The Scottish Liberal Democrats have said Scots want to stay in both the UK and the EU as Willie Rennie launched the party’s manifesto in Edinburgh.
Pledging to stop Brexit and, in doing so, free up a £50bn “Remain bonus” for investment across the UK, the party also called for a focus on tackling the “climate emergency”.
Rennie said preventing the UK from leaving the EU and Scotland from leaving the UK could bring about a “brighter future” but stressed it had to be “worked for”.
He said a “bitter and divisive” independence vote is “the last thing we need”, adding: “Cutting ties with Europe after 40 years is torture.
“Imagine the pain of breaking 300-year-old ties. Just like Brexit, it would be the vulnerable who would suffer the most.”
So, what is in the Scottish Liberal Democrat pitch to voters?
As UK party leader Jo Swinson writes in her foreword to the Scottish manifesto, the Liberal Democrats want to stop Brexit in its tracks.
In the (albeit unlikely) event the Lib Dems form a majority Westminster government, the party has vowed to revoke Article 50 – cancelling the Brexit process altogether.
The Tories’ message of “getting Brexit done” is not true, Swinson’s party says, as it will “simply usher in more years of difficult negotiations” over trade with the EU, with “a very high chance” of the outcome being a no-deal Brexit.
They say Labour want to “reopen the withdrawal agreement all over again” and accuse the SNP of “prioritising independence ahead of Remain”.At a glance: What’s in the Scottish Conservative manifesto?
At the heart of Lib Dem plans for a “stronger economy” is staying in the EU.
- A £50bn “Remain bonus” to be invested in public services over the next five years, which they say will come about from the economic benefits of maintaining EU membership.
- An extra £130bn over the same period for infrastructure such as transport, energy systems and housing across the UK, with the Scottish Government to benefit from knock-on-funding.
- Increase spending on research and development as well as supporting Scotland’s video gaming industry.
- Spend £6bn a year on improving the benefits system to make it “work for people who need it”.
The party is pledging to “stop another independence referendum in Scotland”.
The Scottish Liberal Democrat manifesto says: “We need to learn the lessons of Brexit, not repeat the mistakes with independence.
“Cutting ties with our closest neighbours is a backwards and isolating move – that’s been the lesson of the past three years.”
The party insists it wants Scotland to keep the benefits of being both “inside the UK and EU single markets”.At a glance: What’s in the SNP’s election manifesto?
The Liberal Democrats claim they are the only party with a “detailed plan… to combat the climate emergency”.
- An “emergency programme” to insulate all homes in Britain by 2030, helping to cut fuel bills, reduce emissions and tackle fuel poverty, with a UK Lib Dem government to provide resources to Scottish ministers to carry this out in Scotland.
- Banning fracking “for good” and investing £12bn in renewables over five years to ensure at least 80% of the UK electricity comes from green energy by 2030.
- Removing distribution charges that see consumers in the northern isles and the north of Scotland pay additional infrastructure costs through their electricity bills.
- Requiring all new homes and non-domestic buildings in the rest of the UK to be built to a zero-carbon standard by 2021 (this is devolved in Scotland but the Lib Dems hope the measure would “set a clear direction for changes” north of the border).
- Investing in public transport, electrifying Britain’s railways and making sure all new cars are electric by 2030.
- Campaigning worldwide for an end to fossil fuel subsidies and providing aid to developing countries to help them transition to green economies.
The Scottish Lib Dems have a slate of policies related to childcare and education – but, of course, this is a Westminster election and these areas are devolved to Holyrood.
As with Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservative plans this election, proposals which fall into devolved matters would require the support of the currently SNP-led Scottish Government to be enacted.
But here is what Willie Rennie’s party back:
- Providing free childcare from the age of nine months, with the ambition to make it a “UK-wide shared commitment” agreed with the devolved administrations.
- Using extra investment from a UK Lib Dem government to reform teachers’ pay and conditions in Scotland and strengthen the pupil equity fund often used to recruit new teachers.
- As well as protect free music tuition, expand school counselling and promote breakfast clubs.
The caveat above also applies to Scottish Lib Dem proposals on healthcare – with the party particularly focused on mental health provision.
It’s even at the heart of the UK party’s economic plans, with proposals to introduce a “wellbeing budget” and a “minister for wellbeing” to make sure it’s considered alongside more traditional factors when spending government money and forming new policies.
The party says mental health needs to be treated “as seriously as mental health” with a raft of measures laid out in the manifesto.
Specifically, on mental health in Scotland, the Lib Dems say extra investment from a Swinson government could be used to:
- Expand the mental health workforce and end the “waiting times scandal” for mental health treatment on the NHS.
- Establish fast access to talking therapies through a new mental healthpractitioner for every GP practice.
- Bring in 24-hour mental health practitioner coverage in every A&E and police division in the country.
- End long journeys for treatment, especially for young people and new mothers.
The Liberal Democrats want to reform voting in elections and boost devolution and decentralisation.
The party wants to see:
- Votes at 16 and 17 in all UK elections and referendums, as is the case for Scottish parliament and council elections (and as was the case for the 2014 independence vote).
- Votes for all EU nationals resident in the country in all UK ballots.
- A single transferable vote system introduced for Westminster elections – a form of proportional representation, used in Scottish council elections, where voters rank the candidates in order of preference.
- A legal provision during general elections for televised leaders’ debates.
- A new written, “federal” constitution for the UK.
- A “radical redistribution of power away from Westminster” to the devolved nations, to regions and to councils including more local control over taxes.
- Accountability over UK-wide bodies such as the BBC and Ofgem extended to the Scottish Parliament.
- A review of UK excise duty structure to “better support whisky exports”.