Willie Rennie

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For the recipient of the Victoria Cross, see William Rennie.
Willie Rennie
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats
Assumed office
17 May 2011
Deputy Alistair Carmichael
Preceded by Tavish Scott
Member of the Scottish Parliament
for Mid Scotland and Fife
Assumed office
5 May 2011
Member of Parliament
for Dunfermline and West Fife
In office
9 February 2006 – 12 April 2010
Preceded by Rachel Squire
Succeeded by Thomas Docherty
Personal details
Born (1967-09-27) 27 September 1967 (age 48)
Fife, Scotland
Citizenship United Kingdom
Nationality British
Political party Scottish Liberal Democrats
Spouse(s) Janet Rennie
Children 2 sons
Alma mater Paisley College of Technology
Occupation Self-employed consultant

William Cowan Rennie (born 27 September 1967) is a Scottish politician and current Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats.

After college, Rennie spent most of his early career as a Liberal Democrat election campaigner and official before working as a public relations consultant in the private sector. He became the Member of Parliament (MP) for Dunfermline and West Fife after a by-election win in February 2006.

He later lost this seat to Labour in the May 2010 UK general election but was subsequently appointed in the same month by the newly formed UK Conservative-Liberal Democrat Coalition as a Special Government Adviser working successively for the Liberal Democrat Scottish Secretaries of State Danny Alexander MP and Michael Moore MP at the Scotland Office.[1]

He later resigned from his special adviser role in June 2010 to stand for the Scottish Parliament in the May 2011 elections. Despite the overall collapse of the party in the election he was elected as an additional member for the Mid Scotland and Fife region with 5.9% of the regional list vote.[2] He was soon after elected unopposed as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrat party, replacing Tavish Scott.

Early life and education[edit]

Rennie was born in Fife and grew up in Strathmiglo, where his family ran the village shop and still live today. His mother was secretary of the local community association and his grandfather was the local Minister.

He went to Bell Baxter High School in Cupar, Fife, before going to Paisley College of Technology, where he graduated with a B.Sc. degree in Biology. After that, he received a Diploma in Industrial Administration at Glasgow College.

He lives in Kelty with his wife Janet and their two sons, Alexander and Stephen.[3] He is a keen runner and is a member of Dunfermline's Carnegie Harriers. He was also runner-up in the 2006 Scottish Coal-Carrying Championships held in Kelty. Rennie was one of the 50 MPs who ran a mile to raise money for Sport Relief[4] finishing close behind the winner, David Davies.

Early political career: 1990–2001[edit]

While a student at the Paisley College of Technology he was depute president of the student union. Rennie ran the Scottish Young Liberal Democrats (later reformed as Liberal Youth Scotland) and after graduation went on to work for the English Liberal Democrats in Cornwall.

He then went on to work for the Liberal Democrats' campaigns department, and was the successful agent in the 1993 Christchurch by-election in Dorset.

After managing the party's campaigns in the South West England region, securing the return of a sizeable number of new MPs in the 1997 General Election, he moved back to Scotland where he was Chief Executive of the Scottish Liberal Democrats from 1997 to 1999, and then the party's Chief of Staff in the new Scottish Parliament from 1999–2001.

McEwan Purvis: 2001–2006[edit]

From 2001 to 2006 he worked for the small Scottish communications firm McEwan Purvis as an account director helping advise businesses and charities such as the Royal Society of Chemistry and Asthma UK. During his time at McEwan Purvis, Rennie was a press adviser to Fife Council's Liberal Democrat Opposition Group and a member of the Dunfermline Focus editorial team, working with Dunfermline's Lib Dem councillors on local issues.

UK Member of Parliament: 2006–2010[edit]

Following the death of Rachel Squire MP, Rennie stood in the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election on 9 February 2006 and overturned a huge Labour majority to win the seat. In the House of Commons, he was a member of the Liberal Democrat shadow defence team, chair of their parliamentary campaigns unit, and a member of the Commons Defence Select Committee.

During his time as an MP, he campaigned on local constituency issues such as abolishing the bridge tolls, changing the law to protect female learner drivers from sex offenders, improvements to cancer services at Queen Margaret Hospital, and local jobs (including at Longannet Power Station and Rosyth Dockyard).

In the General Election of 6 May 2010 Rennie lost his seat to the Labour candidate Thomas Docherty.

Special Adviser and consultant: 2010–2011[edit]

He was then for a time Special Adviser to the new Liberal Democrat Scottish Secretary Michael Moore MP.

Elected MSP and Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats: 2011–present[edit]

Rennie speaking in 2013

Willie Rennie returned to front-line politics as an MSP when he won a regional list seat for the Liberal Democrats in the Scottish Parliament's Mid-Scotland and Fife region at the Holyrood elections on 5 May 2011. He was the only new Lib Dem MSP to win a seat in this election.

After the resignation of the Scottish Liberal Democrats's leader, Willie Rennie was made their new leader. He vowed to stand up to the "SNP bulldozer" majority, and refused to distance his party from the UK Liberal Democrats. He was highly praised in the wake of his election by Michael Moore, who said of Rennie, "His energy, integrity and commitment make him the right person to lead our party in Scotland. As an experienced politician and a veteran campaigner he is ideally placed to promote our values in the new Scottish Parliament and throughout Scotland too." [5]

Home Rule commission plan[edit]

In September 2011, Willie Rennie announced plans for a commission building on the work of 2006 Lord Steel Commission to develop a blueprint for Home Rule and full fiscal federalism that would map out further devolution of powers after the 2011 Scotland Bill is passed into statute.[6] He explained: "We now want to look towards developing a home rule parliament where roughly the money that we would spend in the parliament we would raise. That would give the Scottish Parliament control over its own destiny and it would allow it to shape the future of Scotland in a more independent minded manner without actually separating Scotland from the rest of the UK."[7]

Armed Forces Legal Action[edit]

Willie Rennie was appointed as an honorary patron of Armed Forces Legal Action (AFLA) in April 2014. AFLA is a network of UK law firms committed to offering discounted legal services to members of the UK Armed Forces community. AFLA was founded by Scottish solicitor and former Scottish Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, Allan Steele, WS.[8]

Career timeline[edit]


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by
Rachel Squire
Member of Parliament for Dunfermline and West Fife
Succeeded by
Thomas Docherty
Party political offices
Preceded by
Tavish Scott
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats