11/03/2017 Scottish Liberal Democrats Conference

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Andrew Kerr presents live coverage of the Scottish Liberal Democrats' party conference from the Dewars Centre in Perth, including keynote speech by Willie Rennie.

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Hello and welcome to our live coverage of the Scottish Liberal


Democrats Spring Conference. The leader Willie Rennie will set out


his case for Scotland to stay part of the UK. We will have that, live.


The MSP Alex Cole-Hamilton tells BBC Scotland his party's MPs in the


Commons would block moves for a second independence referendum.


And I will be here at the ice rink in Perth going over the figures from


the conference. Spring Conference season feels


slightly feverish as the political temperature grows around Brexit and


an anticipated second referendum. This time it's the turn of the Lib


Dems, brandishing their pro-European credentials by demanding a


referendum on Britain's departure deal from the EU. As ever our


political editor is standing by on the conference floor. Brian, good


afternoon. The Lib Dems suffered quite a setback last year in the


Holyrood election, bumped down to fifth place by the Greens at the


parliamentary election. That is a polite way of putting it,


especially after the aftermath of the Westminster outcome as well.


Where do they believe they are now? They believe they can corral two


positions. One, they say they are the only party pro UK and pro EU


without any backsliding from those. They believe that is where the


Scottish people are as well, taking account of the two referendums we've


had in 2014 and 2016. The challenge for Willie Rennie is to change could


let potential position in line with the zeitgeist into practical votes.


That is rather a challenge as he, his party and others have found in


the past. We are just hearing from the


conference behind you. There were some comments from Alex


Cole-Hamilton, a leading right, one of the party's MSPs in Scotland


today saying his party would block moves in the House of Commons for


that section 30 order. Yes, basically you have all sorts of


numbers flying around. We are anticipating Article 50 triggered by


the Prime Minister to begin the process of withdrawing Britain from


the European Union. Then could there be a request from the First Minister


perhaps at her conference this time next week, that there should be a


transfer under section 30 of the Scotland act 1998, the one that


deals with added powers? The added power she has in mind is the power


is in 2014, to call a referendum and call it under legitimate powers. If


that section 30 request is made Alex Cole-Hamilton is saying it would


have to go through Parliament at Westminster and he says his lot


would vote against it and seek to stop it. Thank you very much. Much


more from you later in the programme.


We are joined here for the duration of the programme by a man who almost


needs no introduction, Professor John Curtis of Strathclyde


University. Thank you for joining us. Just as Brian was saying, a


polite way of putting it to say the Greens, the Lib Dems were bumped


down to fifth place, of course. The truth is the Liberal Democrats have


been in deep electoral trouble since 2011. The most recent Holyrood


election, exactly the same as five years ruthlessly. What is now going


on is the party is hoping, not just in Scotland but across the UK as a


whole, to be able to use the debate about Brexit as a way of retraining


some credibility. We saw in the Richmond by-election in London in


the autumn, the party pulled off quite a spectacular victory and


since then across the UK as a whole, its vote in the opinion polls has


finally been up two or three points. It is now running at ten or 11


rather than the 8% in the general election. It is pretty clear those


voters gained are among those in favour of remaining. Here is the


party first in favour of the UK joining the EU, the party most


comfortable with the UK's mentorship of the European Union and looking to


go back to basics as far as its message is concerned, to try and get


voters back. The problem for the party north of the border is that


the field is a bit more crowded, because the SNP have also been


campaigning quite strongly in favour of Scotland remaining inside the


European Union, and indeed that's perhaps the reason Nicola Sturgeon


may call a second independence referendum. I think what we are


hearing that this conference is an attempt either Liberal Democrats to


say, hang on, we are also the real pro-EU party in Scotland, because at


the moment at least there isn't any evidence in the polls that the party


north of the border are profiting from the party's pro Brexit position


in the way the party has to some degree at least done in England and


Wales. What do you make of points made by Alex Cole-Hamilton in


Scotland today? One has to say it was a little surprising. Gordon


Brewer who was conducting the interview was probably also


surprised. It has to be said it seemed to cut across the comments


that Nick Clegg, the former party leader, gave in a briefing to


journalists after his speech yesterday, which I think we will see


more of later on, in which he suggested basically the same to the


Prime Minister there should be a fatwa on a second independence


referendum, suggesting although he didn't think there should be a


second referendum, that the UK Parliament should not stand in the


way of one should the request for one come. It might be suggested that


maybe Nick Clegg, as one of the nine Liberal Democrat MPs, and as the


party's European spokesman might be thought more of an authority on what


his party position might be on this than Alex Cole-Hamilton, excellent


though Alex Cole-Hamilton is. We have to see how it falls out.


Certainly it sounded though yesterday, that unlike the


Conservative conference last week, we were going to get an answer from


the Democrats about what they think should happen if Nicola Sturgeon


does request a second independence referendum. After this morning we


are left still in a degree of confusion. Thank you. More from you


later in the programme, as well. Earlier conference debated a motion


looking at how to keep the United Kingdom in the EU. Central to it was


a call for a referendum on the final terms of the deal between the UK


Government and the rest of the EU. It began with a speech by a certain


Alex Cole-Hamilton. Before June I have never cried about


an election result. As a Liberal Democrat given the decade we had


that is something of an achievement. On the morning of the 24th of June I


wept bitterly. It felt as though I had woken to a country I no longer


recognised. That 52% of my fellow people were at odds at everything I


hold dear. This referendum is one on a case that has long since


evaporated, an voodoo economics, xenophobia and amidst representation


of our entire relationship with European institutions. And now, in


the final analysis, the true cost of a hard Brexit is being measured out


in the abject terror etched on faces of academics, and economists. Today


I want to send a message to internationalists who rejected


independence in 2014 but are sick of Brexit and are toying with it in


order to regain their membership of the EU, Nicola Sturgeon is using


you. Nearly half of her party who voted supported leave and already


she is marching to the beat of their drum, desperate to keep the


independence coalition alive she has jettisoned any reference of four


mentorship of the EU, talking instead meekly about after and of


customs union. They cannot be trusted by those of us who care


about Europe. I'm going to go against the majority


view of this party for the simple reason it is unrealistic and


unfeasible. As much as it pains me to say this, the UK is leaving the


European Union and anyone who disagrees with Brexit is publicly


attacked by the right-wing media. Now I never had a say in it, but I


respect the view of England and Wales. But I also respect the will


of the Scottish people to remain, which I believe we must honour at


all costs. To do so is democratically acceptable and it is


of paramount importance that we defend our place in the European


Union. We simply cannot afford to fall in the footsteps of Labour and


the Conservatives in not respecting the European Union result in


Scotland. On independence, I was a no


supporter in 2014, but then I saw what happened last year. I changed


my mind, although I did love the UK, I've witnessed a sharp right turn in


people's views, talking about our friends, teachers, our colleagues


and doctors, like they're aliens with a vicious plot to destroy our


country. I don't want to live and an intolerant UK overrun by right-wing


populists. I want Scotland to be a member of a progressive, outward


looking confident with our friends at the European Union. Yesterday I


read an article by a Spanish member of the European Parliament, saying


they won't veto Scottish membership of the EU. I also saw an editor 's


Mori poll showing support for independence is neck and neck at the


moment. What does this show? It shows that more people in our


country are starting to think like me, and that obstacles are slowly


deteriorating. I'm unable to plan my future here


because I have a sword above me. Not only I didn't get a voice in the EU


referendum, but the Tory government had the audacity to use me and my


fellow EU expatriates as a bargaining chip in the hard Brexit


negotiations. We are threatened lose our job, our house, our lives that


we've built here. A very complex 85 page form for permanent residence.


Lib Dem research showed 28% of them, including those with British


families and children, have been rejected, sometimes for an un-ticked


box and we were told to be prepared to leave this country.


The former Deputy Prime Minister has warned delegates at the conference


that Brexit could lead to the end of the United Kingdom. Nick Clegg told


the audience to be on their guard against despair and defeatism and


attempted to make arguments for liberal values, at a time when he


sees national was on the rise. Brian Taylor caught up with him.


Nick Clegg, Thank you for joining us. With regard to Brexit, I get the


concept, but now we are where we are, what is your objective now,


what are you seeking? The main objective is now to give the British


people a proper say about what happens next, because let's remember


the referendum on the 23rd of June last year gave the mandate of the


government to proceed with Brexit, but it gave the British people


absolutely no idea, no depiction or notion of what kind of Brexit.


There's a lot of different versions of Brexit. The Brexiteers cleverly


and cynically withheld from the British people any description of


what kind of Brexit they were pursuing. The reason they withheld


that is they didn't want to frighten the horses at the time. So they won


a surprising victory in the ballot box, but the cost of a complete sort


of vacuum as to what happens next. Of course, it should be the British


people in charge of our collective fate, just as they were in terms of


the initial decision. That's why we say when we finally know what Brexit


finally in tales from subsidies to fisheries to our trade relations and


so on, give the British people the first say in what Brexit really


means in substance. With that further referendum be only on the


details of the terms or might it involve reversing Brexit altogether,


putting a stop to it altogether? If the British people were to say when


we're right at the edge of the cliff at that point, we don't want to jump


off and we'd rather stay on terra firma, clearly it would be then for


us as a nation to decide whether we are after all want to stay in the


European Union. My own view... You could see as a prospect, that Brexit


doesn't happen? I can only see that as a prospect of the British people


change their mind. It seems to me that one of the absolute central


elements of any democracy is the freedom to change your mind when the


facts change. Now at the moment we don't know what Brexit looks like. I


hope people like me, will have the humility that if Brexit turns out to


be a wonderful success, as Boris Johnson says, it will be


splendiferous and a wonderful utopia. The deal? Yes, then I hope


people like me would have the humility to say we were wrong.


Equally, just imagine if the numerous predictions that Brexit


isn't going to be a walk in a park or an economic paradise, creating


difficulties for families up and down the country you should give the


family is the right to say what then happens. Theresa May would say a


parliamentary vote on the Parliamentary vote would be yes to


the terms or we leave without any terms. You are saying there should


be a public, popular vote and it would be either yes to the terms or


we stay in Europe? Theresa May's position at the moment is ludicrous.


She says Parliament should have a vote but I will only give Parliament


vote between what might be a bad deal, so a rubbish deal, and chaos.


Since when is any Parliament, let alone the mother of all


Parliaments... What we are saying is if and when there is a deal, if and


when there is a deal you then have a choice. Either Theresa May decides


legally on behalf of the whole nation whether we go ahead with it


or not, or the politicians do, or the people. I think in keeping with


the initial kind of decision to proceed towards Brexit, the decision


to finally sort of sign and seal it should be taken by the people.


Either way, this is not some sort of kooky Lib Dem idea but advocated by


David Davis, John Redwood and many Brexiteers in the past. They've now


rather conveniently fallen silent because they think they have the


country over a barrel and are going to proceed with hard Brexit at any


cost. You would put the alternative accept the terms of the deal or stay


in the European Union, that would be the alternative? Or go back to the


negotiating table. A multiple option? I think when you have the


referendum, as we know for better or for worse, referendums are guilty of


simplifying difficult choices, now you know what Brexit entails and


what it means for your family, do you still want it yes or no. And no


would be used in the European Union? I think legally no would of course


be Britain... And I suspect many other European countries would hold


their heads in the hands that Britain said we want to go, then


stay, and then stay after all. I know having spoken to many leaders


of the European Union, however sad they are Britain wants to leave on


how exasperated they are by this coming and going over the 40 years


we've been a member of the European Union, they all, they all in the


final instance believe it would be better for the European Union to be


a family of nations working together, rather than falling apart.


Some of your rivals would call this... Saying it was a way of


getting around June 23. Do you think it's feasible Britain will remain in


the EU at the end of this process? I think it is possible, not


necessarily likely but possible. Events are changing so dramatically.


I will tell you why I don't think it's impossible. If you and I had


received, and millions of other voters, in the run-up to the


referendum in June, had received a manifesto will with photos of Boris


Johnson, Nigel Farage, Michael Gove on the front cover and a nice


introduction saying, this is our collective view of the kind of


Brexit we want, in and out of the singles market and Customs union and


so on, then people like me would now not have a leg to stand on, because


not only would they have gained the mandate to proceed towards Brexit,


they would have gained the mandate from the British people on the terms


of the Brexit. They very deliberately and cynically didn't do


that. They actually still don't agree among themselves about what


sort of Brexit they want. That is why there is still a decision to be


made, which is yes we are proceeding towards Brexit. We don't know what


kind of Brexit. That surely... It's not a technical matter, it's a


matter of profound constitutional significance, what kind of Brexit,


hard Brexit or soft Brexit, a disruptive one or less disruptive


one. The people should have the final say. Nick Clegg, thank you


very much indeed for joining me. Nick Clegg there are of course.


Brian is back live now. Yes, joined by two parliamentarians.


Thank you both for joining us. Mike Rumbles and Mike Purvis. Let's talk


Europe first of all. We've been hearing that Europe debate, the


contributions from Nick Clegg, the former leader. You talk about this


referendum on the Brexit terms. That is a diddle, a way of saying we lost


and with sore and we want to run the contest again. The point we made


repeatedly in the House of Lords, and we were the strongest in the


House of Lords when it came to trying to change the Article 50 bill


to reflect what I think it's a growing desire in the country, it's


the people who should decide, weather and exit deal with the EU is


in their interest. The voters of leave would say your loss, give in


and don't try and run it again. To hold it again and again until you


get the answer you like stubble or they might say that but they would


be arguing probably the same case they have been arguing for 25 years


and longer. We can set that aside. The real issue is the youngest


people, many of which were not in referendum at all, the 16 and


17-year-olds, will have an average 60 years to live with this


consequence of what will be decided in the next few years, we believe


very strongly they should decide if the exit deal is in the best


interests for themselves. That's why we made the case in Parliament. We


will continue to make that case on Monday in the House of Lords,


because I believe the people are the best of the is the best deal or not.


