19/09/2011 Newsnight


Live from the Liberal Democrat's annual conference in Birmingham, including an interview with Business Secretary Vince Cable. With Jeremy Paxman.

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and they were faced disaster at the balls.


-- they will face disaster at the palls. On Newsnight Scotland


tonight: We stay with the Liberal Democrats. The Secretary of State


for Scotland gives his views on his party's prospects.


Also tonight, we hear from the third and possibly final contender


to lead the Scottish wing of that other coalition party, the


Conservatives. Good evening. As the UK Liberal


Democrats put on a brave face, and more or less unite in defence of


their role in the coalition government, some of their prominent


Scots seem less comfortable. The party's most senior Scots have been


hitting out at the SNP government, and Scottish Leader Willie Rennie


is floating ideas about yet more powers for Holyrood. But in the


background, former leader Tavish Scott has been telling newspaper


readers that his electoral disaster last year was inevitable after the


UK Lib Dems chose to join the Plenty to ponder, for a Lib Dems


meeting in Birmingham. They are in government but still having to


spend a lot of time looking over their shoulders. He then


frontbenchers like Vince Cable are having to put effort into attacking


the SNP. Some people may have noticed that one of the big media


companies has recently had a spot of bother. The Labour Party, the


Conservatives and even the Scottish nationalists spent years queuing up


to pay them homage. What makes me proud of our party is that we never


compromised our cells and that right. The Chief Secretary to the


Treasury, Danny Alexander, is also getting in on the act. The Scottish


National has made the same mistake, we will never frustrate the


national interest, they are enemies of growth. The SNP's success in the


Holyrood elections is promising up Hollis the rethink. -- promising a


policy rethink. We're developing a blueprint so what we spend the


Scottish Parliament is would be raised in Scotland, but we also


want to look at local authorities, because increasingly, Scotland is


grabbing power into the centre and as liberals, we are strongly in


favour of communities to determining their own futures, just


like Edinburgh having more control, we want councils to have more


control. There is a lot of ground to make up. Remember in the


election campaign, the outgoing veteran Lib Dem ms Peake backed


Alex Salmond for her First Minister. -- Lib Dem MSP. Personal support, I


think he has that there? And the courage to lead Scotland to a


prosperous, sustainable future. Then there was the U-turn by Lib


Dem MPs on tuition fees for English students. He need to ask them that,


they decided to do that down there, I voted to get rid of tuition fees


in Scotland and to keep funding, I have a reasonable record on that


issue. Tavish Scott has been writing about that election and the


Scots and pointing out that despite having an impeccable record on


tuition fees in Scotland, the party was dragged into the political


gutter by the decision in London. This is the document the Lib Dems


hoped would put them on the road to recovery. The election review looks


not just that the election results from this year, but also the


referendum. The party blames the Labour Party and they blame their


own activists for not getting involved enough. For the leadership,


there is a lot of work did done. A fight has broken out over what the


SNP call a threatening letter from dally Alexander to the Scottish


government. -- Danny Alexander. saw the First Minister's toxic mix


of prejudice and nationalism. that description was applied to


anything, I think the public sector workers watching this broadcaster


Jake might apply it to the letter from Danny Alexander and find that


entire attitude of huge importance and consign his political party to


even lower support than it has just now, if that were possible. In the


end, to govern is to choose, and we took the decision about public


sector pensions money there was more money for public services


including more money in Scotland. To be clear, John Swinney and Alex


Salmond are free to do something on public sector pensions, but they


will have to pay the price for doing that in terms of their own


budget. That is a choice they are free to make. As this Lib Dem


conference continues, delegates have a lot to think about. They say


they are in government and underside, but clearly, there is


work to be done if that message is to be accepted across the country.


A short while ago I spoke to the Liberal Democrats Secretary of


State of Scotland, Michael Moore MP, who's at the Birmingham Conference.


I asked him first if he accepted the Tavish Scott view that the


tuition fees decision had dropped his party into the gutter ahead of


the Scottish election. We had a very difficult year, there


were a number of difficult political choices in front of us,


certainly tuition fees was one of them. That was one that we fail to


convey properly in Scotland and elsewhere in the UK. It was also,


frankly, and Tallis has spoken about this, about the difficult


decisions on the deficit, tackling the deficit to get us out of the


hole that we were left by the previous government. And any party


trying to get elected against that backdrop was facing difficulties


and we suffer the consequences and Scotland. I wonder if MPs... I


wonder if Lib Dem MPs like you will suffer the same fate that the next


to the UK general election throws up of the economy has not recovered


by then? We're certainly putting key emphasis on the economy. The


first part of this is to get the deficit under control. The Devils


at reduction plan has got to work and we have got to see growth. --


deficit reduction plan. We have focused on that in the last year.


At the conference here, we heard from Danny Alexander and Nick Clegg


so far about the priority and making sure we do everything we can


to get investment and infrastructure and to make sure


that we are teasing out the different parts of the economy to


get people employed in to get bank's lending and to make sure


businesses have what they need to create the future sustainable


growth that has been sadly lacking in the past decade. It is


interesting the policies you have set out, because one of your


colleagues said tonight that a party will be slaughtered at the


elections if there isn't economic recovery and he said that what you


need to do in order to drive the recovery is to invest more in


infrastructure and capital investment. I hope that he has been


listening carefully to what Danny Alexander said yesterday about


their half-a- billion pounds of additional funding that will be


focused on the infrastructure or investment that we need. We're


investing in science, we are looking at the state of the


infrastructure and at broadband roll-out, and everywhere the


Government is spending, we're making sure that it is really about


the economy. We spend as a government something like �700


billion every year and we need to make sure that this is as bogus as


possible in getting people in jobs, rebalancing the economy, which has


been skewed in the last few years. If you don't spend more in this


area, does admit to an enemy of crows as a minister in his


coalition government? -- does it make to an enemy. No, we need to


get the deficit under control and make sensible decisions about how


we spend money and we need to give confidence to the market that we


can deliver cred debate on the economic plan and I believe in the


last year, we have been establishing that. He cannot forget


that the deficit was bigger than any of the other countries that


struggled in the last year and we are currently enjoying some of the


lowest interest rates if any body in Europe, which is vital to help


businesses to invest. It is vital to get individuals back on their


feet after what were very tough economic times. It also tells us


how bad the economic position is. Let me ask about the coming days


when we will hear from the Scottish government, their budget plans, no


doubt they will say you should be spending more on capital investment


like Lord or pshaw, but they will also no doubt be saying that the


devolved administration needs more economic clout in order to drive


economic growth in Scotland, more cloud then you're proposing in the


Scotland Bill, do you support that agenda? Let's remember what is in


the Scotland Bill. Substantial new powers on borrowing, Paris that we


will be very access to so the Scottish government can get on with


infrastructure projects. -- Paras that we will be accessing go to the


Scottish government. We believe we have a broad range of support


across political parties in Scotland and in civics society. The


Scottish government has other proposals, corporation tax been one


of those, had we have said that we need to make the case, listen to


the points that we are making, answered those points and we will


consider that in the round. Frankly we have lacked detail from the


Scottish government. My colleague in the Treasury put key questions


about the cost of corporation tax been transferred and about the


behavioural impacts it would have and the huge cost of reducing


Scottish tax to Irish levels which is the Scottish government's


aspirations. That makes it sound like you're against, but at the


same time, you're talking about Holyrood racing all of the money


that it spends in setting up a commission to get exactly that.


Surely be two positions and inconsistent? What we have said is


the case for corporation tax has to be made with care, in detail and


has to answer some pretty fundamental concerns. What we


Rennie and I ate together are wanting colleagues in the Scottish


party to do is to look at how home rule should be refashioned in the


21st century. -- what really -- what Willie Rennie and I are doing.


