Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said he believed his party can win new seats in May’s Holyrood election – as he urged activists to start campaigning safely as soon as coronavirus restrictions allow this.
Rennie, whose party currently has five representatives in the Scottish Parliament, said he believed they could “gain more MSPs in this election campaign”.
He made the claim in the question and answer session at the Scottish Liberal Democrat conference – revealing to activists there that while he missed being able to see the “whites of people’s eyes” while campaigning, he was enjoying taking part in phone canvassing from the comfort of his own home.
With the Holyrood elections scheduled to take place on May 6, when coronavirus restrictions will still have to be in place, the Lib Dem accepted that “this campaign is going to be quite different, obviously”.
He told supporters: “We’ve got a month left or so on telephone canvassing before we’re back out on the doors.
“I was a bit reluctant to do telephone canvassing before, I like to see the whites of people’s eyes when I am speaking to them.
“But I have to say I have enjoyed it, I have enjoyed phoning people from the comfort of my own home and I’ve had lots of great discussions with people right across the country.”
He continued: “I think we can gain more MSPs in this election campaign, we’ve got some brilliant candidates, really good candidates, we need to win across regions, but we also need to win individual constituencies as well.
“So we need to phone people, we need to deliver leaflets and we need to knock on doors.”
Rennie told party activists that from March 15 they should be able to start leafletting campaigns, telling them to get out “get your face coverings on, put your gloves on”.
He reminded campaigners not to car share when going on leafletting sessions but urged them to “deliver thousands and thousands and thousands of leaflets to make up for all the leaflets you’ve not delivered over the last few months during the lockdown”.
From April 5, Rennie said “if all goes well, we should be out doorstep canvassing”, as he called on party members to “knock on as many doors as you can”.
When canvassing, he stressed activists should “keep your distance, make sure people are content for you to be there” but he insisted parties needed to speak to voters before polling day.
Rennie said: “We’ll go out there and prove to people that we can win, by campaigning in their constituencies on issues that matter to them to persuade them to come to us.”