Mike Rumbles, on the point of principle, if you like. Isn't it


arguable that you should now just accept the position and try without


rather than seeking to overturn it? I think the differences we accept


the decision of the British on the referendum but when the referendum


negotiations are over it shouldn't be the Prime Minister and Cabinet to


decide on the terms with which we leave the EU. We need to know what


the deal is and we need to tell the British people and the British


people are sovereign on this. We should be saying to them, here is


the deal the Prime Minister has negotiated. Do you want to accept


this deal or not? The first referendum was only the start of the


process. The end of the process is a rubber stamp from the voters, from


the people, to save this is right or wrong. Let's talk about the House of


Lords again. You mentioned the Lords have sent it back to the Commons


with two crucial amendment, saying there should be an actual real


Parliamentary vote at the end and there should be a sanction the EU


members to stay. If the Commons just chuck throws back on this know is


that the end of it or do you see it going back and forth? We believe


very strongly these are of fundamental importance. Whether the


Labour Party will crumble in the House of Commons as they did in the


House of Lords we will see on Monday evening. This is something where, we


are the party that wanted to reform the Lords, we wanted it to be a


democratic -- democratically elected chamber. We will use those powers


and if anything, the speech I made in the Article 50, I'm casting votes


for the next generation and for the young people in Scotland and across


the whole of the UK that didn't vote for Brexit, they need a voice and I


want to be that voice. Today they will argue the Liberal Democrats can


represent a majority, pro-EU, pro-UK, a majority in Scotland


because of the outcome of the two referendums but you are not


demonstrating that on the ground in terms of popular support. We are


starting from a pretty low level but going upwards. The opinion polls are


up, our council elections victory is a wrap. All measures of electoral


support are up. We have a tremendous opportunity now to convince the


Scottish people that we are the only party out there that want the United


Kingdom together and want to be in the European Union. Do you expect


there to be a second referendum on independence? Do you expect that to


happen? I don't expect it to happen because the First Minister doesn't


have a mandate for it. If it comes to the Scottish Parliament, we are


committed to voting against this because there is no mandate. I tell


you why, because she is usurping my vote on the vote of many people like


me last year when she says Scotland voted to stay in the European Union.


On the ballot paper, my ballot paper said we wanted the UK to remain in


the European Union. She doesn't have a mandate. Nick Clegg takes a


different view and says they shouldn't be a fatwa from the Prime


Minister. Admittedly he says he's against the idea of a second


referendum. Would you as part of parliamentarians at Westminster seek


to block the section 30 power being transferred back to Scotland?


Currently we have no idea what Nicola Sturgeon is wanting to put


forward and we have no idea what Theresa May and the Conservatives


are doing. Clarity on the Liberal Democrat position. There is no


question that needs to be clarity. Mike has given the position... From


the Scottish party that we don't even want it to get out of Holyrood,


because we stood on our manifesto campaign. There's no question.


Anyone watching the should have no question, we don't support another


Scottish referendum. Even if the people... We had the referendum


once, once-in-a-lifetime. That was supposed to close down the whole


issue. The difference with the European referendum is that


referendum last year started the process and we need to finish it.


What we should have done in the independence referendum, that was a


stop and close because the Scottish people clearly said no, we want to


stay within the United Kingdom. I beg your pardon, we have to stop


there, going into the hall itself... Willie Rennie is about to speak,


let's hear him. Thank you for that very warm welcome


and thank you for joining our team of spokespeople. I know you will be


a great addition to the team, applying that strong and determined


mind to the environment. Thank you again for that introduction.


APPLAUSE 2017 of the year of anniversaries in


the Rennie family. My parents marked their 60th year of


marriage. Janet and I celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary. Our first


son Alexander was born 21 years ago. And just for a bit of advance


warning, my 50th is in September! LAUGHTER


Janet and I set up our first home in a little village in Cornwall.


Alexander was born in the hospital in Plymouth. My father served his


National Service in Staffordshire. My first proper job was in Cornwall.


My son's first job was at Butlins in Somerset. That's my family. Our


family story is like so many others in Scotland, and the rest of the


United Kingdom. Our lives are intertwined, connected, we are one.


Our lives are intertwined as well with people from all across Europe


who have set up their home here. Europeans who live, work, pay their


taxes, have married and brought up their families here. Like my Polish


sister-in-law moniker, living and working in Scotland for a decade and


now choosing to make Homer with her new family here in Scotland. We are


one. So the debate on the constitution is personal. It's not a


dry and dusty debate about government structures. It's about


family, community, destiny. I want to bring communities and peoples


together, not drive them apart. That is why I will oppose erecting a


barrier, any barrier, in the heart of my family. Just like I will


oppose erecting a barrier, any barrier, in the heart of the United


Kingdom more European Union. The United Kingdom is our family, the


European Union is our family and we stand together with our family.


APPLAUSE Erecting barriers and division


between us and the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland


with independence is just as objectionable as the division we are


seeing with the people of Europe, as a result of Brexit. It upsets me


when I hear conservatives describing European people as takers not


givers. That somehow they are only interested in what they can get from


our welfare state and NHS. It upsets me when I hear Nationalists describe


British people as the far right, selfish, mean-spirited and insular.


Conservatives want me to choose my British family over my European


family. Nationalists want me to choose my European family over my


British family. My message to them both is clear... I choose my family


over your division. APPLAUSE


It looks as if the First Minister is determined to rerun the referendum


of only three years ago. It is not a battle I want. After all the


divisions of the last campaign, and we will not vote for it. But if the


Nationalists think that by asking the question over and over again


they will beat us into submission, then they need to think again. And


by the way, it will take more than threatening to bring back Alex


Salmond to make us change our mind, too. I will stand up for our United


Kingdom family. We will lead the way on the kind of campaign for the


United Kingdom that we want to see. We should set the terms.


There is much talk about the economy. I am sure some businesses


may benefit from independence. I have heard there is particular


excitement at the prospect of an order is room at the flag factories


of Falkirk and the face painters of Arbroath. I can tell you, they are


absolutely over the moon at the prospect of another independence


referendum. But we know the economic case for independence is weaker than


even in 2014. So I will not dwell on that today. The new case for the


United Kingdom is a positive, uplifting one that focuses on the


ties that bind us rather than the differences that some would use to


divide us. It is that emotional case, it is the liberal case for


unity, the compassionate case, it goes to the heart of who we are.


Britain is full of people who care. We together care about the


environment, poverty at home and abroad, the sick the elderly, the


young. Our country is jammed of people who want a better world. The


Oxford committee for famine relief was a group of concerned citizens


who first met in 1942 to relieve famine in Greece. You know what,


today they are Oxfam. In the wake of the First World War one woman and


her sister campaigned for children. In the early 20s they filled a ship


with 600 tonnes of aid bound for Russia, to save the lives of 300,000


children and more than 350,000 adults. Save the children now helps


over 17 million children every year. Both charities, born in the heart of


Britain, showing compassion to the world. British people with


compassion and care, and digging into their pocket. We should


celebrate our generosity and compassion, it is a mark of who we


are. No Scottish Nationalists will tell me I should be ashamed of that.