That is an important process that looks at devolution in the last two


decades in building AND developing consensus and working through to


implement its, but there is a lot of assertion but not a lot of


detail. Might you're Lib Dem proposals for Holyrood to raise all


of the money include corporation tax being devolved in some shape or


We're saying we will look again at work done in previous exercises by


the party. We are proud and Scotland of what we have done over


the years to make the case for devolution. More recently, we


brought our ideas into it and persuaded others to come on board


and join us, and we got consensus. Yet again, we are looking carefully


at what is best suited for Scotland. We will look at it, build the case


and seek to build consensus. Beyond that, we will look to see where


Scotland wants to go. Corporation tax might be part of it, I guess or


no? What I have said so far is that the Scottish government is going to


make the case and have submitted a paper. We have asked fundamental


questions and I look forward to the questions as I am sure you do as


well. Now, to what's probably the last in


our series of interviews with candidates for the Scottish Tory


Leadership. Nominations close at the end of this week. Ruth Davidson


wants to lead the party in its current form, having rejected as


destabilising Murdo Fraser's ideas for a new brand altogether. So


what's her big idea for making the Tory brand a bit less toxic?


What emerged that a campaign launch was what she called a lane in the


sand over new powers for Holyrood and she promised that she would


lead the party back to power in Scotland within a decade. Real


change for the Scottish Conservatives will not come from a


new name. Real progress will come when we start talking to people


about the issues that really matter to them. Political office is new to


Ruth Davidson. She registered barely 2000 votes in Glasgow Kelvin


in May's election to the Scottish Parliament, getting in by way of


the Glasgow last. At 32, she is the youngest candidate and enjoys those


cliches of political journalism about youthfulness, fresh-faced and


so on. Here is the irony. She is getting support from the more


traditional wing of the party, establishment icons like Lord


Forsyth and Lord Sanderson enthusiastically backing her


candidacy. Combined with a cautious policy approach, many regard has


the status quo option. Ruth Davidson is a former BBC presenter


and has served in the Territorial Army. This is no doubt come in


handy in what could be a bruising contest. Ruth Davidson joins me now.


Let's start with fundamentals. What makes you a Conservative? I am a


Conservative, I believe in strong families, support for the family. I


believe in helping business and supporting entrepreneurs, I believe


in it strong law and order policies. If these are conservative values I


believe can resonate across Scotland. Let us test your


instincts. Does prison work? think it can, yes. Should we be


locking up more people convicted of crimes? I think we should have a


punishment that fits the crime and one of the things I have proposed


is that I think in Scotland we should have an effective life


tariff for the worst crimes. There are some crimes so heinous in our


society some people should not be allowed back out. Why should mean


life? I believe so. What about the economy? The top rate of income tax


is 50p, should it stay that way? the moment I think it should.


the duration of this Westminster Parliament? I think that is a


question for the Treasury and George Osborne, I am willing to


follow his lead. I believe in smaller government and smaller tax


generally but there are times when we need to set our tax


proportionately. We need to set tax progressively. Would you like to


get rid of the 50 pence rate? aspiration when we are on a server


financial footing and have got rid of her debt. Do you support minimum


pricing, minimum unit pricing for a call? I don't believe in blanket


minimum unit pricing for alcohol because that is using a hammer to


crack an egg. We need to look at where the problems are, problem


drinks and problem drinkers. I think that pricing absolutely has a


part to play in helping weans Scotland off its drink addiction.


