Scottish Liberal Democrats

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Scottish Liberal Democrats
Libearalaich Deamocratach na h-Alba
Leader Willie Rennie MSP
Deputy Leader Alistair Carmichael MP
Founded 3 March 1988
Headquarters 4 Clifton Terrace
EH12 5DR
Youth wing Liberal Youth Scotland
Membership  (Dec 2013) 2,831[1]
Ideology Social liberalism,
Social democracy[2]
Political position Centre[2]
International affiliation Liberal International
European affiliation Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party
European Parliament group Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe
Colours Gold
Scottish seats in the House of Commons
11 / 59
Scottish seats in the European Parliament
0 / 6
Scottish Parliament
5 / 129
Local government in Scotland
71 / 1,222
Politics of Scotland
Political parties

The Scottish Liberal Democrats (Scottish Gaelic: Libearal Deamocratach na h-Alba, Scots: Scots Leeberal Democrats) is a social-liberal[3] political party in Scotland.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats are one of the three state parties[4] within the federal[5] Liberal Democrats, the others being the Welsh Liberal Democrats and the Liberal Democrats in England.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats hold 5 of 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament and 11 of 59 Scottish seats in the UK Parliament.



Deputy Leaders[edit]


In keeping with its basis as a federation of organisations, the Scottish party also consists of a number of local parties (which mostly follow the boundaries of the 73 Scottish Parliament constituencies), which are each distinct accounting units under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000. Local parties are predominantly responsible for the party's political campaigning and for selecting candidates for parliamentary and local authority elections.

There are also eight regional parties (based on the boundaries of the eight Scottish Parliament electoral regions).


The conference is the highest decision-making body of the party on both policy and strategic issues. The day-to-day organisation of the party is the responsibility of the party's 34-member Executive Committee, chaired by Party Convener Craig Harrow, and the eight Office Bearers, including the leader Willie Rennie MSP, the deputy leader Alistair Carmichael MP and the party President Malcolm Bruce MP.

The development of party policy rests upon a distinct 14-member Policy Committee, chaired by John Edward. The Party Manager is Linda Wilson, and the party's headquarters are at 4 Clifton Terrace, Edinburgh.

Party Office Bearers[edit]

  • Leader: Willie Rennie MSP
  • Deputy Leader: Alistair Carmichael MP
  • President: Malcolm Bruce MP
  • Convener: Craig Harrow
  • Treasurer: Caron Lindsay
  • Policy Convener: John Edward
  • Campaigns Convener: Katy Gordon
  • Conference Convener: Sheila Thomson

Scottish Headquarters Staff[edit]

  • Party Manager: Linda Wilson
  • Campaigns Director: Adam Stachura
  • Communications Director: Adam Clarke

Executive Committee[edit]

  • Derek Barrie
  • Audrey Findlay
  • Margaret Smith
  • Paul McGarry
  • Judy Hayman
  • Kevin Lang
  • Caron Lindsay
  • Galen Milne
  • Allan Heron
  • Callum Leslie

Policy Committee[edit]

  • Euan Robson
  • Hugh Andrew
  • Alan Blair
  • Ewan Hoyle
  • Ruaraidh Dobson

Conference Committee[edit]

  • Jenni Lang
  • Mike Falchikov
  • Sheila Thomson
  • Jennifer Jamieson-Ball
  • Callum Leslie
  • Ross Stalker
  • Paul McGarry
  • Jo Swinson (MP)
  • George Lyon (MEP)
  • Craig Harrow (Scottish Convener)
  • Isabel Nelson (SWLD)
  • Kieran Leach (Policy Committee)
  • Helen Watt (Executive Committee)
  • Daniel O'Malley (LYS)


The Scottish party holds two conferences per year; a three-day Spring Conference, last held in Dundee in March 2013, and a one-day Autumn Conference, last held in Glasgow in September 2013 on the first day of the federal party autumn conference, at the same venue (the SECC). The autumn federal and Scottish conferences will return to Glasgow in 2014, whilst Scottish spring conference 2014 will take place in Aberdeen.