I am proud of who we are. APPLAUSE


And that compassion has built some of the best public services too. It


is why we built the best Health Service in the world. The second


biggest aid budget in the world. The welfare state to help people in


need. Public compassion has driven that state action. Of course, there


are political differences within our country. But so there are in


Scotland too. You just need to travel from Perth here to Dundee to


see those differences. Think about this - there are ten times as many


Remain voters in England as there are in Scotland. Think about this -


the majority of people in England did not vote for the Conservatives.


Just because some English people have repugnant views does not make


the entirety of them repugnant. Just as some Scottish people have


offensive opinions, does not make us all offensive either. Nigel Farage,


that tweed clad xenophobe is not representative of all English


people, just as Edward Coburn is not represent idea of all Scots. I


admire the great historical figures of progress from all parts of


Britain. Emlin ParkHurst on votes for women. William beverage,


building the Welfare State, our United Kingdom is an uplifting,


mutely beneficial partnership that we should cherish, not thrash.


APPLAUSE So if we head into another


referendum, the responsibility on liberals is great. We must stand up


and be counted for our values. This is a Battle of Ideas, not of


identities and flags. We must stand up for our family, whether in


Britain or across Europe. We must make the positive, open


internationalist case, tell our friends about how compassionate,


tolerant and generous the United Kingdom is. Send a message of hope


that things can be better still. We should be like Laura Muir, always


willing to run another lap. We can turn back the tide of division. We


can celebrate both our differences and the tie that is bind us. We can


say no to independence and yes to partnership. We can once and for all


put an end to the claim that if you do not believe in independence, you


do not believe in Scotland. APPLAUSE


So if our First Minister gambles with our country again, I can tell


you now that the Liberal Democrats will campaign for Scotland's


partnership with the United Kingdom. We will not just campaign with


numbers on a spreadsheet, but with smiles in our hearts. I want all


people who live in this country to rise up and say we stand with our


neighbours. That we cherish the compassion of British people and we


value our partnership. Our job is to turn back the tied of division.


APPLAUSE The Conservatives have been gambling


too. Their EU referendum gamble put their party before our country.


Reckless on the economy. Risking our security. Threatening our


environment. Diminishing our place in the world. Holding Donald Trump's


tiny hand. All to unite a fractured party. More interested in reaching


for the past than recognising the modern Britain we have become. This


is the biggest change in our international posture in a


generation. From partnership through global organisations, to a futile


attempt to build our own power base in the world. Theresa May knows the


price of Brexit. Ruth Davidson, she knows the cost, but they both charge


towards the cliff at an ever faster rate. In the Budget, the Chancellor


had to create a war chest to fight off the effects of Brexit. It's a


colossal ?60 billion. On our own doorstep, a university has told us


that they're cutting 100 jobs and say Brexit is one of the reasons.


And the prices in the shops are on the rise. Energy prices are on the


rise. Jobs are being lost. That's the hard cost of a Conservative


Brexit. It is hitting us in our pockets and costing our country dear


and we haven't even left the European Union. It turns out the


Conservatives are building a wall and they're expecting us to pay for


it. It's reckless and we will oppose it.


APPLAUSE Now, of course, we must respect the


result of the referendum. But political leaders have got a


responsibility to lead. And leadership is what this country is


missing at one of the most significant periods in modern


political times. Labour has shown an astonishing level of indifference to


the fate of our country. No challenge. No questions. Just


compliance. They have turned the fine tradition of her imagine tee's


loyal opposition to her imagine tee's obedient opposition. That's


why it would only be right for the British people to take charge of the


final say on whatever deal is agreed by the Conservative Government with


the EU. A Brexit deal referendum is the right and democratic thing to


do. When they look back at this time, our grandchildren will be


astonished that they did not take our time and ask ourselves the


question whether we really wanted this. When the Brexit deal proves to


be so damaging, why would we not ask the British people a new question? I


told this conference in the autumn that I will not give up on Europe


and I won't. We can win the case. Public opinion can change. We saw it


with the invasion of Iraq. From jeering our Charles Kennedy in the


street at the start, people turned to oppose the Iraq war. Political


leadership is sometimes about persuading people, not just


repeating what the last focus group told you. That's followership, when


the jobs are lost and the mortgages rise and the prices ib cease and the


foreign investment declines and the cost becomes ever more apparent, the


mood, the view, the opinion of the merit of Brexit will go into


reverse. Our job, as Liberal Democrats, will be to be there, to


be the gathering place, to give the leadership to win the cause, that's


our purpose and that is what we will do.


APPLAUSE The Conservatives have abandoned the


internationalist posture. This country has built over generations.


The Labour Party timidly accept that approach. The SNP was to compound


the break-up of Europe with a break-up of the United Kingdom. And


this week, we heard from Jim Sellers. He says he won't back


independence if it means being in the European Union. He speaks for


one in three independent supporters who also backed Brexit. Alex Salmond


have been unusually coy on this subject. You haven't heard any


senior nationalist say the only way to keep Scotland in the EU is to


have independence. They used to say that all of the time. They did that,


didn't they? Do you remember? They used to say it all the time. Now,


they never do. They now say that their dissatisfaction with the UK


Government transcends the issue of Europe. So the evidence is mounting.


The nationalists are preparing a sell-out of Europe in a desperate


bid to win independence. Some people have thought about whether perhaps


Scottish independence is the best way to stay in the EU. But it's


clear to me that if you trust the SNP on this then you are going to be


disappointed. So let me tell you of the fundamental risk that


independence now poses. It is to leave Scotland outside the United


Kingdom, and outside the European Union. The worst of all worlds. What


a disaster that would be. APPLAUSE


I tell you, there is a better way. The best way for us to stay in the


European Union is through the United Kingdom, with the economic


consequences of Brexit becoming clear, people like John Major, Alan


Johnson, Tony Blair, backing a re-think. Our victory in Richmond


Park showing there is momentum in the UK for change. We have the


nation's eyes upon us and we won. Even Bob Geldof campaigned in


Richmond High Street with me! By the way, it was a good job he came on a


Wednesday because I'm told he doesn't like Mondays!


I knew you would love that one. You have to be of a certain age to


understand that one! I noticed you all laughed. Pro-EU


people should not fall for the nationalist trick. They should back


the only pro EU party, the party that will never use Europe for


narrow ends. The party that has always stood up for Europe. The


Scottish Liberal Democrats. APPLAUSE


It is the Liberal Democrats that speak for the majority of people in


our country. A majority of people in Scotland voted for Scotland to


remain in the United Kingdom. We stand with them. And a majority of


people in Scotland voted for the United Kingdom to remain in the


European Union. And we stand with them too. No one else stands with


the majority of Scotland for the United Kingdom and for the European


Union. Liberal Democrats do. And we will stand against the actions of


the political fire raisers of our time. A majority of people in


Scotland want to keep the United Kingdom, but the SNP want to burn it


down. They do not speak for Scotland. And a majority of people


in Scotland want to keep the European Union, but the


Conservatives want to burn that down. They do not speak for


Scotland. They are each lighting the match in response to the actions of


the others, determined to start fires that threaten our economy,


security, and our environment. Scotland has had enough of their


fire raising. It is our job to put those fires out.