In terms of minimum unit price and I do not think that Mrs Sally it


addresses the problems we see in our states. If what would you do


instead? I think we need to go through the tax and duty system. I


think we need to look at things like strong ciders and what we


called tonic wines on the BBC but people across the central belt will


know what I am referring to. You're referring to but fast. I was not


sure if we were allowed to use brand-names. Talking about strong


ciders and things like alcopops. If we are allowed to use brand-names,


ones which encourage younger drinkers, things like Mad Dog


Twenty20. He would put up tax but only on a UK basis. He only UN


products which are a problem. Questions about what kind of Tory


were, would you describe yourself as a traditionalist? Are you the


status quo candidate? I don't think it is fair to describe me as a


status quo candidate. I don't believe that changing the name of a


party or dissolving it or reconstituting a new party that


would sit in coalition with the Westminster Conservatives at is the


auction. That is Murdo Fraser's big idea, what is years? I want to see


real change that comes from a generational change, a change in


leadership. What we have seen in political history both at


Westminster where we saw a Labour Party that was told in the early


1990s it could not won again and then Tony Blair came forward.


have mentioned that you are younger and fresher perhaps in some ways


than the other candidates in this contest, but that is not enough,


surely? I think what I offer is a clear and positive vision for the


future of the party and the country. I have the energy to drive that


country and the will and the ability, I believe, to reconnect


with people in Scotland to perhaps stop listening to the Conservatives.


Some people were worried about a lack of experience given that you


have just been elected to Holyrood. You rival, Murdo Fraser, says that


anyone wanting to be a leader has to demonstrate they can win over


the people they work with first of all. Why are both -- most MSPs


backing him and not you? There are a number of MSPs who have not


declared yet but what is very interesting is that for the first


time in Scotland, this election is not for the leader of the Scottish


Conservative group at Holyrood. pretty important part of the job.


All contenders are MSPs. This election is to win to be the leader


of the entire party in Scotland for St do it. Speaking to a number of


people who have come out for model, and if you few the up, it for me,


they're not anti- one person they are another, they are pro Murdo


Fraser and the absolutely would serve in a conservative group in


Holyrood that I am the leader of. On that, would Murdo Fraser have a


job in your team? I have been incredibly clear all through this


that I want everybody elected in the Scottish Conservative and


Unionist Party to serve and that party. That's not met Sally I yes,


is it? It is absolutely yes. I will read it through the ranks. If it


when the other way, we deserve under the leadership of either of


your rivals? Absolutely. Going by some of Murdo Fraser's proposals,


if he goes so far as to reconstitute a new party and it is


more of a new change -- name change, then I think the party has to


decide that is the route that is going to go down. Would he joined


his new party? I would have to see what it involves and you would have


to know a lot more details but these are really questions for


Murdo Fraser. If he is proposing a whole new per 10 Scotland... What


he's blue at the party in Scotland? These are questions he would have


to ask him. I am asking for your view? It very much depends on him


because we have not heard all that he is proposing. What we have to


acknowledge is that the party has to be involved in any process down


that route. We its stock about your progress. Has devolution work in


your view? I think it is here to stay but it could work better. It


has got very positive elements and one other thing is we have talked


about during this campaign has been the Scotland Bill that is about to


happen. Why should not Holyrood have more power? Why should the


Scotland Bill be a line in the stand? As I was saying at the


launch event, let us get it working first at and implement it. I am


standing with the Prime Minister, with Annabel Goldie, with David


McLetchie and others she had been talking about in Liberal Democrats


like Danny Alexander, people like Tavish Scott. Are you saying you


are not against more power but just not now? I am saying let us see


this walking before looking to the next thing. Not a lane and Nissan


then? I want to see a the Scotland Bill working on the ground. We may


need to tweak things are in the future but if you're talking about


things like reversing corporation tax I do not believe that is the


right thing to do just now. Ruth Davidson, thank you. Let's take a


quick look at tomorrow's papers. quick look at tomorrow's papers.


Cable put a UK or more fitting. There's a picture of Andy Murray


and his girlfriend on the front page there. A similar picture and


the Daily Mail. The headline is a look ahead to the Scottish but it


on Wednesday. The Times front page goes on at the


payout in a packing case. That's payout in a packing case. That's


Live from the Liberal Democrat's annual conference in Birmingham, including an interview with Business Secretary Vince Cable.

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