Associated organisations[edit]

Associated organisations generally seek to influence the direction of the party on a specific issue or represent a section of the party membership. The party has five associated organisations:

  • Association of Scottish Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners (ASLDC)
  • Liberal Democrats for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality (DELGA) (Scottish Board)
  • Liberal Youth Scotland (LYS)
  • Scottish Green Liberal Democrats
  • Scottish Women Liberal Democrats

Association of Scottish Liberal Democrat Councillors and Campaigners[edit]

The Association of Scottish Liberal Democrat Councillors (ASLDC)[6] is a network of Liberal Democrat councillors and local campaigners across Scotland which works to support and develop Liberal Democrat involvement in Scottish Local Government.

Following the Local Council Election of May 2012, under the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system, 71 Liberal Democrats were elected, a drop of 95 on Local Council Election of May 2007.

A voluntary Executive Committee meets several times a year to run the organisation.

  • Convenor: Cllr Willie Wilson
  • Vice-Convenor: John Elder
  • Secretary: Cllr Mags Kennedy
  • Treasurer: Simon Hutton
  • Members: Cllr Fraser Macpherson, Cllr Peter Barrett, Millie McLeod, Cllr Ian Yuill, Caron Lindsay

ASLDC works alongside Liberal Democrats in the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA) where Neil Fletcher serves as Vice-President, Cllr Anne Robertson leads the Lib Dem Group (Aberdeenshire) and George Hayton is Group Secretary (Perth and Kinross).


The Scottish Liberal Democrat party is the successor to the Scottish Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party in Scotland, following the merger of these parties in 1988.[7]

The party campaigned for the creation of a devolved Scottish Parliament as part of its wider policy of a federal United Kingdom. In the late 1980s and 1990s it and its representatives participated in the Scottish Constitutional Convention with the Scottish Labour Party, Scottish Green Party, trades unions and churches, and also campaigned for a "Yes-Yes" vote in the 1997 devolution referendum.

1999–2007: Coalition government with Labour[edit]

In the first elections to the Scottish Parliament in 1999, the party won 17 seats. Following this, the party formed a coalition government with the Scottish Labour Party in the Scottish Executive. The then party leader, Jim Wallace, became Deputy First Minister of Scotland and Minister for Justice. He also served as acting First Minister on three occasions, during the illness and then later death of the first First Minister Donald Dewar and following the resignation of his successor Henry McLeish. This partnership was renewed in 2003 and Wallace became Deputy First Minister and Minister for Enterprise and Lifelong Learning. On 23 June 2005, Nicol Stephen MSP succeeded Wallace as party leader and took over his positions in the Executive until the 2007 elections.

Prior to the partnership government being formed in 1999, the UK had only limited experience of coalition government. The party's participation attracted criticism for involving compromises to its preferred policies, although several of its manifesto pledges were adopted as government policy or legislation. These included changes to the arrangements for student contributions to higher education costs (although whether that amounted to the claimed achievement of having abolished tuition fees was hotly contested), free personal care for the elderly and (during the second coalition government) changing the system of elections for Scottish local authorities to the single transferable vote, a long-standing Liberal Democrat policy.


In the 2007 Scottish Parliament elections, the party won one fewer seat than in the two previous Scottish elections: this was the first parliamentary election for 28 years in which the party's parliamentary strength in Scotland was reduced. This experience led to some criticism of the party's election strategy and its leader. Although it was arithmetically possible to form a majority coalition with the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Green Party, the party refused to participate in coalition negotiations because of a disagreement over the SNP's policy of a referendum on Scottish independence, and sat as an opposition party in the Parliament.

On 2 July 2008, Nicol Stephen resigned as the party leader. The former deputy leader Michael Moore MP served as acting leader of the party until Tavish Scott MSP was elected party leader on 26 August 2008, winning 59% of the votes cast in a contest with parliamentary colleagues Ross Finnie and Mike Rumbles. (See also Scottish Liberal Democrats leadership election, 2008.)

At the 2011 Scottish Parliament elections, the party lost all its mainland constituencies, retaining only the two constituencies of Orkney and Shetland. It also secured three List MSPs. This was by far the party's worst electoral performance since the re-establishment of a Scottish parliament in 1999.

Policy platform[edit]

The Scottish Party decides its policy on state matters independently from the federal party. State matters include not only currently devolved issues but also those reserved matters which the party considers should be devolved to the Scottish Parliament, including broadcasting, energy, drugs and abortion.[8] The party also believes that the Scottish Parliament should exercise greater responsibility on fiscal matters. A party commission chaired by former Liberal Party leader and Scottish Parliament Presiding Officer Sir David Steel set out the party's proposals on the constitutional issue.[9]

According to its constitution, the party believes in a "fair, free and open society ... in which no-one shall be enslaved by poverty, ignorance or conformity". It has traditionally argued for both positive and negative liberties, tolerance of social diversity, decentralisation of political authority, including proportional representation for public elections, internationalism and greater involvement in the European Union. In the 2007 elections it campaigned for reforms to public services and local taxation, and for more powers for the Scottish Parliament within a federal Britain.