APPLAUSE And it doesn't have to be like this.


We can build a better future for the whole UK. Last week Kezia Dugdale


made the case for federalism. Welcome Kez! It makes a change to


see Labour fighting the battles of 2017, not 1983 or 1970 in Moscow in


John McDonnell's case. LAUGHTER


We have the opportunity to build something bigger. To grow the


movement for a federal UK. It's federalism that we have been


advocating for 100 years. In the last 20, we have seen the idea


develop. Power is now shared around the UK more than ever before. We can


do more. Federalism is the wrong term and viable future for the UK


that saves us from the forces of perpetual division. It would move us


on from the Punch and Judy show of Westminster versus the rest. So that


is why I can tell you today that I have appointed Jeremy Purvis to lead


a new group that will work with people from other parties and none


to develop the case for federalism in the United Kingdom. More and more


people from different parties and different parts of Britain are


looking at federalism. We will be there to help bring them together.


If you are tired of division, tired of history repeating and repeating


and repeating, fed-up with the fires that destroy then it is the time to


try something new. Federalism is the stable, secure and respectful future


that we can bring. APPLAUSE


And while the SNP and Conservatives are busy lighting fires, they ignore


the need to get on with the day job. There is work to be done. Scottish


education used to be one of the best in the world. It is now slipping


down the international rankings. Reforms, they're chaotic and


regressive. On mental health, we once had a world leading mental


health strategy. But now we don't even have one anymore. The SNP have


left it to rot. During the Budget talks with the SNP we discovered


that they are much further behind on mental health than even we feared.


The SNP reeled against the council tax for decades, describing it as


evil and unfair. But now they have saved it from abolition. They


ignored their own independent commission, forced through arbitrary


increase and rocked the council tax in place for another generation. And


then there is Keith Brown, our economy secretary. Not only is our


economy lagging behind the rest of the UK, with growth slower,


employment lower, productivity still behind, there was Amazon. He paid


them millions of pounds in grants, but didn't bother to check if they


paid the proper Living Wage. And then there was China. He got the


First Minister, his boss, to sign an agreement worth, we were told, a


whopping ?10 billion, but he didn't bother to check on their Human


Rights record first. It was not good. One stands accused of


corruption and abuse in Africa. And he didn't bother to check if the


company had any money to spend, but it turns out they didn't, they run a


pub in the Cotswolds! This is true. LAUGHTER


No Living Wage, no Human Rights check, no money. . These people


aspire to run an independent country, but they do not run a Human


Rights check-in a china shop up the Amazon!


APPLAUSE But it does not have to be like


this. Liberal Democrats engage constructively with the Scottish


Government to try to make improvements, big improvements, to


its budget. Ours was a ?400 million package for our economy through


investing in people. For mental health, with support for early


intervention and in primary care the police and A departments. For


investment in colleges, to bring back part-time courses especially


for women and mature students. For a pupil premium in schools that has


been proven to give poorer children the opportunity to be all they can


be. For more cash into our police to help them recover from the botched


SNP centralisation. This was a chance for the Scottish Parliament


to use the new powers that we argued and campaigned for. This was a


chance to deliver a positive programme of reform to make our


country the best again. But this was a missed chance because the SNP just


wouldn't do it because they had their eye on a very different prize.


It's time to get on with the day job, to focus on our people, to make


a difference for everyone. This is not the time to divide our country


once again with yet another independence debate.


APPLAUSE And there are six weeks until we


have a chance to send a message on all of this. The council elections


are a chance for us to show who we are. We have a message of hope, not


division. A Liberal Democrat council elected council will be an advocate,


not a cheerleader for independence. They will be an advocate for better


mental health, for investment in education, for a stronger economy


against a Conservative hard Brexit, for Scotland in the United Kingdom.


And for an end to the council tax. That's a positive plan of action for


every part of Scotland. APPLAUSE


As you would expect, I've been knocking on doors and speaking with


voters across the country. I have joined some of our excellent


candidates who are leading the way. Carol Ford from Glasgow Trish


Robertson, Clare Graham from Musselburgh, Rosie O'Neill, Lauren


Jones, Kevin Lang, I'm not going to list them all, Ben Laurie, Chris


Dickinson, Katrina Campbell, I have been on the doors with Alex and Liam


and Mike who have been working hard at Holyrood and then getting out to


support our local candidates in the evenings. First class. Dedicated


advocates for their communities, all and everyone of them and I want


everyone of you here to support them.


