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William Cowan Rennie (born 27 September 1967), commonly known as Willie Rennie, is a Scottish politician serving as Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats since 2011. He has served as the Member of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) for North East Fife since 2016, and previously as a list MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife (from 2011 to 2016) and as Member of Parliament (MP) for Dunfermline and West Fife (from 2006 to 2010).
After college, Rennie was a Liberal Democrat election campaigner and official before working as a public relations consultant in the private sector. He became the MP for Dunfermline and West Fife after a by-election win in February 2006. He later lost this seat to the Labour Party at the 2010 general election. He briefly served as a Special Government Adviser for the Liberal Democrat Scottish Secretaries of State Danny Alexander and Michael Moore at the Scotland Office.
He was then elected to the Scottish Parliament in the May 2011 election. He was elected as an additional member for the Mid Scotland and Fife region. He was soon after elected unopposed as leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, replacing Tavish Scott. At the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, Rennie was elected MSP for the constituency seat of North East Fife. Rennie was re-elected in the 2021 Scottish Parliament election.
Early life and education
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.
Rennie 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 City of Glasgow College.
Rennie lives in Kelty with his wife Janet and their two sons, Alexander and Stephen. He is a keen runner and is a member of Dunfermline's PH Racing Club. 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 finishing close behind the winner, David Davies.
Early political career: 1990–2001
While a student at the Paisley College of Technology he was deputy 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.
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
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.
Member of Parliament: 2006–2010
After Labour MP Rachel Squire died, Rennie stood in the Dunfermline and West Fife by-election on 9 February 2006 and overturned a Labour majority of 11,800 to win the seat with a swing to his party of 16.24%. In the House of Commons, he was a member of the Liberal Democrat defence spokesperson 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, banning sex offenders from being driving instructors in 2008, improvements to cancer services at Queen Margaret Hospital, and local jobs (including at Longannet Power Station and Rosyth Dockyard).
Special Adviser and consultant: 2010–2011
Elected MSP and Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats: 2011–present
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 Liberal Democrat MSP to win a seat in this election.
After the resignation of leader Tavish Scott, Rennie stood in the resulting leadership election. He was the only candidate to be nominated, and was declared elected when the nominations closed on 17 May. He vowed to stand up to the "SNP bulldozer" majority, and refused to distance his party from the UK Liberal Democrats.
During the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, Rennie campaigned alongside Better Together to remain in the United Kingdom. He opposes a second independence referendum, favouring a more federal UK.
In the 2016 Scottish Parliament election, the Liberal Democrats again elected five MSPs, while gaining two constituency seats and holding their existing two with increased majorities. Rennie was elected in North East Fife, gaining it from the SNP with a 9.5% swing.
Home Rule commission plan
In September 2011, Rennie announced plans for a commission building on the work of the Lord Steel Commission to develop a blueprint for Home Rule and full fiscal federalism that would map out further devolution of powers after the Scotland Bill 2011 was passed into statute.
Armed Forces Legal Action
Willie Rennie was appointed as an honorary patron of Armed Forces Legal Action (AFLA) in April 2014. AFLA is a network of British law firms committed to offering discounted legal services to members of the British military community. AFLA was founded by Scottish solicitor and former Scottish Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate, Allan Steele, WS.
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- "AFLA". AFLA. Archived from the original on 28 May 2014. Retrieved 6 June 2014.
- Scottish Parliament profiles of MSPs: Willie Rennie
- Willie Rennie MSP 's official website
- Willie Rennie MSP official Liberal Democrats profile
- Willie Rennie MSP official Scottish Liberal Democrats profile
- Dunfermline and West Fife Liberal Democrats
- Contributions in Parliament at Hansard 1803–2005
- Voting record at Public Whip
- Record in Parliament at TheyWorkForYou
- BBC Profile
|Parliament of the United Kingdom|
| Member of Parliament
for Dunfermline and West Fife
|Party political offices|
| Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats