Friday, March 02, 2012

Willie Rennie and Nick Clegg kick off Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference

In just over three hours, Scottish Liberal Democrat Conference gets underway in Inverness. It looks like we've brought the sunshine with us.

I'm really thrilled to be welcoming members of my family to see parts of the Conference. The only other time my family and political worlds have mingled was at my 40th birthday party. I decided that I knew so many fabulous people who had never met each other that I didn't want the first time they got together to be at my funeral. That night was a hoot, it has to be said.

Before I go any further, I should also thank my niece Laura. She never lends her MacBook to anybody, yet I am being allowed to type this from it.

But on to the serious business. Willie Rennie has set out what he thinks this Conference is about, showcasing Liberal Democrat achievements at Holyrood that belie the size of our group, the fantastic things our Councillors have done - slashing crime and homelessness in Edinburgh, for example, and how our ministers in the UK Government are putting the lowest paid and vulnerable at the top of our priorities.

Willie said:

“Liberal Democrats at all levels of government are delivering for Scotland.

“In the Scottish Parliament, our hard working team is punching above our weight. On college funding we have shown that strong liberal voices can make a real difference to government policy when it is heading in the wrong direction.

“Liberal Democrats in the coalition government are doing the right thing during tough times. Delivering tax cuts for low and middle earners while stopping the Tories from forcing through tax breaks for the wealthy is the right approach to get our economy back on track.

“And hard working Liberal Democrats councillors are delivering for local communities across Scotland. With the council elections fast approaching I want to highlight the great work that these unsung heroes do on a daily basis.

“Our conference will hear from these strong liberal voices and set out how Liberal Democrats will continue to focus on what really matters to people as we face present and future challenges together.”

Nick Clegg will be going in to more detail about what the team of Liberal Democrat ministers he leads have been doing to boost the economy. He will say:

 Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government don’t believe in simply throwing a few headline measures at Scotland and hoping that is enough.

“We have a real vision for Scotland’s future.

“I want nothing short of a green economic renaissance for Scotland.

“A Scotland where green jobs fuel a thriving economic future.

“Dockyards reopened as wind farm factories.

“Wind and wave power providing the green energy of the future.

“Scottish universities developing new green technologies for Scottish companies to export around the world.

“With Scotland’s young people trained in the skills they need to be at the heart of our green economy.

“It is early days, but we are seeing the start of this green energy revolution already.

“As we build a new economy from the rubble of the old, Liberal Democrats in the Coalition Government are giving you real, practical help in tough times.

“That’s why we have cut your taxes, even as we’ve had to take difficult decisions to raise money elsewhere

“Thanks to Liberal Democrats, by raising the point at which you start paying income tax, we put £200 a year back in your pockets last year and another £130 from next month.

“And we want to go further and faster, lifting millions of the poorest workers out of tax altogether by raising to £10,000 the amount you can earn tax-free, putting £60 a month back in your pockets.

“Already 2m Scottish workers have received a tax cut.

“Liberal Democrat tax cuts for the many – not the few.”
It all sounds good. I still think there are better ways of expressing what the tax cut means because nobody feels like they have extra money. I feel that we need to show that we've effectively paid someone's Council Tax for a couple of months, or filled their car a few times.

I'm about to head from the tranquility of my sister's dining room table to the bustle of Eden Court Theatre. 

If you are at Conference, you would be well advised to head to Hootenanny on Church Street for the Liberal Youth debate tonight at 7:30. It does clash with the Home Rule Commission, sadly, but it is usually a fabulous night.

I hope he doesn't dwell on that there referendum for more than a couple of sentences. We're here to play our game, not Alex Salmond's and the focus needs to be on what we are doing and the sort of Scotland we want to see.

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