APPLAUSE We have a great team. We need strong


liberal voices for the challenges we all have ahead. The optimistic


forces. The liberal case. The international posture. It needs


standard bearers. As we face the forces of division, we have to ask


ourselves who we are, and what we will do. The question that will be


asked of us in years to come when people ask about this time is this -


what did you do? When the world in 2016 and 2017 faced Brexit, Trump,


Le Pen in France, Vilders in the Netherlands, what did you do? What


did you do when our country of 300 years faced break-up? I don't want


just to say that we mocked them for their terrible hair! I want to be


able to say we stood strong more the international liberal answer the we


stood with Justin through dough for refugees with a manual macron for


social progress, for D# 6 and Mark Riter in the Netherlands for values


and for the positive values for the hole of the UK free from the


division of the SNP. We will be able to say we stood for a better, open,


positive world, based on partnership, trust and generosity of


spirit. What did we do? We did the liberal thing and we got back to


winning again. Thank you. APPLAUSE


Willie Rennie there receiving a standing ovation at the Lib Dem


spring conference in Perth. He said the debate on the constitution is


personal. It's about family, community, destiny. He said the


economic case for independence was weaker than in 2014. He said the new


case for the UK is positive and uplifting. He said a Brexit deal


referendum is a right and democratic thing to do. A Scottish independence


would leave Scotland out of the UK and the EU and he said he would


stand up for the majority of Scotlanders saying that he stood up


for the UK and the EU, federalism, the long-term future for the UK. He


announced a cross-party group on federalism too. Professor John


Curtis is still with me watching the pictures in the hall in Perth. John,


just your initial reaction to Willie Rennie's speech? Well there, is the


third conference speech that we have had of the Scottish party season and


it is another conference speech where the issue of whether or not


there should or shouldn't be a referendum has been central and


indeed a speech which almost yet again seems to be written on the


assumption that Nicola Sturgeon at some point in the not too distant


future will be asking for a second independence referendum. In add van


of today's speech we were told Mr Rennie would layout the emotional


case for staying inside the EU. That case seemed to be basically a belief


that the United Kingdom is actually a progressive, compassionate country


in his point of view and that's reflected in his work in Oxfam and


the National Health Service, etcetera. I'm not quite sure this


will necessarily go down as a major contribution and a major original


contribution to the case for the European Union, for Scotland


remaining inside the UK. What was the rather more interesting part of


the speech was the argument in which he suggested that actually although


the reason why perhaps we might have a second independence referendum is


because Scotland voted Remain inside the European Union. That actually


perhaps the SNP will ditch that argument as if indeed the referendum


is called because of an awareness that around one in three of those


who voted yes in September 2014 actually voted to leave the European


Union and are therefore trying to predicate the argument for


independence as a means of keeping Scotland inside the European Union


may provide divisive. That was interesting. I think a different


line of attack on the SNP. In a sense a notice to the SNP if they


try to do that, Willie Rennie will be reminding us why are we having


this referendum to keep Scotland inside the European Union, why have


we dropped it and the Liberal Democrats will keep on going on


about it. That was the most interesting part of the speech. He


is trying to do, as we suggested at the beginning of the programme, is


to suggest it is only the Liberal Democrats who are the pro-European


party. He wants to undermine the credentials of the SNP on that


count. John, thank you very much. Well, let's head back to the


conference hall in Perth for live reaction now. Brian Taylor is


standing by with some guests. Brian. Two SNPs. What was playing the Who


and Teenage Wasteland? It was a barn storming speech. Let's talk about


the European referendum. You want a further one on the Brexit terms and


he was trying to suggest that the SNP cannot be trusted on European


Union membership and the best way to keep Scotland in the EU is through


the UK, really? Article 50 is about to be triggered we've leaving as the


UK surely? We are the only party who stands in the space occupied by the


majority of the Scottish people who voted to reject independence in 14


and voted to remain in the last referendum in 2016 and the policies


we've under scored with that at this weekend, underpin us as the main


party. Those people should gather to, who want to stay in the UK and


want to stay in the EU. I get it, you corrale these two things


together, but it's stretching it a bit, is it not, to say the way for


Scotland to stay in the EU is to stay attached to a United Kingdom


that's on the verge of leaving the European Union, we're about to


trigger the departure signal, surely? The argument Willie was


getting across, it is evident from the remarks from Jim Sellers and


others and indeed the way the vote panned out amongst yes supporters,


the support for Brexit, for Leave was significant and a party that's


been hell bent on independence at any cost over the last number of


years cannot be trusted. I think your argument for remaining part of


the European Union, where you're collaborating with your partners,


where you give-and-take is undermined, if at the same time


you're making exactly the reverse argument within the context of the


union you're currently a member of. Jim Sellers doesn't speak for the


SNP? He speaks for a large part of the yes in the nationalist movement


and that hasn't been discounted. The point Willie was making. We have


heard little from Alex Salmond or from Mike Russell. Two people who


have never been shy of grabbing any available mic at the first


opportunity to give the Scots the been fit of their wisdom. Clarify


things, Alec. We have had others say, you guys as a party would vote


against any means of bringing about a second independence referendum, a


section 30 transfer? We stood for election last year on a mandate that


was clear to oppose a second referendum on independence. And we


have our instructions from the electorate so we will act


accordingly and vote consistently to block a second referendum. Some


would say you got your instruckses from the electorate on 23rd June


which was to get out of the yurp, but you still want to have another


referendum on that, on the terms, that's hypocrisy? Nearly 50% of the


people of Great Britain would love to stay part of the EU, yet we are


the only political party that stands with them in that firm mament, it is


in the finest traditions of democracy... You lost on 23rd June.


You lost. You lost the argument. You lost the vote. The SNP lost the


independence referendum in 2014 yet you would never expect... You're


trying to stop them from having a say. You want a second referendum on


Europe? I think it is acceptable, except on the Brexit referendum in


June last year, there was a vote to leave. I don't think anybody would


dispute the fact that point of departure has been consented to by


the British public. What they have not signed up to is the hard Brexit,


the mandate that Theresa May and her colleagues seem to be hell bent on


taking forward and I think it is only right that the British people


have an opportunity to express their views on what that point of


destination is. Is the difference in 2014 we had a White Paper, the White


Paper you derided... I have met a few of the authors of that White


Paper. Setting out proposals for independence and in 2016, there was


no such thing. It was just a Brexit? The concept of what Brexit meant was


very different depending on which leader of the Leave campaign you


listened to. Subsequently some of the key messages from the Leave


campaign about remaining part of the single market, not leaving the


customs union, the ?350 million for our NHS, all of those have been cast


aside. That calls into question the mandate. It makes it imperative that


the British public have an opportunity to express their opinion


on the detail of what it is that Theresa May and her colleagues


finally negotiate. If they express that opinion, could it be in your


view that Britain remains in the European Union rather than leaving


as was suggested from 23rd June? Sepp


That ?350 million to the NHS, for example, evaporated. When we


understand what had Brexit means, the isolation and economic collapse,


you will see that needle of public opinion move more in the favour of


the decision and our party is taking at this conference to stand up for


those who have an internationalist perspective on one based in the EU.


Do you think there will be, regardless of your opposition, do


you think there will be another independence referendum, perhaps


next year? I think ever since the EU referendum Nicola Sturgeon has been


using that as a Trojan horse to get another referendum and a crack at


the whip. She will look at back at this, and should've won a look back


in 20 years and they, what would've happened if I just pulled the


trigger? There is almost certainty behind a second referendum. I think


she's been dropping ever more obvious hints about her intentions.


I think with the support of the Green Party in the Scottish


Parliament she see a pathway towards it. I think however some of the


apprehension she has shown up until now, is the fact she knows what the


polls suggest, that there is an overwhelming desire to go down this


route again, to open up the divisions that frankly, whatever the


energising effect of that last referendum, the way it divided


families, communities, workplaces, is not something many people want to


see again. Would you fight it? Another better together? It looks


like it wouldn't be. That is an interesting aspect. It took up the


bulk of Willie Rennie's speech. The economic argument for independence


is dead, is owned by Andrew Wilson and some of the White Paper itself.


I think we see oil prices at the moment... He would not say he has


disowned the argument. I think the economic argument now is not strong.


Would you work with Labour and Tories? We need to find a more


positive way of putting the argument, finding the things that


unite us. Dum Project Fear and go for project positive? There needs to


be a more positive argument. If you look at the Brexit campaign, by


sticking to the dry figures there's an fear you end up losing. Could it


be a joined up campaign with the three principal pro-European


parties? One of the key principles of liberalism is pluralism. We


believe we won't turn face against other parties, or groups who want to


work together to make a positive case for us remaining in the United


Kingdom. I think that is the only way we can take down that formidable


Nationalists campaign that we saw in 2014, that has been gearing up for


this for the last two years. They've been waiting for the go order. We


ignore those other like-minded groups at our peril. Thank you for


joining us. Particular grateful to you as you came here instead of


watching the rugby. That is dedication! STUDIO: All very


dedicated, thank you for that. Delegates at have also condemned the


Chancellor's budget on Wednesday as fundamentally unfair. They accused


the UK Government of piling the greater burden on people who, as


they put it, are feeling the Brexit squeeze. Lord Purvis said it was


affirmation of the cost of Brexit on our pockets.


With the context of Brexit, the hardest of hardest of Brexit is the


government wished to bring, what is the budget we see within that


context? Well, the sound constitutional reasons the House of


Lords will not be voting on this budget but we will have a voice. I


will certainly have a voice. That voice will be highlighting that we


believe it is unfair for very many thousands of people in Scotland


working very hard who are self-employed. But it does say


something, does it not conference, when perhaps the least popular


Chancellor in living memory, Norman Lamont, criticise the budget and the


Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson supported it? What does that mean?


