, for opportunity.

A growing team.

Getting things done.

Be part of it.

Join us.

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