Former Tory MSP advises Lib Dems on how to recover

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by a Newsnet reporter

Chic Brodie, SNP MSP for the South of Scotland, yesterday stepped up his call to former Lib Dem members and supporters to come and join the SNP.  The call came the day the Scotsman newspaper published an article by former Tory MSP Brian Monteith, in which he advises the Lib Dems in Scotland on how to recover.

Mr Monteith was elected as a Conservative MSP for the Mid Scotland and Fife constituency.  He was initially known as disciple of Michael Forsyth and Margaret Thatcher.  Mr Monteith previously headed the unsuccessful Think Twice “No-No” campaign during the run up to the devolution referendum of 1997.  However Mr Monteith later changed his mind and fell out with party colleagues over his belief that the Scottish Parliament should be granted greater powers.

In his article, Mr Monteith suggested that the Lib Dems in Scotland should return to their radical roots, and should differentiate themselves from their colleagues south of the Border by rebranding themselves as ‘the Liberals’.

The article advised the party to leave business to the Tories and the unions to Labour and to concentrate its focus on building the case against independence within Scottish civic society, targetting “voters that are nervous about what independence might mean.”  Mr Monteith believes that the Lib Dems are best placed to do so in a “warm and reassuring” way.

The article notes that the Lib Dems in Scotland are being punished by the electorate for decisions taken in Westminster and that they are also being castigated for decisions which were “not their fault” such as the Edinburgh trams fiasco.  Mr Monteith also highlighted the perceived ‘slap in the face’ received by elder figures within the party such as Menzies Campbell,  whose intervention to save the Leuchars airbase was rebuffed by the Ministry of Defence.

In a twist on the “no true Scotsman” logical fallacy, Mr Monteith rules out the idea that a “true liberal” would wish to switch to the SNP, stating:  “Leaving aside the notion that true liberals would wish to join a party that has some of the most illiberal Tartan Taleban within its midst (the nationalist online comments being but one example of this).”

Just last week, as reported in NNS, Edinburgh councillor Elaine Morris defected from the Lib Dems to the SNP over the trams issue.  Speaking about her decision, Ms Morris said:

“I have found it increasingly difficult to support the party’s stance nationally and am disappointed with the failure locally to provide leadership on Edinburgh’s tram project.

“The Lib Dems took responsibility for the scheme in administration and they have not been good guardians of the project.”

Commenting on Mr Monteith’s advice to the Lib Dems, former Lib Dem candidate, and current SNP MSP, Chic Brodie said:

“It’s no surprise that Tories are trying to boost a Lib Dem recovery in Scotland.  Under the leadership of Willie Rennie the Scottish Liberal Democrats have become nothing but cheerleaders to the Tory government and its cuts agenda.

“I don’t know how much the Lib Dem leadership will listen to the words of Mr Monteith, especially considering he thinks that that the party has seven MSPs as opposed to five, but his negative call for the Lib Dems to focus squarely on opposing independence may appeal to the markedly negative, and Tory, agenda of Willie Rennie.

“Since taking over the reins from Tavish Scott, Mr Rennie has moved the Lib Dems from the party of federalism in Scotland to a ridiculous Tory notion called ‘muscular unionism’, putting senior Lib Dems at loggerheads with their former supporters and members.

“Many people now must be questioning the point having two parties when the Tories and Lib Dems are so in tune on every issue.

“No wonder so many former Lib Dem supporters voted SNP in May, and so many Lib Dem councillors, members and supporters are now coming to the SNP.

“I joined the SNP because they are the only party that has Scotland’s interests truly at its heart, shared the social democratic principles I believe and want to see Scotland fulfil its potential.  I know that many of my former colleagues in the LibDems share that view and I urge them to come and join the SNP.”