That means that it highlights perhaps more than anything else the


difference between the conservative approach to budgets and finance and


ours. We have budget fairness that is the hallmark of our approach.


Yes, investing in public services, but making sure that those who had


the broadest shoulders carry most of the burden. With Ruth Davidson it is


the other way round. She had the audacity even this week, to say that


any increase budget for the Scottish parliament should be used as tax


breaks for the wealthiest. We will be campaigning in Price and across


the UK as a combined Liberal Democrat party against these


changes. I am self-employed and these tax


changes affect me directly. I want to say first I don't necessarily


object to paying higher taxes. We should increase taxes, what I


disagree with is the Chancellor's assertions of employed people now


apparently have the same benefits as employed people. Which made no sense


to me when I heard it, it made no sense to me the third, fourth, fifth


or sixth time I read it. I would like to give you some examples of


how self employed people don't have the same benefits. I don't have the


right to an employer pension, which won't be compulsory in the next


couple of years. I don't have any entitlement to holiday pay or sixth


leave or anything like that. I don't have the ability to access a union


if I want. All of these things are things I have sacrificed in order to


work in the industry I've chosen. That is my choice, and I'm willing


to accept the consequences of that, but to say I get the same deals as


employed people is not true. Public services like education and


mental health desperately starved of funds, the Chancellor provide is no


money to invest in these services that are desperately needed.


Instead, what do we have? We have ?60 billion, a massive sum, ?60


billion as a contingency fund for Brexit. That is what the Chancellor


thinks Brexit is going to cost the country. I don't remember the leaves


campaign putting that up on their buses, Vote Leave and it will cost


you ?60 billion. That's just one of the many misrepresentations of the


Leave campaign. And the one thing that people do remember about the


budget was that national insurance increased for the self-employed. A


blatant breach of the manifesto pledge. Remember the Tory


manifesto... David Cameron and George Osborne proudly proclaiming


no increases of income tax, VAT on national insurance. No mention of


any small print, a blatant breach of a manifesto pledge. Now we have a


party know full well that damage breaking a manifesto pledge can cost


you. So let's make it perfectly clear that the Tories have broken a


manifesto pledge on the country should not forgive them for it. We


already have the lowest population tax rate in the G20, but bear in


mind a company actually has to pay tax before this kicks in. We need a


progressive, simplified tax system. Arguably national insurance should


be linked to PAYE. These lines are being blurred. Rather than shifting


the limited amount of money around, let's have a party that leads from


the front in terms of progressive tax policy across the board.


One of our strongest selling point is local economy. It something we


need to invest in but we are aware, as two local authorities, there is a


brain train. Because of the lack of infrastructure investment, lack of


broadband or transport or opportunities for our younger


people, our creative industries are dying. This is not going to help. I


can't believe the Conservatives can be so blind sighted in not


representing our communities well, particularly where we have great


talent coming out the Scottish Borders and elsewhere in Scotland in


creative industries and other areas that could support real


entrepreneurial spirit. Conservatives yet again, you have


let the UK down, you have let Scotland down, you have let -- let


the Liberal Democrats lead the way. APPLAUSE


Some of the applause at the end of the budget debate at the Lib Dem


conference. Brian is back now with some guests. He has got hold of some


delegates. Indeed so. Thank you. You introduced


Willie Rennie. Presumably you liked the speech? Yes, yes, I thought it


was fantastic. It really got across the message, they EU appeal, the


emotions that people feel, people feeling the possibility of a second


independence referendum is dividing them from their families. Instead of


attacking he was trying to make this passionate case for the union. That


struck me as a bit different. We've heard it before perhaps but a bit


different. This is important, it is ultimately about people's lives. The


same as Brexit. People's families are being torn apart and it's just,


it's not acceptable that we don't consider the human aspect of it all.


Chris, you got a name check so presumably you are very happy?


Absolutely, delighted. It comes down to the hard work local council


candidates are doing in the campaign to identify issues in their local


communities and be local champions. Holding the government to account on


so many of their failings. You didn't get a name check and you


didn't introduce him, but we can count your one of the tribe he


wanted out there, is that right? What did you make of the speech? Are


far too long the SNP have tried to claim heart means independence. What


Willie did today is saying heart is part of us being proud of our


country, part of the UK, part of the EU, we are the only party doing


that. It's uplifting, it's a message of hope. We need to deny what the


SNP is saying is the truth because it's not. He did say that and said


it very strongly, said that the majority position in Scotland.


That's one job to translate from that into support on the doorsteps.


Not just a council elections but generally. You have struggled in the


last few elections at Westminster and Holyrood. Yes, but in the last


year we have won 31 council by-elections. Won Richmond, got


close in Whitby and close in Copeland. People don't want a second


referendum on independence and also the upset people felt in England


with Brexit is what we experienced in Scotland. You said you don't want


a second referendum on independence but Willie Rennie's speech was


predicated on the fact it looks like it will happen. We don't want one


and we feel we are stronger together as part of the United Kingdom as a


family and into our European allies. We need to be bringing the walls


down, not putting artificial barriers up. We live in the 21st


century, in a global society, where the world is becoming smaller.


Therefore putting artificial barriers up really doesn't, in terms


of supporting humanity, we need to be outward looking. Unless you are


to have a world government, and you would probably advocate one, you


have to have a government somewhere. And some would say the Scottish


Government should gain full powers they were described as normal


situation. The United Kingdom needs a federal structure, which we are


working towards. The commission is already out there. As you had in the


speech today, for a federal United Kingdom, where we can make all the


parties in the United Kingdom mark fairly represented. How would you do


it? That's to be decided by England. Come on, you put forward federalism,


you have to have a vague idea of what it is. We do. We have


parliament in Scotland, we helped to set that up and we helped the


Parliament in Wales. We have an assembly Northern Ireland. We need


our English counterparts to play their part and define how they would


like. Scottish parliament was defined by the Scottish people and


Scottish in Scotland. We need our England English colleagues to do the


same. I put to other representatives earlier on the programme here, you


want a second referendum on the terms of Brexit. I understand the


argument is different from the principle, but it does sound a bit


like having another go because you didn't like the out come the first


time round. It sounds like trying to overturn the verdict from June 23.


Here we have to give credit to the SNP because they gave us a White


Paper before the independence referendum. A bit different. Yes, we


didn't have that for the EU referendum. People didn't


essentially know what they were voting for. You were voting in or


out of the European Union and they voted out. You're trying to reverse


that, isn't that anti-democratic? We're not trying to reverse it at


all, we're trying to find out what exactly it is people mean by that.


In and out, that's so black and white. The issue is so much more


complicated. Parliamentarians standing where you are now said it


could be that if you vote against the terms, the alternative is we


stay in the European Union. In other words you would be reversing June 23


if people change their mind. I think the point is it's not as that would


be asked reversing it, the people would be reversing it. What is


really frustrating when Tory MPs go on about the will of the people, as


if those who wanted to remain aren't people as well. This is about


saying, OK... But you hold a referendum, an election, some person


gets more votes than the other one, the person that gets more votes


wins. Then you can reverse it again in four years. I think the point


about the independence referendum is we didn't know what we were voting


for. There wasn't enough detail. We had two years in Scotland, three


months is not enough. Is in a bit cheeky to be castigating the SNP for


having a second referendum on independence when you want a second


referendum on the European Union? Some might say that is hypocrisy in


the extreme. Not at all. We had some of the detail in the independence


referendum about the kind of Scotland they envisioned that we


rejected it wholeheartedly to say there wasn't an economic argument or


it wasn't favourable for Scotland. With Brexit there was none of that


detail. We're now going to a hypothetical negotiating table with


terms that nobody in the United Kingdom had prior to that. Take the


?250 million put on the side of the busts. Where is that pledge now?


Nonexistent, under the carpet. That is the difference. That's what we


are calling for, to know what the terms of our EU engagement would be


and then the people can make that decision. Let me ask you each in


turn, do you think there will be a second referendum on independence


and if so when? At this point I think it does look likely. I can't


say when, but we will fight to not have that happen, because at this


point... Fight independently or with Labour and the Conservatives? At


this point I would say no, but I can't be sure. If and when? It's


possible, it will be in two years, five years or ten years. That seems


to be what the SNP want to do. But we as a political party are saying


no to an independence referendum and will stand, federalism platform. I


think we are stuck with it, Nicola is determined to drag us back to


that division. I suspect it will happen. She talked about this


common-sense point of autumn 2018. I think it's outrageous she says


common sense when she wants it. Be later than that. The Tories are


saying not before the Brexit terms. I'm against her term of common sense


being another referendum. The point is whenever it happens, we are the


ones leading the fight. We are the clear ones, with a clear position on


the EU and the UK. Thank you all three very much indeed for joining


me here at the conference in Perth. Back to the studio.


Thank you for all your efforts this afternoon at the conference. No


delegates at the conference have backed the decriminalisation of drug


possession for personal use. During the debate yesterday they also


called on the Scottish Government to support safe injection facilities


for heroin users wherever they are needed.


One last -- at long last safe injection sites are being considered


but we have to consider safety measures. They are using street


heroin. Problematic drug users are also the most impoverished group in


society. Safe injection sites don't alleviate this poverty. The users


still need to find that ?100 from somewhere. We don't have to make


them find that money, if we just provided the heroin in the clinic,


the user can stop breaking the law, start thinking about jobs, family


and housing. In all the studies done in many countries now, heroin is


more effective and more cost-effective than methadone are


helping people get their lives back on track. If you can't relate to the


problematic drug user, then maybe you can relate to their family, as I


do. They finally found the right drug for my brother's mental illness


and I got my brother back. There are over 60,000 problem drug users in


Scotland but tens of thousands of families facing the dilemma no


family should face. Do you hold your loved ones close or do you push them


away and live a life, a half life in constant dread of the knock on the


door from the policeman telling you it finally got them.


The quality of drugs finally going into the public is not of a


sufficient safe quantity level that we can allow into clubs. The effect


of somebody convulsing in front of you is damaging to the members of


staff, to all of those who are trying to use the entertainment


venue, to all of those around them. Particularly I draw your attention


to the line, local authorities to make licensing decisions based on


venues' efforts to keep their customers safe, rather than efforts


to assist police in enforcing drug laws.


If that were to say in concert with or alongside, I could support it.


But where it said rather than, I simply cannot support it. We must


work with all the intelligence, all the support we can, to make it


safer, to make people safer, to make the event, live music, a safer place


to be. There was a patient of mine who was


a single mother and came in with bruising all over her face. It


brought home to me the impact of what was happening. She'd been up by


a dealer for not paying for her heroin. Decriminalising possession


is not the same as legalising. The controlled availability of heroin on


the NHS would reduce the power of dealers, which should be vigorously


pursued. We need to treat heroin addiction as an illness and not as a


crime. I worry that the media are more


likely to report on our attitude to drugs in general, and this motion in


particular, rather than what I see as the much more crucial motions


which we are tackling at this conference. Of course I recognise


the drugs problem that we have and the enormous human and financial


burden and cost which they impose upon families, on society and the


country. We do have a policy on drugs, which includes prevention and


treatment centres. They do need more support. That's already a Lib Dem


policy. So I perhaps ask you that we vote against this motion and leave


our current Lib Dem policies as they are at the moment.


We provide support for those who suffer addiction of tobacco and


alcohol but not for harder drugs. There is no autonomy where there is


addiction, at least in a system of supervision there is someone that


knows that you are going to come in every week for that drug. If you


push them out of that system, if you push them to go to the streets and


take any cocktail of drugs, then there is not someone there who is


going to expect you there the next week. So even if you fall out of the


cycle, there is someone that knows you should be there and someone can


be flagged when that doesn't happen. That was a look at the drugs debate


yesterday at the conference. Now, just a final thought from Professor


John Curtis as we head towards the end of our coverage. John, just as


we touched on at the very beginning of the programme, the Lib Dems


facing their next big electoral test, local government election in


May. How might they perform in Scotland?


If you have been listening very closely to the coverage of this


conference, you may have heard a lot about Colorado. That's not a


reference to the seminal battle in the history of this nation but a


by-election that took place a few weeks ago which the Lib Dems won and


they took a seat from the SNP. They want to convince us this is enough


evidence of a significant rise of their support in Scotland. I'm


afraid the figures don't quite back that claim. Lib Dem vote with 70% of


the first preference vote, up three points from five points previously


thought why did they win the Seacrest about we have pressure


control voting in elections in Scotland and lots of conservatives


an independent voters gave them at first preference. More broadly, if


you look at Liberal Democrat performance in local government


by-elections in Scotland since May of last year, on average, the share


of the first preference vote is up by just 2%. Given they only got six


or 7% back in 2015, in 2012, this frankly isn't good enough. It


contrasts sharply with the performance of the party in local


government by-elections south of the border. Since September of last


year, an average where the Liberal Democrats have fought the war that


they've fought back in 2015-16, their vote has been up on average 14


points. It's been very varied. Some places with spectacular Lib Dem


victories, elsewhere they haven't made much progress at all. It is the


semblance south of the border at least, in certain circumstances,


where there is a local issue to exploit, voters have begun to forget


coalition and tuition fees and everything they didn't like about


the coalition and the party is perhaps regaining its role as the


party of protest. The truth is, north of the border neither in the


opinion polls or local government by-elections is there evidence of


that happening. The truth is the Liberal Democrats could discover on


the 5th of May that in so far as recreating their local government


base in Scotland is concerned, they have made much progress at all.


Given that the government base has always been a crucial foundation. If


that is what happens, it could be bad news for the party indeed. Thank


you very much for that and for being with us for the duration of the


programme. The next week for the SNP conference.


That is the end of our live coverage. More on the Lib Dems on,


's Sunday politics Scotland. The UK shows starts at 11 on BBC One


Scotland. Now, from the team at the


conference, and from all of us here in the studio, thank you very much


for being with us. Do enjoy the rest of the afternoon. Bye-bye for now.


Coverage of the Scottish Liberal Democrat Party Conference from the Dewars Centre in Perth, including keynote speech by Willie Rennie.

Presented by Andrew Kerr.