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Willie Rennie's conference speech

September 19, 2019 12:00 PM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

What an amazing week we have had.

Hearing about our 700 council gains. 15 European gains.

Chuka, Sarah, Angela, Philip, Luciana and Sam joining from the Conservatives and Labour. The Brecon win for the wonderful Jane Dodds against the Conservatives.

It's happening in Scotland too. Councillor Fiona Dryburgh left Labour to join us. And Councillor Mark McGeever left the Conservatives to join us.

And there will be more to come. We are on the up and you better get used to it.

When you look at Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, the answer has to be Jo Swinson

It's time for the old to make way for the new. When you look at Boris Johnson and Jeremy Corbyn, the answer has to be Jo Swinson. So Boris and Jeremy watch out, Jo is on the march.

We must stop a no-deal Brexit, but we also must stop Brexit. Full stop.

We knew straight away that we would need to escape this looming chaos. And we were right.

The value of the pound has plummeted. The cost of imports is up. Prices are up. The cost of your family holiday is up. The economy sluggish. Business investment cut.

And now we have the current Prime Minister Boris Johnson held hostage - a prisoner - of Nigel Farage.

We see what they are doing. They are doubling down for No Deal. They are expelling their moderates. But in Scotland, no Conservative MPs have been harmed in the making of this dogma.

Not one has rebelled. It's not good enough. Scottish Conservatives, you have to stand up and be counted like Amber Rudd, or forever be condemned as a waste of Scottish space.

That is why Liberal Democrats stood firm. We are pro-immigration and pro-business.

We said stop Brexit. Unpopular at first, but we believed that to be right so we stuck to what we believed.

And it is the Liberal Democrats who speak for those millions of people who voted Remain and want to stop Brexit.

My message to those Remainers in Scotland thinking of backing independence is simple: Believe. Have hope. There is another way.

We can keep Scotland in the United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom in Europe

We can keep Scotland in the United Kingdom, and the United Kingdom in Europe.

Some think independence would allow us to escape Brexit. But it will simply add to our woes. All the chaos of Brexit multiplied and multiplied again. We need to learn the lessons of Brexit, not repeat the mistakes.

Our ties with Europe are deep and valuable. Our ties in the UK are even deeper and even more valuable. Cutting those ties with Europe after 40 years is torture. We should only imagine the pain of breaking 300-year-old ties.

And it would be the vulnerable who would suffer most, just like Brexit. So don't cut and run. Don't snatch for independence.

So those people - and more - can rely on the Liberal Democrats to speak for them. We are the only party in Scotland to stand up for the majority of people in Scotland. We are pro UK. We are pro EU. We are progressive.

Scotland should come with us and win that tussle for the soul of these islands. Be part of the change. Be part of stopping Brexit. Be part of the winning team.

In the eight years I have led our Scottish party we have achieved for our country:

  • We campaigned and badgered the Scottish Government to take extra steps on early years childcare and on mental health.
  • We got them to bring in a pupil premium and free school meals.
  • We have been the strong liberal voice on the age of criminal responsibility and gender recognition, even when the SNP have lined up with the conservative mindset.
  • We worked across parties to increase the powers of the Scottish Parliament as steps on the way to a more federal country.

And we have challenged the SNP when they have tried to impose centralisation on our police and cut the links between the police and the community. People can't depend on the SNP.

The SNP have taken their eye off the ball on Scottish public services to focus on independence

They have taken their eye off the ball on Scottish public services to focus on independence.

With the chaotic performance of the Conservative Government at Westminster, the SNP have evaded the spotlight of scrutiny.

But that will change. We are watching you and we are not impressed.

And I tell you this: all the things we want to do for education and mental health; investing in people so they can be all they can be; standing up for liberties; this can't be left to the SNP.

Even when they take our ideas they tend to make a mess of them.

No, this needs Liberal Democrats. It needs Liberal Democrats to grow stronger still and keep on winning. And to talk about winning.

And that is my positive, hopeful message to you today. We should be hopeful, forward-looking and excited.

The Scotland and the Britain we can win does not have to be a dismal choice between going back to the unfair country of the past or else on to the divided future the nationalists would like.

At our heart we want every individual to achieve their potential, a country where everyone has a share and a stake in our success.

There is so much we can achieve in our beautiful and diverse country, a force for good in Europe and in the world.

We are winning. We are growing. Our best is still to come.