In December 2007, the party (along with Scottish Labour and the Scottish Conservatives) supported the creation of a new Commission on Scottish Devolution, along similar lines to the earlier Scottish Constitutional Convention, to discuss further powers for the Scottish Parliament. The SNP Government had earlier in the same year launched a "National Conversation" which includes the option of independence for Scotland.

Elected representatives (current)[edit]


Member of the Scottish Parliament Constituency or Region First elected Spokespersons[10]
Willie Rennie Mid Scotland and Fife 2011 Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Liam McArthur Orkney 2007 education and energy
Alison McInnes North East Scotland 2007 health and justice
Jim Hume South of Scotland 2007 rural, environment, housing and transport
Tavish Scott Shetland 1999 business and the economy


Member of Parliament Constituency First elected Notes
Danny Alexander Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey 2005 Chief Secretary to the Treasury (HM Treasury)
Malcolm Bruce Gordon 1983
Menzies Campbell North East Fife 1987
Alistair Carmichael Orkney and Shetland 2001 Secretary of State for Scotland (Scotland Office)
Michael Crockart Edinburgh West 2010
Charles Kennedy Ross, Skye and Lochaber 1983
Michael Moore Berwickshire, Roxburgh and Selkirk 1997
Alan Reid Argyll and Bute 2001
Robert Smith West Aberdeenshire and Kincardine 1997
Jo Swinson East Dunbartonshire 2005 Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Employment Relations, Consumer and Postal Affairs (Department for Business, Innovation and Skills)
John Thurso Caithness, Sutherland and Easter Ross 2001

Liberal Democrat Scottish peers in the House of Lords[edit]

Peer Ennobled Notes
Patrick Boyle, 10th Earl of Glasgow 1984 Current chief of Clan Boyle
Elizabeth Barker, Baroness Barker 1999
James Erskine, 14th Earl of Mar 2000
Archy Kirkwood, Baron Kirkwood of Kirkhope 2005 MP for Roxburgh and Berwickshire from 1983 to 2005
Veronica Linklater, Baroness Linklater 1997
Robert Maclennan, Baron Maclennan of Rogart 2001 Leader of the Social Democratic Party & Leader of the Social and Liberal Democrats (1987 to 1988)
Jeremy Purvis, Baron Purvis of Tweed 2013 MSP for Tweeddale, Ettrick and Lauderdale (2003 to 2011)
David Steel, Baron Steel of Aikwood 1997 Leader of the Liberal Party & Leader of the Social and Liberal Democrats (1976 to 1988)
Nicol Stephen, Baron Stephen 2011 Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats (2005 to 2008)
Alison Suttie, Baroness Suttie 2013 Deputy chief of staff to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg (2010 to 2011)
Iain Vallance, Baron Vallance of Tummel 2004
Jim Wallace, Baron Wallace of Tankerness 2007 Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats (1992 to 2005)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Search - The Electoral Commission". 
  2. ^ a b Allegra Stratton. "Liberal Democrats to fight next election as totally independent party". the Guardian. 
  3. ^ Helma Gerritje Engelien de Vries (2007). Insiders and Outsiders: Global Social Movements, Party Politics, and Democracy in Europe and North America. ProQuest. pp. 208–. ISBN 978-0-549-45223-2. 
  4. ^ "The party is led by Scotland's Deputy First Minister Nicol Stephen MSP and is a state party within the Liberal Democrats",, accessed 23 September 2006 (cached)
  5. ^ "Party Structure",
  6. ^ "Scotland and ASLDC - Association of Liberal Democrat Councillors". 
  7. ^ "Liberal Democrat History Group". Retrieved 2011-05-07. 
  8. ^ "Scottish policy responsibilities include all devolved matters plus matters that we believe should be the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament.",
  9. ^ "Microsoft Word - Steel Commission Report March 2006 formatted.doc" (PDF). Retrieved 2011-05-07. 
  10. ^ "Labour and Lib Dems reveal detail of reshuffles". 

External links[edit]