Those of you who read this blog when you have nothing better to do will know that I came out as a Liberal Democrat, and even went as far as joining the Liberal Democrats at the worst possible time in their short history.
I joined the Liberal Democrats because I believe that Liberalism still has a part to play in our country and can offer in many ways the common ground between the differing political views in our country. I probably come from the social liberal side of the debate. I accept that we require a market economy, but I want to see one that puts decency and fairness at the top of the agenda not the bottom. While the Conservatives, and to a degree Labour were/are happy to see the markets dictate and be left to their own devices, I believe that we need the state to provide much need security and protection from poverty, from crisis, from unemployment, and from the markets. The state can provide the opportunity to education that facilitates an environment of empowerment, where the individual can succeed by themselves, by their own efforts and reach wherever they wish to get to, but also recognising that we need to ensure that they have the same rights as everyone else. The Liberal Democrats should be there to protect people from the worse excesses of the markets using the state for the betterment of all.
The Liberal movement is here to protect your right to believe what you want to believe, to protect your right to free speech, to sexual orientation, to political beliefs and to religious beliefs. I believe that we need to trust people to come up with the solutions to their own concerns and problems, that involves devolving as much power as practical to the lowest possible level. I have commented before that I believe that lets say a local authority wants to borrow 50 million pounds to build new schools, given that the local tax payer will pick up a large chunk of the bill in local taxes the local authority should have to consult and have the explicit support of the community before they can do that. There are many Liberals who are against referendums, they are wrong. The danger is not in giving people the right to choose, the danger is in the vested interests who deny the right of people to make an informed choice. The Liberal Democrats can work to make sure that happens.
I believe in proportional representation where every vote counts. I don’t accept the view that this system removes the MP from the constituency. How many MPs even live in the constituency they represent, a lot don’t and in local government it is even worse. We have to work to engage people in politics, it’s too important to be left to the politicians, as we all know, they more often than not get it badly wrong while representing the minority over the majority. The Liberal Democrats should be fighting every minute of the day to bring about this system. I believe that devo max or full federalism, whatever you want to call it, has to be part of the debate. I personally have no issue with independence but recognise that many people desire federalism and I would be happy to accept that system. The Liberal Democrats can fight to keep this issue alive, to ensure that the debate is not just between independence and the union, there is more to it than that and people need to be able to make an informed choice based on the facts. Not lies, not fear, not some utopia, the facts.
The Liberal Democrats can and should be there to hold people to account. We should be promoting the politics of respect, of supporting the good ideas and pointing out the flaws in the not so good ones. We should never look at things through the prism of everything is BAD and look to find common ground while working to try and keep Government honest. But to do that we have to be honest ourselves, hold ourselves to account and not accept a fall in our own standards, that will require change but the Liberal Democrats can play a positive role in our country, can reach out to our communities. We can talk to people and we can listen with respect and with dignity. We can show people that everyone has a part to play and a responsibility to play it.
The Liberal Democrats can and should be out there protecting the poor and vulnerable, while also protecting those with the most from themselves, while encouraging them to appreciate that they have a responsibility to those with the least. The Liberal Democrats can be the party that enriches the lives of every man, woman and child through a politics of hope, a politics of fairness, of honesty and of decency.
I believe that being a Liberal is not about being to the left, to the right or slap bang in the centre. Being a Liberal is about knowing what is right and what is wrong and acting accordingly. I want and believe that the Liberal Democrats can be that party in Scotland, but as I have said the party requires to change. It has to accept that it has made mistakes, that it has to be accountable, that the politics of lies and deceit, of hate and rejection of other political beliefs will kill it stone dead from which there will be no fight back, no resurgence in it’s fortunes.
The Liberal Democrats still have an important role to play in Scotland and in the UK. It’s not about SNP social nationalism with a small n, it’s not about the Conservative/UKip right or Labour right of centre, it’s about equality, it’s about dignity, about liberty, about freedom, it’s about human rights and the knowledge that everyone can play a full role in their community. So while many out there want to see the Liberal Democrats die as a party, Scotland needs a reformed and re-focussed Liberal Democratic Party.