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Monday, May 16, 2005


On Tuesday I sent this to Nicol Stephens, Mike Rumbles, Tavish Scott & Ross Finnie:
I am no longer a Liberal Democrat but run A Place To Stand which is aimed at liberals both within & outwith the party. In my view the most important issues for the Scottish Executive are:

1) The economy. As Bill Clinton charmlessly proved the economy is, in peacetime, the most important issue for most people. The SNP have recently committed to a growing economy whose engine would be low corporation taxes, rates & low regulations as Ireland has so successfully managed. In the event of a pact it is unlikely they would wish to give this up. Would you wish them to?

2) Power. 55% of our power comes from nuclear which is due to close shortly. Kyoto prevents us increasing coal or gas use. Can you guarantee that, relying on wind etc, there will be no blackouts? If not what should be done?

3) The NHS - we spend about 20% more on health per capita than England but have, in many cases, longer queues. Can we improve?

4) Housing. House prices are, over time, rising faster than inflation & there are villages literally being strangled by a shortage of housing. A relaxation of building & land controls, possibly combined by an attempt to encourage mass produced off site construction methods, would end shortages & reduce prices. Should this be done?

While I realise you are limited by the doctrine of collective responsibility are there any of these on which you would like to comment or which you feel to be either unimportant or on which you would not be prepared to serve in an executive committed to technological or market driven solutions?

I will be putting this question to any others standing for leadership as I think you will agree, they are questions readers should have an answer to.

OK I am not a Lib Dem & have no particular right to a response but it does seem to me that the strategic issue of what the party wishes to do has been completely ignored for the tactical one of who they should ally with. For what its worth i think Nicol's position of not ruling anything in or out is tactically sound. Nobody can know what the result of the 2007 election will be tho' it is probably fair to guess that the Lib Dems & Labour will be among the top 3 parties the SNP among the top 4, the Tories 3rd or 4th & the Greens 5th. The odds must be that a majority Lib?SNP government will be impossible tho' a minority one dependent on Tory (or just possibly Green) goodwill will. The fact that the SNP in particular have so publically snubbed the Tories produces obvious complications. However until the voters have delineated the problem Nicol is quite right not to try to publically solve it.

Surely, however, politics must be about more than jousting for position. All the questions I have raised are important & the 1st 2 are urgent. On those the public, & the party members who are about to elevate Mr Stevens are entitled to know.

(My personal choice would be Ross Finnie but since he isn't standing it seems I will be disappointe. He was the guy who took on all the tough jobs in the last Parliament - Foot & Mouth, Water & Fishing - & scored a B+ on each. I also once found that he is one of 2 UK politicians who suggested well before Black Monday that our linking to the EMU was unsustainable. By comparison Nicol seems to have risen without trace & while he is certainly more photogenic than "Captain Mainwaring" surely that is not enough - The fact that Nicol is a lawyer & Ross an accountant biases me towards the latter.

Should I receive a reply I will publish it.

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