The Future of Scotland

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 11:08 am on 29th March 2007.

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Photo of Ross Finnie Ross Finnie Liberal Democrat 11:08 am, 29th March 2007

I am not denying the Scottish people the right to do anything. Indeed, the Liberal Democrats are one of the most democratic parties that we have. The SNP has the right to hold the view that we ought to have a neverendum for the next four years, but I do not think that the governance of Scotland will be improved—as the governance of Quebec was not and is not improved—by having a neverendum of a debate for the next four years.

When it comes to what is at the heart of making political choices, I go back to the 19th century liberal philosopher, John Locke. He developed the interesting and widely accepted theory that those of us who are in politics have an enormous burden of responsibility to the people who elect us. We are trustees. We are not just trustees for the people for the time of the Parliament; we are trustees for the good nature and character of the planet, and it is up to us, as trustees, to hand that legacy on to the next generation in the best possible condition. To take the language of Locke into the 21st century, that is at the core of sustainable development. With due respect to the Greens, I do not need lectures from them on that concept. They did not invent it—it goes back to a 19th century liberal philosopher who had a lot to say on it long before the establishment of the Greens. Sustainable development must be at the core of our political decision making, as it is our failings as trustees that pose the greatest threat to our society. That is exhibited, for the time being, in the presence and real threat of climate change.

Liberal Democrats go into the election looking at issues for the benefit of people and communities—not caught up in the false promise that, by making a constitutional change of the magnitude that is envisaged by the SNP, we will suddenly have more money and all will be well. That is a false choice. We seek greater access to health services and an economy that is open. The SNP makes much of our financial services and the success of the Royal Bank of Scotland, but that success will be maintained only if we remain an open economy. SNP members cannot have it both ways. They should not laud the success of the Royal Bank of Scotland and, at the same time, take the closed economy approach that they took towards the potential takeover of Scottish Power. They cannot have it both ways. The Royal Bank of Scotland would be the worse for that kind of policy, as its aims and ambitions would be very much curtailed.

We go into the election with the Liberal Democrats offering a raft of policies in health, education, crime and justice, all based on the principle of greater liberty for the individual and the principle that nobody can be free from poverty without the opportunity to access health services and better education. Those are the principles on which the Liberal Democrat party was founded and that we are proud to take to the people of Scotland. Our policy programme will reflect those principles, and we will meet the exigencies of today. We will not get caught up in false choices; we will remain a Scottish Liberal Democrat party, proud of our achievements in this coalition and proud to go to the people of Scotland.